There are a number of varieties of upright juniper. Some of the more common ones are: Torialosa, Robusta, Blue Point, Moonglow, Pathfinder, Skyrocket and Wichita Blue.
This category of juniper fills a useful design niche in the landscape. Most stay relatively narrow, yet grow tall. Sometimes referred to as columnar or fastigiate.
Typically they are very hardy, drought tolerant, and adaptable to a variety of conditions.
Often, however, upright juniper are not pruned, but allowed to “go-it on their own”. This usually causes an open, lanky growth habit. As a result they have a less than stellar reputation.
Once you understand the characteristics of upright junipers and how to care for them, they’ll become a useful plant in your landscapes.
A Common Characteristic Not Talked About But One You Need To Know
Qualities that make most upright junipers useful in landscape design are:
- their narrow form
- their hardiness
- their unique texture
There’s another characteristic that’s common to most, and that’s how they grow. All their growth energy goes to the terminal ends of the main branches. If not “selectively pruned” regularly these branches keep getting longer and heavier. This causes each branch to stay thin with minimal side growth and eventually pull away from the center of the plant.
Lost Cause?… Not Necessarily
In the picture above is an upright juniper we planted a few years back. This was a tough spot to select a plant. The space was narrow, but height was needed. The exposure was full sun so the heat got intense in the summer.
This upright juniper (sorry, I don’t remember the exact variety) fit the bill.
But look what happened. The maintenance company either overlooked the pruning, or didn’t know how.
So is this plant now a lost cause? Not at this point. You can still save the plant and reverse its decline by:
- “Selectively” pruning back the terminal end of each branch to reduce its length and weight.
- Using Arbor Tie to support the sagging branches by guying them to the center stem of the plant.
Pruning the terminal end of each branch removes the apical bud and encourages lateral or side buds to grow. This naturally makes the plant grow fuller and stronger.
The Arbor Tie lets you pull the branch back to its correct position and hold it there. These ties should be temporary until the branches get stronger and hold their position on their own. This might take 2 or 3 years.
Even though the Arbor Tie is temporary you must make sure there is room for growth and movement. This PDF on Arbor Tie shows some uses and applications, but you can improvise too. This is great stuff and I keep a roll in my truck for all kinds of situations.
The picture below shows the upright juniper after being pruned and “arbor-tied”. Notice how selective pruning maintains the natural character of the plant.
If you use a calendar program like in Microsoft Outlook, or some other scheduling system, set a date to check the arbor ties (e.g. once/year). Don’t forget about them. They must be monitored and eventually removed.
The Benefits of Rescuing Plants Poorly Maintained
You have to use your judgement here because sometimes it just doesn’t pay to put in the time and effort. In this particular case the task took me 20 minutes; with a good outcome – well worth it. Once again you have to compare the cost of repair (and the expected results) with replacing the plant.
Also, we all like to see a plant saved if possible and there can be real value there for the ecologically-minded homeowner. Many customers will really appreciate the effort and professionalism.
I have blue point junipers planted next to my house in the flower bed. I have been told that the roots are invasive and may grow into the foundation of my house, also into the line to my septic tank. Should I remove the blue point junipers?
I would not classify Blue Point Juniper as having a particularly aggressive root system (compared to some plants that are notorious for that).
The plant(s) should be at least 4-5′ away from the foundation and not next to or on top of the septic line. One thing to think about is where the septic’s leach field is. There, the juniper’s root system will want to grow into that space and possibly compromise the septic field’s function.
I must have pruned my blue point juniper’s last yr. and got the pruning tip from a blue star juniper I believe it was quiet hot when i pruned them thinking this does not seem right. They filled back out and looked beautiful. Now i see they should have been pruned in spring. now that it is mid may is it too late to prune them.
One had to be sprayed because it should signs of brown dying spots. Now better and so pretty.
Frankly, I would not be too concerned about when you prune the juniper. These plant’s are so tough they should handle it no problem.
I know I’ve pruned upright junipers in the summer heat and not had problems.
Thank you! I have been lookingforinatructions on repairing the branches on our skyrocket junipers that are leaning out of shape after recent heavy rains. Your instructions on pruning and juniper ties will be put into use today. Thanks!
Lots of great tips on your site.
I have 2 Sky Rocket Junipers that were planted in what is now too confining a space.
I have been told to shear them back, but I see no such recommendation anywhere else, so I’m hesitant to go so. What I really need t to reduce girth and a bit of height.
How can I reduce girth w/o giving them a too narrow bottom compared to the middle?
Is limited shearing indicated to shape them?
If you need to reduce the girth mostly, I would first prune the heaviest (thickest) shoots and branches back selectively with hand pruners. You want those heavier branches to be shortened back into the body of the plant; beyond where you ultimately want the foliage to end.
I’m not a fan of shearing junipers like this. Shearing just cuts all the ends of the branches, which causes dense lateral growth at the point. The result is a “rat’s nest” of heavy branchlets at the outline/exterior of the plant, and little to no growth on the interior. Not good.
Hi Rodger, Thanks for all your helpful information. I am planning on buying 6 Moonglow Junipers (6′-7′) to use a living fence (privacy). After doing some research I found that it can mature up to 6′-8′ wide. I am looking to keep the tree as narrow as I can. Can you recommend how I should trim in order to achieve a more narrow tall Juniper? Also what would you recommend as far as spacing between each tree?
I don’t have direct experience w/ Moonglow, but I suspect (from what I’ve read) that it has similar characteristics to some of the other upright junipers.
Ideally you don’t want to use the plant where you’ll have to do an excessive amount of pruning to keep in in-check. But it sounds like you’re doing your homework to avoid this.
I would discourage shearing as a trimming method. Shearing promotes dense growth on the exterior of the plant and that’s not good for several reasons, but primarily because it limits light and air from getting into the body of the plant. Rather, use selective pruning to cut back the main stems and branches, and even “thin” the plant(s) out a bit occasionally.
If you space the plants approximately 6′ center-to-center they will eventually touch, but I think that’s what you’re after.
I have two skyrocket junipers in my front flower garden, one on each side of the window. They’ve been there for a couple years and I’ve noticed that one is growing faster than the other, thus it’s about a foot taller right now. Is there anyway to trim the height of it to make it stay even with the other plant? Thanks,
You might have to do the pruning over a couple of seasons to get the two plants equal. Right now, if you haven’t already, prune the taller/larger plant fairly aggressively and prune the smaller one just slightly, e.g. just the tips.
Eventually you should be able to get the two pretty similar in size and shape. Remember to use hand pruners and prune “selectively”.
We have 19 Spartan Junipers that have severe winter burn. They are 10 years old and were just gorgeous. They have been fertilized with Hollycare and watered frequently since April. These plants have received fertilizer every year and adequate water even buckets of water last winter when it was so warm and dry. We are in zone 5-6. Eleven of the plants are very brown with very little green underneath while the rest are partially green. Do you have any suggestions of what to do next?
Thank you, Mary
I’m also in zone 6. This past winter was rough on so many plants. Here it is July and we’re still pruning out die-back from winter damage. Almost every property has something damaged (or dead).
It’s hard to determine if and how each plant will recover. As you’d expect, the more a plant is showing green, the more likely it is to eventually recover.
It sounds like you take exceptional pride and care with your plants – and you’re doing everything you can to help them along. I don’t know how practical it is (considering the number of damaged plants you have), but when you’re clear on what’s dead and what’s living on each plant you could selectively prune back to just the green (living) points on stems and branches. It can help the plant recover, and it just helps make it look more presentable in the meantime.
We have two blue point juniper trees that were starting to look like Christmas trees (really heavy at the bottom, touching the ground). We made the mistake of always shearing. We wanted the columnar look. Which was going to be difficult to achieve considering how wide our trees were at the base. We had seem some pics online of trees thay had the lower branches cut back to the trunk. So we cut off some of the lower branches. Worked great with one. The other looks awful (didn’t even have a “main trunk” just a big rats nest of branches?). I hope I didn’t kill them, and I hope they will look better next year!
I’d have to see the Blue Points you pruned (at the bottom) to give an opinion.
That technique of removing lower branches and exposing the trunk/stem can work really well. And you can take the time to select the branches you might cut, and even grab & hold them down to help you visualize how it would look – but it’s still an “adventurous” move.
