Ground Cover Plants: Junipers


Ground Cover Plants: Junipers are ideal for this use

As ground cover plants, junipers can be ideal, creating an effective patchwork of varying textures and colours across the ground. However this effectiveness as groundcover does depend upon variety, soil conditions, competing weeds and so on. When planning to use junipers as ground cover plants it is important to first clear the ground of annual and perennial weeds. Compared to some plants, junipers may not be particularly fast-growing, especially during the first two years after planting. During this time it is important to keep bare soil clear of weeds. Suitable annual plants or short-term planting can be used to feel the spaces until the junipers have put on sufficient growth.

There is a particular method which can be used when planting junipers into rough grass, particularly in the wilder garden or larger space. This method of introducing ground cover plants depends upon the soil being generally of good quality and free-draining. this method will not work in heavy clay soil. It is also rather controversial amongst gardening purists, who would no doubt maintain that such ' 'cheats' will not lead to long-term success. However a number of people have used this method of planting ground cover successfully.

The method is this: rather than thing over the whole area in the usual way, the turf is only removed where the junipers are to be individually planted. A decent-sized planting hole should be dug and the juniper planted as usual. The area between the planted junipers which will still be covered in grass, can then be covered with an artificial mulching material of some kind, topped with a natural mulch such as leafmould, chopped bark, garden compost and so on. The artificial mulching material used to cover the ground could be black plastic or landscaping geotextile fabric. For a more organic alternative use something that will rot down, such as used corrugated cardboard boxes or newspapers laid thickly. In the latter case be sure to soak the cardboard wallpaper thoroughly before use. If a sufficient layer of natural mulch is then laid on top of the cardboard or paper the result is very good. Once the paper or cardboard has rotted the grass will be long dead and not grow through.

Which varieties of Juniper should be used as groundcover?

Clearly varieties which have thick foliage will work best, as those with thinner foliage may allow weed growth to come through. One of the oldest and best-known varieties of juniper for ground cover is Juniperus sabina 'Tamariscifolia'. Although this variety does make successful groundcover in time, it is rather slow growing than some other varieties. However the trade-off is that some of the fast-growing Juniperus varieties, particularly those in the Juniperus x media category do not just grow horizontally but also vertically, resulting in rather higher groundcover than may be required.

Varieties in the Juniperus x media category which do make excellent but rather higher ground cover include Juniperus x media 'Pfitzeriana Compacta', Juniperus x media 'Pfitzeriana Glauca' and Juniperus x media 'Pfitzeriana Aurea'. These all have vigorous juvenile and adult foliage in green, grey or gold, and will eventually reach 10 feet or more wide by half that high.

For ground-hugging purposes the Juniperus horizontalis cultivars are often recommended, however their foliage may not grow thick enough to prevent weeds coming through. Better are some of the spreading Juniperus communis cultivars, such as 'Repanda', 'Hornibrookii' and 'Depressa Aurea'.

The low-growing Juniperus squamata varieties are also suitable as ground cover plants. The best of these for this purpose is probably 'Blue Carpet'. This variety can be cut back to keep it growing thickly. Once it gets going it is very vigorous.

Other junipers suitable as ground cover plants include Juniperus virginiana 'Grey Owl' (Grey), Juniperus communis 'Depressed Star' (Green) and Juniperus x media 'Blue Cloud' (blue-grey).

Note: The information on this page is based on personal experience of growing junipers in England, and no guarantees of success or otherwise can be given if you follow this advice. Your experiences, climate and garden situation may be different, and you are responsible for your own successes or failures.

Juniper Resources and where to buy:

Juniper Trees. com
Welcome to, your Number One Source of information about Junipers and where to buy these beautiful plants for your garden. We provide plant and growing information for the most popular garden Junipers as well as information about Junipers as bonsai trees and herbal products made from Juniper berries. Visit us now for everything Juniper!

Trees Under $30
Bonsai trees, including junipers, under $30 from Bonsai Boy of New York.

What are Juniper trees?
A scientific look at what juniper trees actually are.

Juniper and Conifer (including Cultivation chapters) Books (Links open in a new window)

Conifer Cold Hardiness

The Conifer Manual


Using Junipers in the Garden
How to avoid 'design mistakes' and how to use these striking plants effectively.

Juniper Links
Good juniper resources and links are in fairly short supply, however we have found some good ones.

Link to this site
Add an extra resource about junipers for your visitors.

Go Back

Juniper Trees Home
Disclaimer | Link to Us | Contact Us

Text and Images Copyright © and on behalf of individual copyright owners.
All Rights Reserved.

This ground cover plants page belongs to