Creeping juniper, Juniperus horizontalis, is one of my favorite landscaping plants. It retains dazzling foliage colors all year and is an extremely hardy, low-maintenance ground cover. Creeping juniper ground cover needs almost no maintenance or care after it’s established in the landscape. There are a lot of varieties of Juniperus horizontalis that all have similar landscape uses. The main difference between them is their coloration and size.
Juniperus horizontalis shrubs can be blue-green, silver-blue, and even golden in color. In winter, the foliage color changes to purple, copper, or burgundy adding winter interest to your backyard landscaping. When it comes to size, some types grow 18 inches tall while others only reach 3 inches tall. Their spread can also vary from 3 to 12 feet depending on the cultivar you choose. We’ll give you some creeping juniper landscape ideas for each variety below.
Care and Maintenance Guidelines in the Landscape
The botanical name for creeping junipers is Juniperus horizontalis. It is native to North America and therefore is not invasive here. Their typical lifespan is anywhere from 20 to 140 years. It has a moderate growth rate and the size can vary depending on the cultivar and growing conditions. Typically these types of junipers reach a height of 3 to 18 inches and a width of up to 12 feet.
Its evergreen leaves are needle-like when plants are young, becoming more scale-like as they age. Creeping junipers is a coniferous plant that produces male and female cones, not fruits or flowers. The female cones look like small blue berries and are edible. The male cones which produce pollen have yellowish color.
Creeping juniper roots aren’t too picky about soil type. They can tolerate a wide variety of soils including rocky and sandy soils and are also adaptable to a soil pH between 6.0 and 8.0. The only soil requirement is that it is well-draining which will prevent the root system from developing root rot. It is also somewhat salt tolerant so you can plant Juniperus horizontalis in coastal areas.
TIP: The root depth of creeping junipers is shallow. If you need to amend clayey soil for better drainage, till in plenty of organic matter to a depth of around 6 to 8 inches.
Creeping junipers are drought resistant and rarely need supplemental water once they are established in the landscape. They can handle the soil drying out for short periods but prolonged drought can cause dieback. During extended periods of hot, dry weather, you should water them once a week.
The light requirement for creeping junipers is full sun. That means they need at least 6 hours of sunlight each day to grow well. If planted in the shade, they won’t spread well and will have dull foliage color. It is best not to plant this species under trees.
Temperature & Humidity Considerations
Juniperus horizontalis can tolerate a wide variety of temperature and humidity conditions. They can survive winter temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They also tolerate dry, hot summer weather too. The recommended growing zone for creeping juniper is between USDA hardiness zones 3 and 9.
TIP: Creeping junipers grown in pots as bonsai trees cannot tolerate the same temperatures as plants grown in the ground. Bring your bonsai inside if outdoor temperatures go below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
How To Plant
Once you find a place with the right soil and sunlight, planting creeping junipers is easy. Simply dig a hole that is twice as wide and the same depth as the container your plant is in. Remove the shrub from its container and place it in the hole to check the depth. You don’t want the soil to cover any of the stems or trunks when you fill in the hole. Once the depth is right, you can backfill the hole.
Make sure to thoroughly water your new shrub after planting it. You’ll also want to keep the soil moist over the next 8 to 12 weeks while the roots become established and adapt to their new home. Good companion plants for creeping juniper include sedum, yucca, lavender, hydrangea, iris, and roses.
TIP: You should plant creeping junipers with a spacing of 6 to 12 feet to give them plenty of room to spread out as they grow.
When To Plant
If you’re wondering when to plant creeping juniper, spring is best. They can also be planted in early fall after the hottest summer days are over and while there is still time for them to become established before winter. They don’t require any special winter care but may need supplemental watering during summer if it doesn’t rain for more than two weeks.
Juniperus horizontalis doesn’t require fertilizer to grow. However, fertilizer can help it to grow a little quicker. You can use a 16-4-8 or 12-4-8 slow-release tree and shrub fertilizer in early spring and late summer. Make sure you water the fertilizer immediately.
If you’re growing creeping juniper as a bonsai, you should fertilize it once a month with a balanced liquid fertilizer in spring and summer.
TIP: Don’t fertilize your creeping junipers for the first year after planting them.