I don’t believe you killed them…or even hurt them. And maybe over time; with new growth, they’ll become the plants you’re hoping for. 🙂
can Blue Point Juniper grow and live inside with no direct sun, only daylight (office w/ 2 smaller windows). Thanks.
I don’t have any experience growing woody plants indoors. And I can’t say I’ve ever seen a juniper variety growing indoors.
As far as I know, juniper is typically grown outdoors, and at that prefers full sun. So I don’t think it will work for your situation.
Hi can I plant jun skyrockets about a meter away from my pool?
Thanks in advance
Skyrocket Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’) is one of the most narrow growing upright junipers.
If you’re measuring one meter from the “water’s edge” to the center of the plant, I’d say that’s the minimum space you could get away with. If the plant matures to approximately 1 meter wide, you would still have .5 meter or so of space to the “water’s edge”. In terms of appearance and for practical reasons like maintenance and space to pass by, that should be OK.
These plants, with their multiple stems, do have the potential for the stems to splay apart as they grow taller. We help prevent this by installing Arbor Tie. We simply take a length of Arbor Tie and loop around the multiple stems of the plant. Weave the Arbor Tie internally around the stems so you’re not seeing it on the outside of the foliage. Make this supportive loop of Arbor Tie approximately 1/4 of the way down from the top of the plant.
Thanks for your great article. Four months ago I lined both sides of my driveway with skyrockets-40 in total. They are now about 2-3 feet tall. I have three queries: (1) some of the plants have two main stems, should I arbor tie them together or should I trim one off seems that they still young? (2) some have grow quickly, should I start trimming already to keep them consistent?; (3) is there any fertiliser/feed i should give them? All the best, Nathan (Melbourne, Australia)
You could prune out one of the stems on the double-leader plants, and that would be beneficial in the long-term. But using arbor-tie is a great way to mitigate the problem of multiple stems splaying apart. You’ll just need to monitor and adjust and/or add arbor-tie as the plant matures. You’ll have to make that call based on how the young plant will initially look with one stem removed — and also, how you feel about having to monitor the arbor-tie over the years in the event you go that route.
And yes, I would begin lightly trimming the plants to: 1) even out their size, and 2) encourage stronger branching and stem structure. This is important for this plant.
Hi Roger, thank you for you article – it gave some hope for my junipers :)They are bottom heavy and skinny at the top 🙁 1)How short should I cut, say 4′ branches at the bottom of my 8′ juniper? maybe by half? 2)Some branches almost 90 degr.(after last winter snowfall). Can they be eventually adjusted with the arbor-tie? 3)How to prune to encourage top growth? Cut the thin top? Could it become too top heavy?
Of course you always want to keep shape and proportion in mind as you’re making cuts.
With that in mind your next concern is to not cut back a stem or branch beyond where healthy foliage is. Generally, if you cut back too far into bare wood the plant will not rejuvenate from there.
So make these selective and strategic cuts to shape the plant and remove some of the excess weight from the longer branches. And finally, use arbor-tie where needed to support any remaining, floppy stems or branches.
I have giant saltcedar treees we are cutting dwn & removing &i want a juniper perimeter on my property but i heard nothing grows for a long time after their removed. Does this sound right ??
I’m not familiar with salt cedar trees. But I did some quick research and may have an idea of the potential problem.
Evidently salt cedar trees are known to absorb high amounts of salt from the ground. They then deposit those concentrations of salt on the surface beneath them. There is the possibility that those salt levels (salinity) in the soil could be detrimental to new plantings.
If this is the issue of concern, you’ll need to test the soil’s salt levels and then make sure what you plant is tolerant of those levels. It’s also possible to lower the salt concentration in the soil after you remove the salt cedars.
It would be smart to get a good horticulturist/plantsperson in your area involved to help you with this.
Thanks for advise Roger,I have planted them and they look great.Oh one more thing ,do you think the root system on the Jun skyrocket will eventually damage the pool ?What type of root system do these skyrockets have?
If the pool is gunite (concrete), I don’t think it will be a problem. This juniper does not have a terribly aggressive or invasive nature.
If the pool is of lighter construction (i.e. fiberglass, vinyl liner, etc.) you’ll want to just keep an eye on that area as the years go by. I don’t know that there will be a problem, but it’s always a good idea to occasionally check and look for things out of the ordinary.
My Green Columnar Junipers are 20+ feet tall and would like to reduce height at least 5 ft due to satellite dish reception.
Can I prune top this much?
Green Columnar Juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Hetzii Columnaris’) will likely have a central leader at the top.
One concern is, if you cut 5′ back on the top of the plant (and the central leader), what will the plant look like? I can assume it will be totally bare for the most part, with the cut stem(s) showing.
The plant that remains will certainly survive, and perhaps from ground level look OK. I’m not sure the top will rejuvenate and fill in. I doubt it.
I have blue arrow junipers in a 2 foot trough next to a cement wall and a driveway. The tree states it grows 12 to 15 feet tall and 2 feet wide. My gardener fears that the routes will be too invasive for the driveway. If someone has an opinion on this I’d appreciate it I was to plant 9 of them tomorrow.
A planting space of 2 foot wide is not a lot of room for an evergreen that gets 12-15′. The cement wall will limit the root growth on that side, and the driveway (with its compacted base of gravel or quarry process) will stunt root development on that side.
Therefore, I’m more concerned that the plant(s) will become disproportionately top-heavy to the confined root development. This could lead to a variety of problems, not the least of which is the plants blowing over in a storm.
Hey I currently just bought a house and my renter just randomly decided to trim the juniper in half clipping stalks that are 10-11 rings thick. Will it grow back or am I now stuck with a soon dead tree. It was placed in a mostly shaded area. Thanks for the help
Junipers do not rejuvenate from cuts like that. It will probably just look terrible, but survive.
Hi Roger, We have an arc of 15 Blue Point Junipers planted 30″ apart in 2009 in southern Wisconsin. They are about 8 ft. tall now and that is close to the maximum height we want in order to create our objective of a solid “wall”. (By the way, we know that yew would have been the ideal choice but yews never would have survived deer damage in our area.) If we top the Blue Points now, maybe down to 7 ft to get them all even with one another, will they start to fill in? Right now they are a fairly solid mass up to a height of about 4 ft. (at least that’s how they appear from afar) but there are gaps from there on up. I am hoping that by topping them, they fill in more quickly. Will this happen? Any other advice? THANK YOU!!
You’re strategy to start to stunt the tops by tip pruning is spot-on. You may also want to tip prune a bit further down from the top to get that growth to fill out. In that regard if you just prune off the terminal ends of some of those branches and stems, that is enough to encourage lateral growth (and for the plant to fill in).
I just found your site. Reading your article is very informative. I just bought and planted about 12 Spartan junipers, 4 Moonglows, and some other plants. They are about 18″ tall. Some of the top leaders are bending over and we are experiencing lots of strong winds/storms in the north Texas area. Do you suggest using the Arbor Tie? There’s even a storm coming in tonight and I’m concerned how they will hold up. Is there a way I can buy these ties locally?
thanks for your help,
At 18″ are the plants starting to splay apart? I wouldn’t think at that size they are, but you can tell I’m sure. For any long stems or branches that appear weak and floppy, you could simply tip-prune a bit to get weight off the ends and encourage fuller, stronger growth.
Arbor Tie can sometimes be found at garden centers and nurseries. Or you can get some on Amazon.
Otherwise, any soft rope would work. Not so thin though because you don’t want the material to works its way into the bark or stem.
Also, whatever you use, check on it every year to make sure it’s not indenting into the bark or stem. Sometimes all you have to do is shift its position a tiny bit (once a year) to avoid this.
Bonjour Roger. I’m a very novice gardener and yesterday I planted a Fairview Juniper in my front yard. Unfortunately, it ended up slightly below the surrounding ground level and the bottom branches touch the soil. Should I be worried about rain water pooling at the base? Also since it was planted yesterday, I thoroughly watered it once but should it be watered again and at what interval? Merci!
You may call yourself a novice gardener, but that was perceptive of you to notice the plant may be planted too low.
Pooling water is certainly not good, but also the plant itself does not want to be that deep in the ground. I would recommend you raise the plant so that the root-ball is one inch or so higher than the surrounding ground level. This should not be too difficult since the plant was just planted and the soil is moist from watering.
