Add Low Growing Junipers to Your Landscape
Low growing junipers are frequently highlighted in WNC landscapes. These versatile plants come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors. Most are pest and disease free. Here are 4 easy-care varieties to consider. All are best in full sun.
Youngstown (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Youngstown’) grows moderately to 1 foot tall and 6 feet wide. The best feature of this deer-resistant plant is foliage that turns from grey-green in summer to plum in winter. I have several thriving Youngstowns that get trimmed just once each year to keep them from touching adjacent heat pumps.
Grey Owl (Juniperus virginiana ‘Grey Owl’) is my favorite narrow-leafed evergreen. A moderate grower to 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide, Grey Owl is perfect for planting in large groups on hillsides as a grey-green ground cover and/or for erosion control. They are drought tolerant once established, and will tolerate partial shade. At our place a row of Grey Owls next to the street provides a transition between the pavement and the steep slope beyond. The only maintenance is minor pruning to keep them from growing into the street. If used as a ground cover pruning would be required only to remove damaged limbs.
Blue Rug (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug’) grows to 6 to 8 feet wide and 4 to 6 inches tall. Rapid growing and deer resistant, its silvery blue foliage gets a light purplish tinge in winter. Blue Rug is good for cascading over walls or in a mass planting on steep slopes where mowing grass would be impossible. ‘Blue Chip’ and ‘Wiltoni’ are similar varieties.
Sargent (Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’) is probably the most widely used low-growing juniper, and is a brighter green than the others in this list. Particularly useful for erosion control, Sargents grow rapidly to 18 to 24 inches tall and 7 to 9 feet wide. They will take some salt exposure and do well along commercial drives or sidewalks. I planted a row of Sargents to hide the unfinished top of a retaining wall, and they have been totally maintenance free.
Planting. Get a soil test to determine if any amendments need to be added. Junipers like an acidic soil with a pH of 4.5 to 6. Our normal red soil is ideal, but be careful next to foundations, drives, and walks, where leaching from concrete can increase the pH dramatically.
Soak the roots well before planting, but don’t drown them in a full bucket of water overnight. Dig a hole at least twice as wide as the root ball and just as deep, then break up the soil in the bottom of the hole with a garden fork. Add organic matter like compost or pine bark to the soil from the hole, and mix in a handful or two of rock phosphate or superphosphate. Do not add any other fertilizer at planting time. Place the plant in the hole so that it will be at the same level as it was in the nursery container. If the plant was balled and burlapped, either remove the burlap or insure that it gets completely buried. Otherwise the exposed burlap will act as a wick removing moisture from the roots.
Watering. Soak immediately after planting and every few days for a couple of weeks. Water deeply on a regular basis for the first 2 years. Once established junipers shouldn’t require watering except in extreme droughts.
Fertilizing. Wait a couple of months until the roots are established, then add a light application of a balanced fertilizer (like 10-10-10) every other month until mid-summer. Fertilize once in spring the second and third years. You shouldn’t have to fertilize after that unless a soil test shows a deficiency.
Jim Janke is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. For more information call the Haywood County Extension Center at 828-456-3575. © 2012 NC State University.