Juniper is a shrub or small tree also endemic to our peninsula. It has been known since ancient times because they are extracted for medicinal purposes and its berries find innumerable culinary uses. It is also very appreciated as an ornamental plant: the countless varieties, cultivars and hybrids allow us to use it in many ways, taking advantage of the different growth and size, as well as being able to choose between several foliage colors.
A juniper can enhance large and small gardens; some cultivars can easily be grown even on a balcony or, like bonsai, on a windowsill.
Large shrub or small evergreen tree, widespread in all the temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere; it is a very long-lived essence, which can reach 8-10 meters in height; there are dwarf varieties, particularly common in high mountain areas.
The foliage is needle-like, pointed, glaucous green in color, crossed at the top by a light, very aromatic streak. These are dioecious plants, the male specimens in spring produce small inconspicuous flowers, of a yellowish white color; while the female specimens produce greenish flowers, followed in summer by fruits, small fleshy berries, called cuddles, of green color, which become black when ripe, containing 2-3 fertile seeds. Juniper berries are used in the kitchen and the essential oil contained in them in herbal medicine and pharmacology. Junipers are very common in cultivation, both upright and pyramidal varieties, and dwarf or prostrate varieties.
The young juniper plants recently planted may need watering during particularly dry periods; specimens of juniperus communis, which have been dwelling for a long time, tolerate drought without problems and are generally satisfied with the rains.Only in the case of particularly high temperatures and long periods of drought is it good to supply water, taking care to check that the soil is well dry between one watering and another.In the spring you can spread at the foot of the plant some slow release granular fertilizer or mature manure.Ground
The plants of juniperus communis adapt to any soil, provided it is well drained; they also develop in stony or clayey soils, adapting without problems even in the poorest soils. They can also be grown in a container. They have no problems growing even in rather dry and dry places, while they could present some problems if the soil is too wet and presents dangerous water stagnation.
To obtain a faster development, especially in the first years, we can, in spring, spread granular fertilizer complete for conifers, halving the quantity suggested by the producer.
The multiplication of juniper plants can take place by seed, in spring, or by cutting in late summer; It is advisable to store the young plants in a cold greenhouse during the first winter season to allow them to grow and develop better, before the final planting.
Pests and diseases
The plants of juniperus communis are rustic and resistant shrubs, little subject to the attack of pests and diseases. The juniper, however, fears the cochineal, which often lurks in the lower part of the leaves. Water stagnations, on the other hand, can be very dangerous because they cause root rot that compromises the health of the plant. It is good to promptly intervene with the use of specific products in the case of cochineal and with an intervention on the ground so that it is more drained, in case of radical rot.
They are very resistant conifers and are rarely affected by parasites. The most common are red spider mites, cochineal and aphids. Only in the most serious cases are fatal and by improving the cultivation conditions the problem will be solved very soon.
More dangerous are some beetles (typical of coniferous trees) whose larvae dig tunnels in the wood: if we notice branching desiccations we intervene with systemic insecticides, possibly spraying also the roots.
The most common drawbacks are root rot and rust: they are linked to excessive irrigation and to a substrate that is not sufficiently draining.
The cultivation of these conifers is very simple: they are in fact undemanding and adapt to almost any climate. You only need to pay attention to the soil to ensure excellent drainage. The maintenance will be very limited because the growth is very slow: the pruning interventions will therefore be very delayed.
Planting and substrate
In our peninsula the best time for planting is undoubtedly late autumn: in this way we will give time to the radical apparatus to adapt and begin to explore the substratum; growth will also be maximized as early as early spring.
In any case, it is also possible to proceed at the end of winter or at other times, for potted specimens. We absolutely avoid the periods of strong heat or when the ground is frozen.
We proceed digging a hole deep and at least 50 cm wide; on the bottom we prepare a thick draining layer based on gravel or expanded clay. We insert the plant and cover it with a very permeable and light mixture: we can opt for a premixed citrus product. Alternatively we mix ј of soil, ј of garden soil and Ѕ of coarse river sand. We can also add some pebbles of various grain sizes.