With the plant now sitting slightly higher, I would also recommend applying some mulch around the plant to help keep it moist and moderate temperatures. Think of the mulch as an insulation.
In terms of frequency of watering, it has a lot to do with exposure and soil type. The best method to determine watering frequency is to test the soil moisture below the surface. There are soil moisture probes to test for this, but you could also take a long screwdriver (or similar) and push it down into the soil several inches. When you remove it, it should be slightly moist — not wet.
A typical watering schedule for a newly planted shrub might be: every other day for 2 weeks, then twice/week for the summer, then once/week through the fall. Once this plant establishes itself it is extremely drought tolerant, and you can be more relaxed about watering. Of course, if you notice the soil is too moist from this regimen (via the screwdriver test), hold off watering. Over-watering is a common mistake and can be damaging.
Do you know if Wichita Blue Juniper has a deep taproot? We have one in the yard that nearly pulled out of the ground during a windstorm and is now leaning toward our house. We’d like to save it but I’m told it’s become destabilized and needs to be removed. Can we do this ourselves or will a deep root system make the job too onerous for a non-professional?
The juniper should not have a deep root system. It should be more fibrous.
I don’t know the size of the plant and how accessible it is. Generally speaking it’s smart to remove the top of the plant and leave a 4-6′ stalk/stem for leverage in the removal process.
I’d say if the trunk is 4″ in diameter or less, you should be able to remove it yourself. Over 4″ it might become too unwieldy.
A common problem in DIY tree and stump removal is where to get rid of the tree and stump. Some towns have recycling centers, but you’ll probably need a truck or utility trailer to handle the debris.
Thanks, I found something similar but I will check out the Arbor Tie on Amazon.
By splayed, do you mean torn? They are just bending over but not torn. I’m confused about whether it’s okay to cut the top of the tree. Some sites say never do it, other sites such as this one seem to say it’s okay… If I do cut the top of the tree back some, will it weaken the tree?
By “splayed” I’m referring to branches and/or upright stems that are heavy with growth and are bending away from the main body of the plant. Similar to what you see in the top picture in this post.
At 18″ high I can’t believe your’s have this condition. And like I explain in the post, you can prevent or help this from happening by tip-pruning the ends of branches to encourage them to get stronger (so they don’t sag or splay apart from the main plant).
No harm will come to your juniper if you simply tip-prune the top growth. All you’re doing is removing the tip of the branch (or leader) to slow excessive growth and encourage the plant to get fuller.
Thanks Roger! I’m so glad I stumbled onto your site!
I (my son) just planted a juniper that has been cut in a spiral shape. My question is how do you or can you shorten the height by 4 inches? If so, how? Thank you for your time.
I’d have to see it, but most of the topiary spirals I’ve seen are clipped very tight. Therefore, I don’t think it would be wise to try and shorten the plant. It’s likely you would be cutting into the older wood, and this would damage the plant.
Roger, I have a friend who has a Spartan Juniper. It’s about 8 feet tall. Last year here in Kansas, zone 6, we had a lot of fluctuation of moisture and temperature. The result is the main leader of the tree has died back and is either all brown or the needles are turning brown and falling out. If I trim it back to where it looks alive, it will need to be cut back to about 4 feet. This will leave two or three surrounding branches coming up around it resulting in a kind of “v” shape. The question is, can I trim the dead out, and should I trim the other, healthy branches back to a “globe” shape or what? Any help would sure be appreciated. Thanks, Don
Peculiar the way just the top died out like that.
The plant should naturally try to return to the “upright” shape it characteristically has/had.
It’s difficult to give precise advice w/o seeing the plant. But you could also just prune the very ends of the upper, remaining branches to encourage their lower buds to push laterally and help fill out the plant.
We are looking to plant a blue point juniper very close to our house. We are in Green Bay, Wi. The nursery said the tree would get approx 8 feet tall and 3 – 4 feet wide. Everything I am reading says it can get as tall as 14 feet and as wide as 8 feet. In your experience, how tall/wide do you think it would get in this area?
Although many plant references do say they’ll get 8′, it’s entirely possible for them to get 10-12′ tall — even 14′ in some instances. And with that, 3-4′ is also an underestimate in my opinion. 6-8′ wide is more realistic.
Of course you are in a colder planting zone (4) than I am in NJ (6). But I think I would still plan in terms of spacing & placement using the bigger dimensions. I have to believe the juniper will still ultimately get that big.
I have a Blue Arrow Juniper, about 5 feet, planted almost one year ago in Seattle. It was well watered until winter, and is now watered regularly in summer. We had an unusually dry sprung, however, when it was watered only irregularly. A couple months ago, I noticed the two leads at the top were brown (about 3-4 inches). The rest of the tree seems healthy and now the new growth seems uniform over the tree. No sign of pests. Should I simply cut out the brown leaders? (In general I get worried any time the leaders on a tree or plant look compromised.)
Thanks for your help.
Hard to say why the tops died back like that. Let’s assume it’s because the plant was new and not established, and simply more vulnerable to stress (e.g. heat, drought, transplant shock, etc.). And die-back like that can manifest itself well after “the event/circumstance” that caused it.
Evidently it’s stabilized so that it’s pushing new growth uniformly (except for the top). So yes, I would prune out the dead leads down to live growth. The plant should eventually assume new, dominant lead growth.
I have planted 20 15 gal blue arrow junipers approximately 4′-5′ high in hopes of making a hedge with them. They have been in the ground about 45 days and seem to be doing quite well. I am not sure if I should start shaping them. They have many long limbs and some dead due to transplanting. They have a lot of new growth. I would like to send a photo but not sure on this website if I can? I live in San Jose Ca. and the weather right now is hot and dry. I have the trees on a drip system 3 days a week 15 min. a day.
I usually visit new plantings 2-4 weeks after installation to prune out any damaged branches from handling.
It would be smart to start tip-pruning the longer growing branches. It will make for a much stronger plant, and help prevent this upright juniper from “opening-up” from too long and too heavy branching.
It’s hard to judge the amount of water with the schedule you mentioned. Drip is a great way to irrigate. These are very drought tolerant plants, so after they’re established (6 mons. – 1 year perhaps) you can reduce watering. In the meantime, check the soil moisture by pushing a thin metal rod or long screwdriver down into the soil. The rod should be slightly moist — not wet.
You can send a picture with email if you’d like. email@example.com
Will a spartan juniper that has been trimmed in to spherical vteired ball shapes grow back to its symmetrical pyramid type shape?
I would imagine it eventually would.
Of course some of the lateral branches are missing (to create the tiers). But perhaps over time you’ll get some budding on that portion of the stem. And if not, the growth from the areas where there is foliage will eventually fill in the voids.
There are times when I’ve had to restore a topiary that was not maintained — it was reverting back to its natural form. You just have to let yours “do its thing”. 🙂
Hello. I wrote a question this morning but I don’t see it posted. We bought (and replaced once) 12 junnipers (Blue something ?moon?) 2 years ago. They were for privacy. Our soil is very rocky and full of clay here in Ft Collins, Co. Plus this last winter was rough for s lot of trees. Despite a drip system I don ‘t think they got enough water. They have struggled and several tops are dead. The tree nursery here where we bought them ftom recommended I try something called Boomerang, and the trees are showing new growth, plus I am manually watering them and checking on them regularly. My question is , should I prune the tops of the dead ones (maybe 10-12 in). I know it may ruin the appearance, but I hate to totally get rid of trees that are beginning to bounce back (slowly). I hope you receive my question this time (via my phone). Thanks so much!
I’d have to see the plants to give a more definite answer, but as you describe the situation I would go ahead and prune back the tops to where live stem, branch or foliage is present.
Removing 10-12″ of the top is essentially taking out the dominant leader of the plant. However, over time the plant should instinctively assume new dominant growth and eventually get taller.
Also, I would keep up your regimen of Boomerang (as per directions on product) and keep soil moist (not wet).
Roger , thank you so much for your advice. I understand that you would need to see the trees to really understand what might be going on. I wasn’t sure if I would kill the trees if I pruned the dominant leaders (as you called it). This has been extremely helpful and I will recommend you to anyone I know who has questions. You were more helpful than the nursery. I will continue the Boomerang per their instructions and keep the trees moist (not wet), but better than rock hard like when I was depending on the drip system (I assumed it was working, so I didn’t check very often). Thanks again very much , and for your quick response! Shelley
Roger, I have 8 Blue Point Junipers — all 16 years old and on a drip system. Several have damage on one side due to extreme hot winds, but look OK otherwise. How can I remove all the brown needles to improve the appearance? This looks like a major undertaking to me.
