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Chinese Juniper, Juniperus chinensis

ID

3010-1469

Authors as Published

Alex X. Niemiera, Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture

Summary

Foliage: Juvenile (sharp awl-like needles); adult (scale-like); both can be present or some cultivars only have one foliage type (juvenile or adult); evergreen
Height: Depends on cultivar
Spread: Depends on cultivar
Shape: Depends on cultivar

Main features

Chinese juniper, the species, is a medium/large tree, however, only cultivars, ranging from small trees/large shrubs to low-growing shrubs are sold at garden centers. Cultivars serve a number of functions depending on size and form. In general, Chinese junipers are “work horses” in landscapes since they are relatively tough (tolerate adverse conditions), serve as ground covers, barriers, hedges and foundation plants, are used in mass, and in a few cases can be a specimen plant (used alone as a focal point due to attractive features). Due to the great range in heights and forms among cultivars, individual cultivars will be described.

Plant Needs

Zone: 4 to 9 depending on cultivar
Light: Full sun
Moisture: Average to dry
Soil type: Adaptable to most soils except poorly drained soils
pH range: Acid to alkaline

Functions

Chinese junipers cultivars can serve as ground covers, barriers, hedges and foundation plants, are used in mass, and in a few cases can be a specimen plant (used alone as a focal point due to attractive features).

Care

No special care is needed. To reduce the need for pruning, one should choose the cultivar that has a size and form that best meets the particular landscape need. There are relatively harmful foliage diseases that can be very problematic in cool wet spring weather; these are Phomopsis and Kabatina blights. Since these diseases are cultivar specific, one should consult the following web site for information on cultivar susceptibility or resistance to these blights: http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/450/450-601/450-601.html.

Additional Information

There are numerous cultivars in the trade that range in size from 3 to 20 feet tall, and that range in form from low-growing ground covers to narrow conical tree forms. Here is a list of some of the popular ones:

  • ‘Ames’ a spreading shrub form that matures into a large conical shrub
  • ‘Angelica Blue’ wide-spreading shrub to about 6 feet tall; has blue foliage
  • ‘Armstrong’ wide-spreading dwarf form to about 4 feet tall with scale-like foliage
  • ‘Blue Point’ dense conical form to about 15 feet tall with tapered apex; blue-green scale-like foliage
  • ‘Fruitlandii’ low dense compact shrub form to about 3 feet tall
  • Gold Coast® (‘Aurea Improved’) dense wide-spreading form to about 3 feet tall with yellow new growth that persist into winter
  • ‘Gold Lace’ low-growing (to about 4 feet tall) and wide-spreading form with bright yellow foliage
  • ‘Hetzi Columnaris’ conical form to about 20 feet tall with blue green foliage (juvenile and adult)
  • ‘Kaizuka’ (‘Torulosa’) called Hollywood juniper in the trade; large shrub/small tree to about 20 feet tall with ascending twisting branches; has dark green foliage and is tolerant of salt spray
  • ‘Nick’s Compact’ (perhaps same as ‘Pfitzeriana Compacta’ low-growing flat-topped widespreading form; to about 4 feet tall
  • ‘Pfitzeriana’ (‘Pfitzerana’ or ‘Wilhelm Pfitzer') used in the nursery trade since the late 19th century; tall (to about 15 feet) wide-spreading form
  • ‘Pfitzeriana Aurea’ wide-spreading form and about 6 feet tall with yellow foliage
  • ‘Robusta Green’ upright, narrow conical to columnar to irregular branching/tufted columnar form with bright green foliage; to about 15 feet tall
  •  var. sargentii (taxonomy is disputed; perhaps a separate species) low-growing to about 2 feet tall and wide-spreading form; a few cultivar of this variety including ‘Compacta’ with a compact form; ‘Glauca’ dwarf form to about 1.5 feet tall (better growth habit than ‘Compacta’)
  • ‘Saybrook Gold’ 3 feet tall and wide-spreading form with bright yellow foliage 

Recent investigation has implicated that Chinese juniper (Juniper chinensis) has been a catch all taxonomic classification for a few species. In addition, there have been many natural and human-mediated hybrids between J. chinensis and J. sabina that have also been listed as Chinese juniper. Future texts may sort this all out but for now Chinese juniper is the species that one finds the traditionally listed forms, regardless of taxonomic correctness.

Rights


Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, re-print, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Publisher

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; Jewel E. Hairston, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State, Petersburg.

Date

November 3, 2010


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