You may be wondering how to trim and when to prune your creeping juniper. While you can prune this shrub, it is often best to choose a cultivar that fits the space where you are planting it so you don’t have to prune it.
Creeping junipers often don’t grow new foliage on bare branches. If you do prune them, only remove the tips to ensure new leaves emerge. You can also prune off any dead foliage which will help with air circulation and reduce the risk of diseases.
TIP: If you are pruning tips off of creeping junipers, you can use them for propagation. Cuttings can be used to grow new plants but it will take several years for them to grow large enough to transplant into your yard.
Juniperus horizontalis doesn’t suffer from any major insect pests. On occasion, they can be infested with aphids, bagworms, leaf miners, scales, spider mites, and webworms. If you detect any of these pests on your plants, you can get rid of them using pesticides.
Creeping junipers are also deer resistant, so you won’t have to worry about them being damaged by deer.
Creeping junipers typically don’t have any serious disease issues if they are planted in sunny spots with well-draining soil. They are susceptible to fungal disease and blights if they don’t have the right growing conditions.
If your creeping juniper is turning brown or is turning yellow, it is likely suffering from a fungal disease. Remove any discolored foliage and apply a fungicide spray labeled for creeping junipers. Make sure you follow the directions on the label.
12 Popular Creeping Juniper Varieties and How to Use Them in Landscaping
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Bar Harbor’ has blue-green to gray-green foliage during summer that turns to a reddish-purple hue in winter. This variety grows up to 1 foot tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. Bar Harbor should be spaced 6 to 8 feet apart in the landscape.
Bar Harbor junipers have a variety of landscaping uses. You can use them for ground cover on slopes where they will help prevent soil erosion. They also grow well in rock gardens or along retention walls where they will cascade downward beautifully. Since Bar Harbor tolerates severe pruning well, you can also use it as an edging plant or grow them more like a bush. Use creeping juniper Bar Harbor to line walkways in the front yard or around your backyard patio.
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Chip’ has blue-green to steel-blue foliage that takes on a mauve to dark purple color on the branch tips during winter. This cultivar grows to about 1 foot tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. Blue Chip creeping junipers will add color to your garden all year long.
Blue Chip juniper is a sprawling ground cover plant that has many landscape uses. Though Blue Chip is very similar to Bar Harbor, it doesn’t grow as quickly making it a better choice to use for an edging plant. It can be used as a foundation plant around the border of your house. It can also be planted on a hillside for erosion control. Blue Chip is also hardy enough to be used as edging along the driveway in your front yard.
Blue Rug or Wiltonii
Blue Rug creeping juniper, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug’, has blue-green to silver-blue foliage. It grows to a height of 4 to 6 inches and a width of 6 to 8 feet. The name rug refers to how short this spreading species is and its ability to create a rug-like ground cover in the landscape.
Blue rug junipers are more drought tolerant than most junipers, making them fantastic ground cover plants for sunny, steep slopes. It also works well as a flowerbed border plant since it won’t hide anything growing behind it.
Creeping juniper Blue Rug is also a popular bonsai tree cultivar. Its branches can be trained to grow upwards using wiring during the dormant winter months. You can grow your Blue Rug bonsai in a decorative pot outside where it can liven up your front porch entryway or use it to beautify your backyard patio.
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Golden Carpet’ has stunning yellow-green foliage during summer which transforms to a deep golden shade with hints of green in winter. Golden carpet creeping juniper forms a lush carpet of foliage reaching about 4 inches tall and spreading up to 4 feet wide. Space plants 3 to 4 feet apart to ensure they have plenty of room to grow into.
When it comes to landscape uses, Golden Carpet has many of the same uses as other creeping junipers. It can be used on slopes for erosion control, along retention walls, in rock gardens, or as flowerbed edging.
What makes this cultivar stand out is its color. Many evergreen plants are green which can make your landscape feel a little bland during winter. Add some Golden Carpet creeping juniper to your landscaping so you have more color in your front or backyard during the winter months.
Hughes creeping juniper, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Hughes’, has silvery-blue foliage that grows taller than many other creeping juniper species. It can reach a height of 18 inches and spreads to about 8 feet wide. The needles will take on a slightly purple color during the cold winter months.