The other trees all have deer damage around the top third of each tree. Can I just remove all of the sparse growth and brown needles back to the trunk (like a Bonsai pruning) and then shape above and below this point, or will that further damage the trees? Thank you for whatever help you can provide.
I don’t think there’s a practical way to remove all the brown needles, but hopefully new growth (next season) will eventually disguise it. Any dead stems and branches should eventually be cut back to where growth and/or living buds are showing. So you may have to wait until next season to clearly distinguish this.
I’d handle the deer damaged growth the same way, i.e. prune it back to where new buds or growth shows and let it recover. And prune the remaining plant as you see fit. I guess your doing something about the deer problem.
Roger, thank you. I had better sharpen my pruning shears because there’s a lot of work ahead of me. I did start this process before hearing from you and I think I horrified my neighbors! Hopefully, things will look better next year. My TruGreen Tree and Shrub Service representative came today for a scheduled treatment. I told him I may have murdered my junipers, but he assured me they would be fine. Whew.
I need some help with my Skyrockets. This past winter (North East Region) My skyrockets became weighted by the heavy snow fall. New blue tips grew, but most of the interior to the plant is brown. It has grown from a 5 foot plant to now an 8 foot plant. I want to trim it back to perhaps 6 feet. They are located on either side of my home entrance. What can I do to trim them back and get rid of the browning if I do trim them back.
The browning on the interior is not unusual as the plant grows. Are you shearing the plant or selectively pruning individual branches? Shearing the plant causes dense growth at the ends (exterior), and that prevents light from getting to the interior. This, in turn, supports the browning of the interior.
If you prune selectively and make deliberate pruning cuts to allow light to enter into the interior of the plant, that will help.
I know you want to make the plant smaller, but use your judgement and don’t prune back past blue, healthy growth.
Skyrockets, like several other upright junipers, can get long-branched and floppy if not selectively pruned every year. This annual pruning will help keep them more stout and strong. This helps the plant resist damage from snow & ice. You could also tie (with cord or Arbor-Tie) or wrap the plant (with burlap) for the winter to prevent winter damage.
We have a Skyrocket Juniper that got planted in the wrong place and is now up to the eaves of the house. I don’t want to take it out completely unless there is a safe and convenient way for me to personally transplant it. Otherwise, I am planning to prune it and takr the top half off so that it won’t compete with 2 nearby deciduous trees/shrub. Also, can the top be trimmed back and placed in a fertilized, wet hole to griw on it’s own? Thanks!
The way you describe the tree it’s probably too big for you to transplant. A “capable” landscape contractor could do that for you, but with plants like this often the cost of moving exceeds the value of the plant.
If you cut “the top half off” the plant will be disfigured and probably look odd. And no, you can not root a cut piece like that. I’m not well versed on plant propagation and rooting cuttings, but it may be possible to take a smaller cutting and root that. But that’s something you’d have to research and there are many conditions to consider.
I have a row of Spartan Junipers that have grown from 7-8 feet a couple years back to nearly 12-14 feet now. They seem to be doing fine ever since the delivery from the nursery. The issue is browning of the interior and backside which can be expected from lack of light, but the browning / dying of interior branches seems to be somewhat sporadic and intense. Some areas seem to show no sign of needle dropping, while other specific branches are completely dried out and dead. There have been no obvious signs of pests or fungus, but I am dreading cercospora (even though Spartans are listed as resistant). In addition, the one juniper with the most problems also seems to be turning an off “pale” color also near the bottom 1/4 of the tree. This is concerning as we are entering the winter season with little to no new growth to push out. Hopefully you can suggest a possible remedy especially for the one tree. I have tried to feed it a little to give a boost, but again I know it’s the wrong season. I am in Dallas… Very rainy this year, trying not to overwater, but cannot let go dry. Thank you in advance for any help.
Spartan Juniper and other similar varieties will have browning in the interior as they get bigger (and older). However, some of the conditions you describe sound atypical — such as, “while other specific branches are completely dried out and dead”. And the one with the “pale color near the bottom”.
In situations like this I’ll ask a plant health care specialist to check the plants out. And more often when I feel a proper diagnosis should come from a laboratory (like in your situation) I’ll send representative branches down to Rutgers University. Rutgers serves as the agricultural extension for New Jersey.
I’d recommend you do the same. Every state has their agricultural extension. I did some research and I believe this would be yours: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.
Hope this helps.
I have 8 skyrocket Junipers in my yard, the one closest to the footpath has died in it’s first year, I’ve been having trouble sourcing the same oes ad finally my nursery was able to get me one but nothing as small as what I have, this current one is about 5 ft and the existing ones are around 3ft now. Any suggestions on how to balance the height out? I know I can’t cut the top without destroying it’s ability to grow vertically.
Also is it same to trim the top then the reach an ideal 10ft height to keep them from becoming too tall?
FYI, I also Have some Swayne’s Gold planted along side them alternating colours.
To even the heights between the 3′ and 5′ plants you’ll have to let the 3 footers catch up to the 5′. And this means you’ll need to “control” the growth of the 5′ plant by selective pruning (not shearing).
It’s OK to prune back the top leader stem(s) 1/3 to 1/2. This will help slow the size growth while the others (3 footers) catch up. You should also be selectively pruning back side growth. This will cause all the branches and general “framework” of the plant to strengthen (become thicker). This will not only strengthen the plant, but also help control the size. Since you want to keep the plants at 10′, begin this pruning from the beginning. It will be a challenge to ultimately keep them at 10′, but starting early will slow them down and build that strong framework.
I am not sure if this is the right place to ask this question.
We are in the middle of planting two blue point junipers to extend from the side of the house spaced four feet apart. The goal is to create a small privacy hedge of about 8 feet in a straight line coming from the house. I wanted to leave 3 feet distance between the house and the first tree because I’m concerned about causing foundation issues down the road. However, we found out that there is a pipe and a wire right where we want to plant. Two feet would avoid the wire and pvc pipe but is it too close to the house? If it is, I may need to pick a completely different plant. Thanks so much for your help!!!
You should anticipate the ‘Blue Point’ juniper will get (at a minimum) 6′ wide. Selective pruning will help slow the mature width, but eventually it will achieve that width.
When we talk about “plant spacing,” it’s always in terms of relative to center-of-plant. So, since the ‘Blue Point’ aspires to get at least 6′ wide, if the center of the plant is 3′ from the house it will eventually touch the house. My initial feeling is that’s too close. You always want to have some room between the plant and the house (at maturity).
I don’t think the ‘Blue Point’ poses much of a threat to the foundation, but I would think about the root development with regard to the pipe & wire you mentioned. Do you know what the pipe & wire are for? Cable TV, electric, drainage, gas, etc.?
Could you install a decorative screening panel for privacy, and then grow a climbing plant on it? Or plant one ‘Blue Point in front of the panel?
I emailed some pictures to you. We can move the blue points to each corner of the porch to create a beautiful accent. It still doesn’t solve the side of the house privcay (visual and sound) issue. My husband thinks the pipe and the wire are both for the automatic sprinkler system installed by a previous owner. We had the utilities come out and they did not mark that area.
I seriously considered a trellis but I realized (trying to solve this for 2 years now) the following –
We need 8-10 feet of a visual barrier and 3-4 feet sound barrier. We need to leave the walkway open for the lawnmower. We love our neighbors but they love to party with loud music til the middle of the night.
The big box store said to space blue points 4 feet apart but I think you’re right – that close to the house might create a problem down the road.
Considering – larger gallon size of dwarf burford holly (4 feet wide and 8 feet tall?)
Japanese Steeds Holly – would have to cross my fingers that it would get to 8 feet tall
Two layers of sky pencil holly (one layer along the fence and one where I was planning on planting the junipers) – see pictures I sent
Two boxwood fastigates extending from the house. We love the dark green, glossy look.
The problem is that I’m not a landscape expert so I feel like I’m taking a risk putting money toward something that might or might not work.
Yaupon holly – not as pretty as the others and poisonous… but might be the most functional
Thank you so much for your help!!! You’re the best online helper!!!
