How To Grow A Potted Juniper: Caring For Juniper Trees In Containers

A Potted Juniper Tree
(Image credit: nickpo)

Junipers are attractive, tough, and useful trees in a landscape. They serve well as screens, hedges, windbreaks, foundation plants and specimens, with juniper species ranging from low-growing groundcover shrubs to large conical trees. Small juniper trees also grow well in containers. A potted presentation works particularly well for juniper topiary. Read on for information on how to care for potted junipers.

Juniper Trees

Few trees are more versatile in the backyard than the juniper (Juniperus spp.). There are some 70 species in the genus Juniperus, all aromatic conifers. Junipers have juvenile leaves in the shape of needles and scale-like mature leaves; they also bear small seed cones called berries. 

Here are where the similarities end though. There are tall and short junipers, thin and spreading junipers, and even juniper groundcover. Their foliage is far from uniform, with specimens displaying needles in varying shades of green, blue, and yellow. Small junipers are sometimes pruned artistically into juniper topiary.

Potted Juniper

Some short juniper trees are sized well for container planting. These include torulosa juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Torulosa’), topping out at 15 feet (5 m.) and gold coin juniper (Juniperus communis 'Gold Cone'), a small tree that doesn’t grow above 5 feet (1.5 m.). 

Deciding to grow junipers in containers can have some real advantages. First, potted juniper can provide greenery for homes with limited backyard space. Also, small junipers in containers are easy to move if you place them on rolling container platforms. They can be moved into the sun as the exposure changes and from the patio to the garage when cold weather strikes. 

Another advantage of planting short junipers in containers is the ability to select appropriate soil for the tree. All junipers prefer a potting mix that is light and airy and drains well. Acidic soil is preferred.

Potted Juniper Tree Care

If you are considering planting a short juniper tree in a container, you’ll want to learn more about how to accomplish this. The first step is selecting a container. Pick one with drainage holes and make sure it is large enough to allow the juniper to develop its roots. The rule of thumb is to pick a container at least twice the size of the root ball.

Once the juniper is planted, potted juniper tree care is minimal. Water the small juniper every week or so, or whenever the top inch (2.5 cm.) of soil is dry, adding a slow-release fertilizer in spring. Keep the juniper in a sunny area.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.