Like most creeping junipers, Hughes works well on slopes for erosion control where its height will add some dimension to your hillside landscaping. It doesn’t work as well as some other cultivars as an edging plant due to its height. If you have a retention wall in your front yard or backyard, you can plant Hughes juniper at the top of the wall. As it grows, the branches will cascade downwards helping to disguise the wall all year.
Limeglow creeping junipers, sometimes spelled Lime Glow, are prized for their bright yellow-green foliage which will add color to your landscaping. It is more compact than most other creeping junipers, only spreading to about 3 feet wide. Juniperus horizontalis ‘Limeglow’ reaches a height of 12 inches and the foliage changes to a gorgeous burnt orange color in winter.
Due to its compact size and mounding form, Limeglow can be used as a small shrub in your landscaping. Add this dwarf creeping juniper to your front yard where it will provide vibrant color during every season. If you have a rock or Zen garden in your backyard you can use Limeglow to introduce more color to your landscape design.
Monber / Icee Blue
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Monber’ is commonly sold under the name Icee Blue or Ice Blue. The trade name Icee Blue comes from the foliage which is more silvery-blue than any other juniper ground cover cultivar. In extremely cold temperatures, it can take on a plum-purple color during winter. This variety grows to 4 inches tall but spreads up to 8 feet wide.
Icee Blue creeping junipers work best as ground cover plants. They can be planted among rocks where their trailing branches will weave between and grow over them to create an amazing landscape feature. It can also be used to add interest around your backyard patio when used as a border plant.
‘Mother Lode’ creeping juniper, also called dwarf golden juniper, will give your yard a splash of evergreen color with its bright yellow foliage in spring and summer. During winter, the foliage changes to a lovely bronze color. This slow-growing dwarf variety grows up to 4 inches tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. Since it grows so slowly, we recommend spacing plants 3 to 4 feet apart.
Thanks to its foliage, Juniperus horizontalis Mother Lode can be used as a focal plant or accent plant in flower beds in your front yard. Its slow growth makes it ideal for use as an edging plant when landscaping around walkways, patios, or even backyard pool decks.
Pancake creeping junipers are probably the lowest growing juniper out there. They rarely grow taller than 2 to 3 inches and spread to about 2 feet wide. When used as edging or in a mass planting, space plants about 2 feet apart. It has blue-green to gray-green foliage throughout the year.
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Pancake’ cascades beautifully and can turn a retaining wall into an enchanting landscape focal point. It can also make a wonderful addition to your backyard rock garden where it will wind between the rocks as it grows. Consider creating a mass planting of Pancake creeping junipers on slopes where water runoff is an issue.
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Plumosa’, also known as Andorra juniper, is a taller creeping juniper variety. It has blue-green to silver-green foliage that turns to a coppery or purplish color in winter. It will reach a mature height of 1.5 to 2 feet and spread up to 5 feet wide. When creating a mass planting of Andorra juniper, space your plants 3 to 5 feet apart.
Plumosa creeping junipers have a variety of landscaping uses. Create mass plantings on hillsides for erosion control or use them to border driveways or walkways in the front yard. Andorra junipers can also be grown in containers and placed on backyard patios or front porches. You can even grow them as a bonsai tree just like Blue Rug.
Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales creeping juniper has a medium green color with a slightly blue overtone. The foliage will take on a nice burgundy color during winter. This low-lying ground cover reaches 4 to 6 inches tall and 3 to 6 feet wide.
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Prince of Wales’ has a deeper green color than other creeping junipers. In the landscape it can be used as a foundation plant, growing along the sides of your home. Since it doesn’t spread as much as many other species, it is also a great option to use as an edging plant for front yard flower beds or around your backyard patio. Like other creeping junipers, it can be used to create mass plantings, in rock gardens, and to help with erosion control.
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Youngstown’, sometimes called Youngstown Andorra juniper, is a mound forming bright green creeping juniper cultivar. The winter coloration of Youngstown is superb. It takes on a plum-purple color that deepens throughout winter before returning to dark green in spring. Mature plants reach 1 foot tall and about 6 feet wide.
Since Youngstown junipers have such wonderful coloration, consider using them as focal plants or accent plants in the front yard. You could also mix them with a different colored juniper to create a multi-colored mass planting on a slope in the backyard. Youngstown works well in rock gardens or along retention walls too.
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