Also, considering dwarf burford holly – I can purchase them in 5 gallons. 6-10 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide.
Any thoughts on planting them in the area I mentioned?
I did get the pictures you sent, and that helps.
The pipe and wire could be irrigation. It’s so smart you had the utility companies come out. But of course the utility companies are basically marking out only their feeds from the street to your home. Make sure neither the pipe or wire gets damaged. A slight nick in the wire (with a tool) could cause problems.
I like the way you’ve analyzed the situation in terms of plant choice. You’ve thought of the site conditions and what the plant should do in the future. Well done! 🙂
You’re on the right track with considering plants that naturally grow taller than wide. The Boxwood ‘Fasitigiata’ would be your best choice. Unfortunately it probably won’t be the least expensive.
Boxwood ‘Fastigiata’ is hardy and reliable. It’s mature size should be ideal for what you’re trying to accomplish. The branching and foliage is dense for screening and will help (somewhat) with sound control.
Thanks for your advice, Roger. I have 3 questions related to our 6′ skyrockets planted this summer along our fence here in Bend, OR. We hope they become a privacy screen.
1–We planted them 4′ apart. Should we plant another in the middle of each spacing so they’re 2′ apart?
2–We have not pruned them yet and the bottom branches are sagging from recent snow, while the tops are skinny and pointed. How can we prune to make the tops more full?
3–What is the best time of year to prune? Thanks in advance, Bill
In terms of spacing, my inclination is to not plant in between the existing Skyrockets. I don’t typically use Skyrockets in my plantings, but the ones I’ve seen here in the northeast are typically 3’+ in width. I know in Oregon plants generally grow very well to reach maximum size potential. If they were 2′ (center-to-center) spacing, I could see them eventually crowding one another (to their detriment). With patience and good care I think they’ll develop beautifully for you at 4′ center-to-center spacing.
Hopefully they’re not too close to the fence. If the fence is of a solid style construction where little light and air gets, its often the case where the backs of the plants become bare. If you need to move the plants to get further away from the fence, wait until spring. Since they’ve only been in since summer, they’ll move quite easily & safely. I’m thinking the center of each plant should be 3′ from the fence.
Pruning is smart with Skyrockets or they will get “branch-heavy” and start to sag — even without snow on them. If possible I’d wait until late winter to prune them. Since they’re dormant through the winter, you could gently tie them to support the foliage during snowfalls. Simply take a cord/string and gently wrap the plant like a barber’s pole. Remove the cord after the danger of snow has passed.
To encourage full(er) growth towards the top, just prune the very tips of the upper branches and stems. Even the terminal leader(s) should be tip-pruned lightly. By pruning the tips you remove the apical buds (at the ends). This causes more growth at the lateral buds (side buds) — giving a fuller plant. Again, I’d do this pruning in late winter.
My moon glow junipers are about 8 years old and I notice significant thinning around the bottoms of the trees now. The needles seem to have dried up and fallen off. I use evergreen tree fertilizer spikes twice a year in the spring and fall and they’ve been pretty healthy up to now. Any suggestions on what to do to encourage more needle growth around the bottom of the trees?
thanks in advance, Dave
It’s hard to comment as to the cause of the needle drop without being on-site and looking at all the conditions. If all the juniper are doing the same thing it’s a universal cause. It could even be a characteristic of that plant over time, i.e. losing foliage towards the base. There are a number of plant types that do this. Unfortunately I’m not experienced with Moon Glow to know its long term behavior.
Since you’ve had them for a while, is there anything different that has occurred in the past year or so — whether it be irrigation, lawn applications, different mulch, etc.?
BTW, you could reduce your fertilizing to once per year (spring).
Dave, the possibilities are many — again, especially without seeing them on the particular site.
Keep an eye on them to see if the needle drop progresses higher up the plant. And look to see if anything similar is happening in the upper part of the plants. This would indicate something uncharacteristic, and something that needs attention.
Is there a plant nursery, garden center or plant expert in the area you can contact? Back in my garden center days some customers would be samples in of their ailing plants.
Now, when I come across plant problems I’m not familiar with I send a sample down to Rutgers University. They are the NJ university associated with the NJ Cooperative Extension Service.
Every county in every state has a Cooperative Extension Services office. Through your respective office you’ll be able to get information on sending a sample of your junipers to your state’s affiliated university. Here’s a link to the webpage I found for Cooperative Extension Offices.
Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.
Thanks for your insight and the link to the Cooperative Extension Office, Roger. I’ll visit the nursery the trees came from and talk to the good folks there too. All the best, Dave
I am so glad I found your site and the info it holds about these junipers. I planted a Skyrocket a few years ago in a small bed at the back of my house, a southwest corner, next to some stone steps and a door where it looks perfect 🙂 It has done surprisingly well and has “skyrocketed” to the roof line. Though I have seen pruning done to control topiary styles of similar species, it never occurred to me that I should prune my own. I’ve been concerned over the past couple of winters when snowfall caused its branches to splay, some in the way when with the door… so I would gently knock off the snow and tie them up a bit. We had a heavy snowfall in the early spring this year (typical northern Ohio!) and I literally gasped to see my Rocket laying almost horizontal across the drive from the weight of the snow. 🙁 Thank God it hasn’t uprooted.. I staked it back upright that day and it is doing just fine. I realize now that it definitely needs “a haircut”, and hopefully this will help it manage through future winters. “Late winter” is mentioned as the ideal pruning time in most posts here.. it is May 1st as I write this… Is there any reason I could not/should not do the pruning now? Thank you in advance for your advice!
You go right ahead and prune that juniper now. It’s most important you begin pruning back each lengthy stem and branch. This will do exactly what you’re thinking — begin to make the framework of the plant stronger.
We live in Denver, Colorado, and want to plant some Spartan Junipers as a privacy hedge along approximately 75′ of fencing. How far apart would you space them so that they eventually come together without leaving gaps between the trees? Should we prune them, and if so, in what way and how frequently? Would a soaker hose provide enough water if we let it run for a couple of hours at a time? Any info you can provide would be much appreciated. Thank you!
I would plant Spartan 4′ C-C. That is from center-to-center or trunk to trunk.
Pruning is a good idea, especially in the earlier years of development because it encourages stronger stems and branches. Many of these upright junipers have a tendency to get floppy branching, which can cause them to splay open over time. I’m not a fan of shearing these plants to prune them, but would rather prune selectively with hand pruners. But that is not practical if you have 75′ of them to do. Therefore, shearing is your best bet — once/year.
Watering with a soaker hose is a great way to irrigate a hedge like this. Be careful not to over-water — they don’t like it wet. When establishing them through this summer, just keep the soil “moist”. You can push a metal rod or long screwdriver down next to the root ball to check soil moisture. When you remove it, it should just be moist. If the rod is wet, then the soil is too wet. Use this method to gauge the amount and frequency of watering.
My Hetzi Column Juniper trunk has V-ed at the top. Can anything be done to make it grow taller? Its about 7feet tall.
I’m not sure what you mean when you say “v-ed”. Have the stems at the top splayed apart? Or has the top died-back or broken?
If the top stems have splayed apart you can bring them back together with a loose tie using something like arbor-tie.
If the top has died-back or broken off, prune out the dead or broken sections. Prune the plant as you normally would, i.e. pyramidal to columnar. Over time the plant will grow new terminal growth at the top.
Hi Roger, I have Skyrocket Juniper; approximately 6′ high. I planted approximately three years ago. The juniper was damaged by snowfall and many branches are sagging out. I recently tied the tree to try and strengthen branches back to their upright position. Based upon your instructions above and pictures it looks like I can selectively prune some of the branches to help strengthen. Two questions. Can I prune in late June and how far back can I cut each branch? Thanks.
You’re on the right track. Pruning now (late June) is fine. In terms of how far back to prune each branch: overall you’ll want to consider the look and shape of the plant. But equally important is you don’t want to cut beyond where foliage is growing well. If you cut back into bare stems and branches it’s unlikely new growth will occur.
I live in Albuquerque NM. I have a row of upright Junipers, I don’t know what variety, on the east side of my yard. They are probably 30 years old.
They have good color, are probably 18 to 20 feet tall and look good from the wast side but are a little open on the east side where they get less sun. In past years the splay created by our one or two heavy wet snows has always corrected itself come spring. However this year there are numerous branches still splayed out. Does it seem like a good idea to go ahead and trim the ends of the branches and then tie them up now Or should I wait until winter?
