Junipers can be unlikely landscape centerpieces

Published 10:37 am Monday, January 29, 2024

By Eddie Smith
MSU Extension Service

I absolutely love looking for different types of plants for my landscaping.

In home landscapes, the usual suspects like hollies, ligustrums, azaleas and camellias often take center stage. While these are excellent choices, there’s a world of possibilities waiting for those willing to explore the realm of conifers.

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In particular, let’s consider the versatile and often overlooked shrub-type junipers.

Junipers offer a unique and intriguing element to gardens. The fact that they come in various heights, widths, shapes and colors — some even transforming into stunning plum hues in the winter — makes them exciting to work with.

Imagine the visual impact of pairing a conifer with a glossy-leaved holly or a red-leafed plant like loropetalum! The possibilities are endless.

In the conifer family, where tall trees like pines and bald cypresses dominate, shrub junipers stand out as valuable additions to the landscape. What makes them unique is their needle-like leaves, a texture that starkly contrasts with the typical glossy foliage of hollies or the vibrant blooms of azaleas.

I’ve seen them used to frame trees with striking bark, like crepe myrtles, and as the backbone of foundation plantings. They’re also excellent for use on slopes prone to erosion, and their tolerance to adverse conditions like heat, drought and harsh winters makes them a reliable and resilient choice for any garden.

One of my favorite junipers is the Blue Point juniper, with its striking blue-green foliage arranged in dense, scale-like clusters that create a lush and visually appealing texture. This elegant plant has an upright and pyramidal growth habit that makes it perfect for use as a standalone specimen or grouped for a hedge or screen.

Blue Point junipers typically reach a mature height of 10 to 12 feet, with a spread of 6 to 8 feet. This moderate size makes them well-suited for various landscape applications. Blue Point junipers bring structure and balance to outdoor spaces.

If you are looking for something more whimsical, Blue Point juniper spiral topiaries are an option. These are Blue Point junipers that have been pre-trimmed and maintained over a year into magnificent works of art resembling a corkscrew.

Another of my favorite junipers, Blue Pacific, is a low-growing, spreading evergreen known for its beautiful blue-green foliage. Its dense, prostrate growth habit makes it an excellent ground cover. Its golden yellow branches adds to their beauty in the landscape.

I encourage gardeners to explore the beauty and versatility of shrub junipers. These resilient and visually captivating conifers can add a lot of character to any landscape.