Not all species, however, have the same needs: some prefer calcareous and very dry soils (such as the common juniper), others instead want soil with an acid reaction (such as Juniperus horizontalis).
Juniper grows very slowly and once franked it resists very well to cold, heat and drought. For this reason it is considered an ideal essence for low maintenance gardens, both in alpine areas and close to the coasts.
A little more attention is required of us during the first two years of planting.
During this time, the plants must be followed with frequent watering, especially during the summer.
In winter, a thick mulch is recommended throughout the area covered by the foliage: we will avoid that the roots, still superficial, are damaged by the cold.
Junipers are usually quite rustic. Some species are more delicate because they sprout soon and frosts can damage the tips compromising the growth from the year. In Northern Italy we therefore consider the opportunity to coat these specimens with a special veil.
Pruning of the juniper
Juniper growth is very slow and interventions will be sporadic. They usually have the sole purpose of keeping the specimens grown formally in order.
In general it is advisable to intervene for specimens isolated in mid-summer; for hedges instead it is good to cut slightly in two times, in June and then in September. However, we keep in mind that frequent pruning will not allow the appearance and maturation of the "berries".
However, our main purpose will be to maintain the form by working exclusively on quotes. Instead we never cut live branches of more than two years: this could cause widespread drying up even to the foot of the specimen.
Over the years it may be necessary to intervene to eliminate older and more damaged branches to stimulate gradual renewal: in this case we work in late winter and cover the wound with abundant putty.
Harvest and use of berries
Juniper berries are harvested from November to January when they have taken on the typical bluish color. We avoid to prick ourselves using gloves: we drop the harvest in a basket shaking the branches. Later we will have to eliminate the small spines from the fruits: they will then be placed in the shade, in a warm and well ventilated place so that they dehydrate slowly.
Juniper - Juniperus communis: Species and variety
In nature we find up to 60 species, but only 8 horticultural levels are used: from these we have arrived at many interesting hybrids and cultivars.
The ideal is to classify them according to their use.
Ground cover variety
Juniperus conferred "Blue Pacific"it reaches a maximum height of 30 cm and can cover up to 2 m2. The young leaves are a nice acid green and then turn to the glaucous.
Juniperus Conferta Schlager up to 40 cm high, covers an area of 2 m2. The foliage is pointed, metallic blue.
Juniperus x medium "Gold Star" it grows up to 50 cm and occupies about 2 m2. Beautiful golden leaves.
Juniperus communis "Green Carpet" Up to 40 cm, dark green leaves with purple reflections.
Juiperus sabina up to 80 centimeters, very slow growth. Beautiful glaucous foliage, excellent for rock gardens.
Juniperus Procumbens Nana up to 40 cm high, pointed leaves with purple reflections in winter
Dwarf varieties suitable for small hedges or containers
Juniperus pingii "'Hulsdonck Yellow' conical habit, up to 1 m high
Juniperus communis 'Compressa' up to 80 cm high and 35 cm wide, columnar habit. Glaucous foliage.
Juniperus communis 'Sentinel' up to 150 cm, glaucous foliage.
Juniperus Chinensis Armstrong Gold up to 1 meter, erect habit. The foliage is pointed and gilded at the apexes. Very durable.
Medium and large trees
Juniperus chinensis 'Stricta' up to 250 cm tall with conical shape. Soft foliage first green then blue metallic.
Juniperus Communis Oblonga Pendula it grows up to 4 meters; the branches are pendulous and carry a beautiful blue-green foliage with bronze apexes.
Juniperus communis 'Hibernica' up to 4 meters high with columnar bearing and dark green foliage. Very rapid growth. Suitable for high hedges or tree-lined avenues.
Juniperus virginiana 'Blue Arrow' up to 5 meters high, glaucous leaves with metallic reflections.
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Juniper is a plant that is often grown in gardens in the form of a hedge. This species is characterized by
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Juniper, scientific name Jeniperus, belongs to the genus of the Cupressaceae and has origins in North America.
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