Summer here has daytime temps in the 90s nights in 60s and dry.
I have been watering them every week or two.
I would go ahead and selectively prune back the lengthy branches — not only the ones that have “splayed out,” but others that may do so in the future. It’s just a good idea in general to keep these upright juniper with a strong framework as they all tend to get too floppy without some selective pruning. Of course it’s easier said then done, especially when your plants are 18 to 20 feet tall. 🙂
And yes, use the arbor tie to help the sagging branches back into position. Remember to monitor those ties over the years so that they don’t begin to constrict the stem or branch they’re on.
It’s good your supplementing with some additional watering during the dry spells.
We have what I believe are Spartan junipers. They are approx 10 years old and are starting to separate at the top. Can we prune them “way back” in hopes of getting them back to their original shape? Will cutting off one of the base branches help?
They also have a lot of dead debris in the center that seems like such a fire hazard.
Without seeing your Spartan junipers it sounds like you could use a combination of pruning and possibly tying the splaying stems with arbor-tie.
Be careful to not prune too far back on branches where there isn’t any live foliage.
The brown, dead foliage and stems on the interior is natural. You could carefully clean some of that out — quite a job though.
Hi, I have a Wichita Blue Juniper and noticed the past couple weeks brown stems and needles. seems to be mostly the bottom half, here and there, and on part of the insides. It’s probably 10′ tall. Any thoughts.
It’s very hard to diagnose a problem like you’re describing with the Witchita Blue Juniper without being on-site. I’d have to see the plant close-up and all the conditions surrounding it. And even then I can be unsure “exactly” what the problem or problems the plant might have.
For me situations like this on the job are an opportunity to learn — and the homeowner is counting on me for an accurate diagnosis. So when I come across plant problems I’m not familiar with I send a sample down to Rutgers University. They are the NJ university associated with the NJ Cooperative Extension Service.
Every county in every state has a Cooperative Extension Services office. Through your respective office you’ll be able to get information on sending a sample of your juniper to your state’s affiliated university. Here’s a link to the webpage to find the Cooperative Extension Offices in your area.
Rutgers diagnostic lab never lets me down. You should have the same positive experience through the university your extension office directs you to. Not only do these university labs give accurate diagnoses, but they’ll also make recommendations for correcting the problem (if it is correctable).
Alternatively you could search for a certified plant health care specialist or arborist in your area to take a look. Also, sometimes a professional garden center or plant nursery will have knowledgeable folks on staff to help diagnose problems.
If juniper trees are planted one ft away from the house foundation, do they damage the foundation at any given point? If you prune them often does it stops them from growing large roots? Do they survive in large pots? Any information will be very much appreciated
I’m curious what type of juniper you’re planting one foot from the foundation — and why so close. I’m hesitant to say it’s OK to plant a woody shrub that close to a foundation. I can’t say for sure it won’t cause any problems. Plus, what happens when it’s time to remove them? How will you (or a future homeowner) do that without the danger of damaging the foundation?
I would not say that pruning the plant significantly affects the root size — that should remain normal.
We often plant juniper type plants in planters (large pots). They’re generally very hardy and can take the unusual conditions of being above ground in planters. Realize that their life span would likely be less in a planter (vs in the ground). Plus, they’ll need more watering and fertilizing than if planted in the ground.
Hi Roger this page is very informative, but mostly pertains to larger specimens. I live in New England right on the border of zone 5 and 6 technically 6. Our moon glows and spartans were purchased at a foot or so tall or smaller a little over a year ago now. They are now around 1.5-3ft tall, with the spartans being the taller. Drip system and ferts with holly tone. Some of the spartans are getting floppy, should we be selective pruning already? There are a couple of moonglows showing the same floppiness, but not to the extent of the spartans as they are smaller now anyway. Is it too early in their life for pruning?
It’s not too early to start pruning your upright juniper varieties.
The better nurseries and growers do exactly that to develop sturdy plants. They prioritize a strong “framework” for the young plants over just measured-size.
You can simply prune back the ends of branches, which encourages the plant to grow stronger and fuller.
I planted a southern juniper many years ago in the very rear of our back yard so its kind of a pet now. But some neighbors on the other side reckoned its low branches would look pretty good as christmas wreaths. Now the poor thing is a long, bare tree with lots of nice foliage way up high. Any way to stimulate lower foliage again?
It’s unlikely new growth will occur if it’s completely bare now. If some foliage still remains it may recover somewhat. And if there is some foliage remaining, then by annually pruning the upper portion of the tree you’ll encourage growth down below.
In some cases like this we’ll plant lower plants beneath to fill the void. Just make sure they’re adaptive to the exposure and conditions. A knowledgeable plantsperson at a nearby nursery could help. Bring pictures with you.
I am living in Texas, Houston area. I would like to plant several blue point junipers about 2-2.5 feet from a concrete walkway that has metal arming inside. It would be an optimal place for my home landscape design. Could the roots destroy the walkway? Is concrete a toxic substance for juniper roots at this close distance? My soil is heavy clay, but I planted 3 years ago many local wild junipers on my lot, mixing clay with organic and light clay that I have in some area of my lot. They are in very good condition. I am not sure about success with blue point junipers.
Junipers are very hardy by their nature — including adaptive to a variety of site conditions. The concrete walkway should not cause a toxic affect on the juniper.
I think it’s smart you’re mixing in organic matter and light clay (from elsewhere on-site) to amend the soil. Although junipers can tolerate some wet soil conditions temporarily, they are not going to do well if the soil is constantly wet.
With regard to the blue point juniper posing a threat to the concrete walk, it’s hard to say. You said the concrete walk has “arming” inside — I imagine that’s reinforcing of some sorts like re-bar. That’s certainly helpful. But I’m thinking that when the blue point juniper mature and get much larger they could affect the level of the walkway — especially if the walkway is not that wide.
2-2.5′ is not a great distance from the walkway. And blue point juniper will want to ultimately grow over the walk. Pruning will help contain the plant, but eventually it will want to get wider. If you think long-term to when the plant is maybe 10′ high and 6-7′ wide, you can imagine a heavy, woody plant close to your walk.
I certainly don’t want to discourage you because you could go ahead with your plans, prune diligently and keep an eye on their development. With that you’ll probably get a good number of years out of the plant(s) and spot any problems early — long before any real damage would occur.
Hi Roger, with blue point juniper, I am not clear, I can only prune green branches? all branches become brown closer to the main trunk but there is green foliage. So, do not prune where the branch became brown?
Exactly. It becomes very difficult for the plant to rejuvenate (push new growth) from branches that are bare and/or brown.
Realize, however, that you may also be able to prune back heavy growth/branches well into the interior without plans for it to necessarily grow back. But rather look forward to adjacent branches (next to that now missing branch) to push lateral growth and fill in the space.
With large, overgrown plants it often becomes a combination of the two pruning techniques, i.e. prune back aggressively the heavy wood (into the interior), and prune more lightly the adjacent growth.
I hope this makes sense.
Hi Roger –
I live in Roan Mountain, TN – elevation 3800 feet. We have an area beside our asphalt driveway that is roughly 16 feet wide at the widest point and 6’10” wide at its narrowest point. I would like to plant either skyrocket junipers or Taylor junipers – or a combination of both – in this space. Do you think they will fit in well there as well as next to the driveway? Thanks so much!
Both Skyrocket and Taylor junipers grow narrow (3-4′ wide) — so they both have plenty of room, even at your narrowest point (10’6″).
In terms of “combining the two varieties,” I tend to use one variety in situations like this. Of course this can be a personal preference issue, so I’d make this one comment. If you do use both varieties I would still group several of the same variety before transitioning to the other. Alternating varieties (one after the other) can look peculiar and unnatural.
Also, a subtle stagger to the arrangement can look nice too — again, a bit more natural. But these plants certainly lend themselves to a straight hedgerow as well. If I used both varieties in the arrangement, I’d group several of the same variety before switching to the other (variety), and I’d try to stagger the plants slightly.
I have junipers (not sure which kind) along my 4 foot wide walk up to my front door. I was told they would always remain small, 1 foot high, but they have now grown wide – 4 ft, and tall – 6-8 ft. How can I trim them to 3 ft tall and 1 or 2 ft wide? Or do I just remove them? I can’t even see my front door…thank you.
