Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Junipers: Love 'em or hate 'em?

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

Junipers. Every time you mention this plant, you get a variety of reactions--anything from the wrinkled nose to the nod of appreciation. Junipers seem to be one of those "love 'em or hate 'em" plants.
Junipers! Sited properly at Centerra Shopping Mall in Loveland.
For those who've heard me teach, I'm usually trash-talking these sturdy evergreen plants. But I recently had an epiphany: I don't actually hate junipers; I hate what people do to them.
Juniper "art"? (Photo by Eric Hammond)
I hate that people shear them within an inch of their life. I hate that people whack them back to keep them from growing on the sidewalk. I hate that people put them in the wrong spot and then torture the junipers (through pruning) to get them to behave.
Sheared. To death. (Photo by Deryn Davidson)
Stay off the lawn, juniper! (Photo by Eric Hammond)
Sited properly, junipers are, quite possibly, one of the most tolerant, drought-loving plants we have in the nursery trade. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors and are one of the few plants that can actually fit into the "I have a 5-foot wide space but need a plant that grows 20 feet tall" request.

Did I really just defend junipers? Wow.

But really, junipers definitely have a place in the landscape, but it needs to be the right place. Sure, they collect trash and other debris and it's nearly impossible to remove grass growing through the foliage, and pruning them properly results in an itchy rash on the body, but they can look quite nice. And while they are a favorite of voles, they are a sturdy groundcover.
Junipers and all sorts of ugly. But a good plant choice for this location!
So give junipers a chance...a fighting chance. A legitimate chance to do good. And don't mistreat them or plan on shearing them. In their natural shape, junipers can be quite attractive. But when humans get involved, that's where things get ugly. What do you think? Did I convince any of you to appreciate this plant, even a little?


  1. Yes, the bad haircuts they get turn them brown and ugly. Not the plants fault. They are very hardy in my experience and no pruning needed, unless you plant them in a stupid place. Nice article about a plant that gets planted a lot and then ignored.

  2. I love them. Glad to see you can be flexible and appreciate the dark side ;)

  3. We recently diagnosed some borer damage in Tri River Area (Grand Junction, CO). We thought it initially was rodent or disease but turned out to be borer damage that girdled certain branches. Our new entomologist Meredith Shrader diagnosed the issue.

  4. You are a kind and gentle person, Allison, but you have not convinced me to ever plant a juniper on my property. I spent the first three years I owned this house getting rid of the stupid stuff. Not going in that direction again!


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