Image by Matt Lavin
By Jackie Carroll
If you’re looking for a low-growing ground cover that thrives on neglect, give creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) a try. These graceful, aromatic shrubs spread to fill sunny areas and they can be used as foundation plants or accents in flower borders. Use them near decks, porches and garden seating where you can enjoy their pleasant fragrance. Learn more about creeping juniper care and how to use creeping juniper ground cover in your landscape.
About Creeping Junipers
Creeping juniper is a low-growing evergreen shrub that is often used as a ground cover. It features plume-like branches that extend horizontally. The foliage often has a blue-green cast in spring and summer and plum-colored tint in winter.
Male and female flowers grow on separate plants, and the female plants produce berries. Neither the flowers nor the berries are particularly ornamental. The height varies depending on the cultivar. They may be as short as 6 to 8 inches or as tall as two feet. Each plant can spread as much 6 to 8 feet.
Creeping juniper ground cover is ideal for xeriscaping. Growing creeping junipers on slopes and hillsides helps prevent soil erosion as well.
Creeping Juniper Requirements
Creeping juniper adapts to almost any soil, including those that are hot, dry and poor in fertility. In fact, these little shrubs flourish in hot, dry conditions near walls and sidewalks where most ornamentals won’t survive. You can also take advantage of their drought-resistance by planting them in areas where irrigation isn’t always possible.
While it thrives in clay, compacted and sandy soils where grass refuses to grow, the shrubs prefer well-drained soil and a sunny location.
Creeping Juniper Care
Creeping juniper is a low-maintenance plant that never needs pruning or cutting back. In fact, creeping junipers won’t tolerate a lot of pruning. However, you can remove some of the plants if it spreads beyond its boundaries, though it may be easier to select a species or cultivar that naturally grows to a height and spread to fit the site you have in mind.
Watch for insects and diseases. Control bagworms and webworms by removing and destroying the bags and webs. Control scale insects, spider mites, leaf miners and aphids with insecticides labeled for the target insect.
Creeping juniper is susceptible to several fungal diseases that cause yellowing, browning and dieback. Cut off infected parts of the plant and use a fungicide labeled for use on junipers.