With the way you’re describing the existing juniper and the situation, I’d say removing them is your best bet. You’ll now have an open view to your front door and the opportunity to choose the right plant(s) to replace them.
When you shop/search for plant replacements, do some research on any plants you’re considering. You’ll likely get advice from the “plant-person” at the nursery or garden center — or information from a tag on the plant. But it pays to hold on your purchase and do some research on your own (on those specific plants).
The link I have above for “choose the right plant” is an article where I list two of my favorite plant reference books. But you could also use Google and do a search for each plant. Just make sure you visit several reputable sites so you get a general consensus on what the plant likes and how it will grow in the future.
Hi Roger, Thanks for this helpful article. I’m trying to determine if skyrocket junipers can be shaped into a hedge? I have a client who’s asking. From what I’ve read junipers generally seem to do better with minimal pruning, but the client’s junipers are right along a sidewalk and he’s hoping they can be cut to a more rectangular shape. I didn’t know if this was possible over several seasons or if shearing will create too much external foliage and interior death? Thanks for your help.
You’re correct that shearing will create dense exterior foliage and branching while causing the interior to brown out.
As you’re probably thinking, selective pruning (with hand pruners) would be the better way to keep their size in check. Frankly, in addition to being healthier for the upright juniper, I think they’ll look better too (hand pruned) — more like nature intended for them to look. 😉 And I think you could still get that “hedge-look” your client wants, but in a softer way — which could look really nice.
I found out I am allergic to juniper and cedar’s when I touched them. My kitty loves going underneath them, and then when I pet her, my hands break out in blisters. I need to cut the bottom branches from underneath so they don’t lay on her coat. Will I damage them if I do this.
The things we do for our beloved pets. 🙂
As far as the health of the juniper goes, the plant(s) should be fine. The other consideration is how the plant will look.
I’m assuming you’ll have someone do this pruning for you because of your allergic reaction. The person pruning should select each branch under consideration for removal and trace where it goes in and through the plant before they make any pruning cuts. This way there will be no surprises once the branch is cut and removed.
Thank you so much Roger. My husband is almost done, and they look great. So appreciate your advise. Yes, what we do for our fur babies. Love them to death.
Roger, we have two skyrocket junipers either side of front door steps. One had a lot of browning from a main trunk which I cut out. Remainder of tree is green (healthy?). Trees are about 9′ tall. Naturally we want a balanced look. Neither tree has been pruned in the past.
Can you recommend a site for detailed pruning tips for both trees? Thx.
I’m not aware of a website that covers pruning skyrocket junipers.
Skyrocket juniper falls in the category of upright juniper, so you can follow the general guidelines in this article.
I’d like to give you more specific advice, but without being on-site it’s not possible to suggest particular pruning cuts. Proper “selective” pruning is following the fundamentals and making judgement calls on where (specifically) the cuts should be made. Every plant will have its own pruning needs.
If you’re not feeling confident, perhaps you can find an experienced pruning person in your area — that may be the way to go. You could watch that person do this first pruning, ask questions, and be prepared to do the pruning in the future.
I have a Juniper Spiny Greek next to my house. I wanted to trim the top back. But the backside of the Juniper is all dried up and dead. It doesn’t get any sunlight on this part of it. Also a lot of the bottom of the plant is the same. Would you suggest I take this out and put another bush in its place that can tolerate no sun. It does look as if it is dying. Thank you so much.
An upright juniper like ‘Spiny Greek’ — and most junipers for that matter — require full sun. Some can adapt to less than full sun, but that’s the exception.
I would look for a replacement. Certainly the new plant should be shade tolerant, but keep in mind other factors too, such as hardiness (relating to your planting zone) and the mature size (height & width) of the new plant.
I would like a definition of apical bud
The apical bud is located at the tip (or end) of branches and stems. It contains a natural growth regulator that “tells” the side/lateral buds beneath it to not grow too much.
If the apical bud remains at the tip of that branch and/or stem, then it is dominant — and this “apical dominance” makes the branch or stem grow its greatest at that tip or point.
Allowing this apical dominance to prevail year after year can cause a plant to get leggy and weak as those unfettered branch ends just get longer.
By tip-pruning and removing the apical buds the lateral/side buds are stimulated to grow. Overall this makes for a fuller, stronger plant.
There is certainly more to the topic and how it plays into pruning and plant growth. But this is the general idea I want folks to understand.
Hi, I had the most gorgeous Taylor Junipers until this weekend when a 30 year Spring Snow may have destroyed them. I don’t know what to do with them. Today two days later the snow has melted off of them. None of them are standing straight with a couple possibly having the tops broke off them. There are several branches broke through out the tree. The branches are no longer upright but more like fanning out. I can’t find anything on the internet as to what I should do with these junipers. I do plan to give them more time knowing they will never be what they were! I would be happy if I can do something with them without having to remove them. I could send photos if you would like. Thanks!
You’ll need to prune/remove all broken stems and branches. Make clean pruning cuts behind the “breaks” at appropriate branch junctures and/or above healthy buds.
In addition to removing damaged stems and branches, prune back the healthy stems & branches so they’re stronger and not bearing so much extra weight. This will also encourage the healthy stems & branches to push newer growth laterally (and not just grow in length).
Overtime, and with strategic pruning, you can allow a strong stem to become the dominant leader and let the plant evolve back to its “upright” character.
Kris C Kersch
They say to prune juniper early spring and later winter. I plan to skim prune the low lying juniper and more extensive on the upright. Question: Do you prune before or after watering? And how long should you wait to water after you prune? And how long after watering should you wait before pruning?
Watering schedule should not be an issue as it relates to pruning.
I have a long row of Blue Point Junipers that are about 8 yrs old and 12′ high in full sun. The interior is browning and since the exterior branches are not that dense you can see into the interior and they are becoming unsightly. What is causing this, lack of light? Insect damage? Normal? Is there any way to get these looking better, more dense green? I am afraid to cut any green off as it will just expose more brown middle. Thank you!
It’s hard to give a strong opinion when not seeing the plants or the environment they’re in.
The fact that the browning is in the interior and they’re all showing this condition tells me this is normal. But again, I can’t be sure and the plant would have to be looked at by a knowledgeable person.
Many of these upright junipers will brown on the interior as they get older. And as the outer growth extends, the branches begin to splay apart exposing the browning interior. I know you’re concerned about doing any pruning, but if you would tip-prune the healthy ends, that would encourage more lateral growth down the stems and branches. This could help disguise the browning interior.
Thank you for the prompt and detailed response. I will try tip-pruning and see if that helps. Here are some pictures, maybe they will shed more light on the situation.
Even with the pictures, w/o being right there it’s difficult to determine if anything is possibly bothering your juniper — other then the natural interior browning we’ve talked about.
But I will say this, if those plants are important to you it makes sense to be sure they don’t have an insect or disease problem. When I come across plant problems I’m not familiar with I send a sample down to Rutgers University. They are the NJ university associated with the NJ Cooperative Extension Service.
Every county in every state has a Cooperative Extension Services office. Through your respective office you’ll be able to get information on sending a sample of your upright juniper to your state’s affiliated university. Here’s a link to the webpage to find the Cooperative Extension Offices in your area.
Rutgers diagnostic lab never lets me down. You should have the same positive experience through the university your extension office directs you to. Not only do these university labs give accurate diagnoses, but they’ll also make recommendations for correcting the problem (if you have one).
Alternatively you could search for a certified plant health care specialist or arborist in your area to take a look. Also, sometimes a professional garden center or plant nursery will have knowledgeable folks on staff to help diagnose problems.
HOW do I find a TRUE professional to try to save my Skyrocket with your method? I have hired companies who say they’re professional landscapers, but often I can see they are doing things that I read online are not right, for instance just pruning the outside of a bush, not pruning out the dead wood inside. I need someone with real experience and not just a phone number and a website, you know? One company even pulled out a clematis I had been nursing for 4 years that was finally going to bloom. I live in Upstate New York.
You’re not alone in your search for a knowledgeable landscape professional.
My design clients are constantly asking for recommendations. And if they’re not asking I’m desperately searching on my own because of the improper care their landscapes are getting.
And I’m afraid the level of professionalism (in terms of true horticultural knowledge and trade skill) is not getting any better. There are still a few bastions of skilled landscape professionals out there, but they’re not easy to find. And typically they’re smaller businesses that are overwhelmed with work.
You could try asking at local garden centers and plant nurseries. They may know talented people, and there may even be someone on staff that does work on the side. You could contact your local garden club (most communities have one) and ask. Is there a college or trade school in your area that teaches horticulture/landscape development? Any homes in your area that you notice are particularly well cared for that you could ask?
Barbara, I wish I could be more helpful. And if you do find “that person,” hold on to them! 🙂
Thanks, Roger. Those are great ideas. I’ll give them a try!
We have a myriad of old junipers growing in and over an old rock retaining wall on an embankment. They have a whole lot of dead brown branches, dead all the way to the tips. They are in almost full shade now, perhaps that’s why. But they will get more sun soon, as we are removing some trees near them.
It may be that we will lose these junipers entirely, but we want to at least make a try at saving them, since they are embedded in the wall and we like them. Would it be better to prune all the dead branches off now(mid to late August), or wait until dormancy? We would like to do it now, but perhaps we should wait. When do you think the best time to do that would be? It will be a big amount cut off from each juniper….
It’s hard to give accurate advice on something like this without being on-site. I’m sure the shade has played a part in the junipers decline. But there could be other things going on here as well.
I would do some pruning now. Lean more on the conservative side and try to remove just those branches that are clearly brown. Branches that show some life I would prune back a bit to encourage new growth below where you’ve pruned.
Also, in the spring (2018) I would suggest fertilizing the juniper with something like Holly-tone (for acid-loving plants).
I’ve just discovered my son in law’s upright Junipers planted about 4 years ago, are being strangled with the green plastic ribbon tied to a wooden post from the initial planting. What’s happened is the ribbon has caused the bark to split and pine sap is dripping from the split bark. I am cutting away all the green plastic, the roots are established enough so the plant doesn’t fall over, however my concern is, is it too late? Will these trees die from open exposed bark into the cambrium? Does the sap mean disease has already settled into the tree? One of the 80 trees fell over in the wind here in Las Vegas, due to weak bark stem. I want my son in law to be happy with my discovery saving his trees if I can? Thank you!
It’s hard to say if any disease or insects have entered into any of these wounds. I don’t think the sap necessarily indicates anything other than the tree wound itself.
I think if you do a good job removing the plastic ribbon the bark will eventually heal over (in most of the instances). This is actually fairly common. The plant growers should include a warning label on plants with ribbon ties like this.
Roger, you were right about “other things going on….” There is a rabbit or some kind of animal habitation in the boulder wall, it appears, with holes winding down in amongst the juniper roots. We discovered this when pruning. The wildness of our area would make evicting these inhabitants a losing battle so we are just accepting the situation. The conservative pruning went very well though in late summer and we were very pleased with the result throughout the fall! We might still try out your Holly-Töne suggestion this spring as well. It looks to me like we will continue to gradually lose these junipers but by careful pruning and fertilizing they might hold on a few years yet…..Thanks again for your advice!
Glad things are “looking up” somewhat for your juniper. This spring should also show improvement with the new season’s growth after your past summer’s pruning.
Websites say to prune junipers in late spring or early winter, but a landscaper I hired says it can’t be done until June. Whom do I believe? I would much prefer to do it NOW.
In my area (northeast) many of the landscape maintenance contractors prune during the summer. I think there are a few reasons for this. For one, the plants have gone through their growth cycle and customers are wanting the plants “shaped”. Also, the maintenance contractor’s work schedule is now pretty much under control. The crazy spring schedule with clean-ups, fertilizing, mulching, color plantings, etc. is done. They’re now able to devote time to pruning.
The reality is this summer pruning is not always the best time to prune (depending on the type of plant), but many landscape contractors really don’t concern themselves with all the specifics of proper pruning. This is a whole topic of discussion.
In short, you can prune your juniper now (late winter) and they’ll be ready for the spring and the new growing season.
I have recently planted Blue Point Junipers thinking I should be able to shape them as a hedge. Trees are 3 to 4 ft tall now. They are 3 ft away from my fiber glass swimming pool. Do you think that could cause any issues to my pool in the future? Also how narrow I can shape these trees as a hedge? How often I should prune it. I have it spaced only 2 ft between trees. Is that going to be an issue? Please advise.
Take a look at this Blue Point Juniper on this webpage.
This is an excellent example of a Blue Point near its mature size. Approximately 8-9′ high and 6′ wide.
I would not count on shearing/trimming the plant to control its size. Shearing the plant takes away the soft and interesting character of the plant and it also promotes a dense exterior foliage where light and air can not get into the body of the plant. Not good. When you do prune Blue Point you should prune it selectively with hand pruners. Prune once a year.
Since the plant will grow to 6′ wide, if the center of the plant is 3′ from the pool’s edge the foliage will come right to the edge eventually. I would not recommend planting that close. Try to move further away from the pool. For spacing from plant to plant — again, if they grow to 6′ wide, then spacing center of plant to center of plant should be 5′ +/-. Yes, they will touch a bit, but that degree of touching is OK — certainly as a hedge.
Thanks a lot for these valuable advises Roger!! Unfortunately I do not have much space between my pool and Iron fence. Can you please suggest any other plants?
I would consider plants that are categorized as “fastigiate” or “columnar”. Here’s an article on Boxwood Fastigiate.
Your best best would be to visit local nurseries and garden centers, and ask what they have in these categories. But make sure you research each plant because calling a plant fastigiate or columnar just indicates a more narrow growth habit. Their mature size can vary tremendously depending on the specie and variety.
Can you cut a branch off of a rocket juniper and put it in water until it gets roots and plant as a new tree? Is this possible?
I don’t know a lot about plant propagation. The last (and only) time I was involved was in college — and I’d rather not say how long ago that was! 🙂
However, I did a little research and evidently “most” juniper are relatively easy to root. In simple terms you use a rooting medium like pine bark and sand, or peat moss and sand — not water like you’re thinking. And you should really dip each cutting in a rooting hormone of some sort, like Dip’N Gro.
I wish I could be more helpful. But it does sound like it’s fairly doable. Good luck if you try it!
Hello, We are in a fire prone area and we have juniper that are now 45 years old. Desperately trying to find a way to fire retard them within our defensible space. We love these beautiful junipers and they are life long. Wondered if there was a way to keep them without tearing them out. Any type of fire retardant or something I can argue the point so we don’t lose these beautiful amazing junipers.
Unfortunately I don’t have any experience with fire danger on plants and how to possibly mitigate that.
I would suggest contacting your state’s Cooperative Extension Service. Every county in every state has a Cooperative Extension Services office. Through your respective office you should be able to get information on dealing with the fire danger to your juniper. Here’s a link to the webpage to find the Cooperative Extension Offices in your area.
My Skyrocket Junipers were too far gone to revive (I live on a very windy hill and they just couldn’t stand up to our upstate New York winters). So I replaced them with Graham Blandy boxwoods. I see online that some people stake them. Do you think this is absolutely necessary?
Based on how you describe the exposure (a very windy hill), you’re dealing with two related issues.
The open, windy conditions are rough on the plant’s structure and stability in general. The stems, branches and root systems have to deal with the forces of the wind.
And then there’s the affect on the foliage. That kind of exposure causes extremes in temperature and also moisture loss (desiccation) of foliage and stems.
Frankly, in comparison, the juniper should be the tougher of the two plants in both regards.
Staking might help hold the plant more securely, but the exposure’s affect on the foliage is another issue. If you’re going to use the boxwoods, protect them in the winter in some way, e.g. wrap them in burlap.
Roger, Thank You very much.. I appreciate that.. I will do everything I can to save them. They are 45 years strong. Could a mature juniper be relocated? replanted? something I could do? or would I need someone experienced in plants? The lengths on some of the branches are 8-10 feet. I will look up the link you sent. I do appreciate your time. I just want to save them at all costs.. Kind regards sara
Transplanting the 45 year old junipers is unrealistic in my opinion. Hopefully your local extension office will have another solution.
Roger, what department am I searching for? There seems to be a lot of choices. I don’t see anything that pertains to this
After you’ve clicked on your state, there should be a list below the map with listings. Under “Type” look for “Extension”. If there is no category for “Extension,” I’d simply start contacting the state university (ies) or other listings and explain what you’re looking for.