Rocky Mountain junipers or Juniperus scopulorum conifers are extremely versatile landscaping plants. Many diverse cultivars have been created with a variety of forms including low-growing, spreading shrubs to 40′ tall weeping trees. They come in a variety of colors from deep blue-green hues to variegated types which have light-colored foliage throughout.
With so much diversity available, it’s no wonder that Rocky Mountain junipers can be incorporated into just about any landscape. Using evergreen plants throughout your yard’s landscape will keep it from looking drab in the winter when deciduous plants lose their leaves. With that, let’s dive into the fascinating landscaping ideas and uses available for Rocky Mountain junipers!
Rocky Mountain Juniper Names
Like many popular landscaping plants, Rocky Mountain junipers are sold under a variety of names. Rocky Mountain juniper is the most popular common name, but it can also be called:
- Colorado Red Cedar
- River Juniper
- Mountain Juniper
- Seaside Juniper
- Western Juniper
- Mountain Red Cedar
- Rocky Mountain Red Cedar
- Western Red Cedar
If you’re looking to purchase a Rocky Mountain juniper, it’s best to search for them under their scientific name Juniperus scopulorum. There is only one scientific name for Rocky Mountain juniper, so by using the scientific name, you can ensure you purchase the correct plant.
To make their names even more confusing, there are dozens of Rocky Mountain juniper cultivars available for landscaping. The parent plants are Rocky Mountain junipers (Juniperus scopulorum) and since they’re popular for landscaping, people have bred all sorts of cultivars. Each cultivar has distinct characteristics including its mature size and foliage color. Some cultivars are even more resistant to biotic or abiotic factors like humidity, drought, disease, or insect pests. Some of the most popular Rocky Mountain juniper cultivars are:
- Blue Arrow
- Burly Blue
- Gray Gleam
- Snow Flurries
- Tolleson’s Blue Weeping
- Wichita Blue
When you find Rocky Mountain junipers online or in nurseries, they are called Juniperus scopulorum ‘cultivar name’. For example, the cultivar Moonglow is typically sold as Juniperus scopulorum ‘Moonglow’. To ensure you purchase the correct species and cultivar, make sure you pay attention to both the scientific name and cultivar name before purchasing juniper plants.
How To Care For Rocky Mountain Junipers
Before planting Juniperus scopulorum in your yard, it’s important to understand what growing conditions you need to provide for them to grow well. Rocky Mountain junipers are most often used in the northern and western parts of the U.S. which provides the best climate for growing Rocky Mountain junipers. They won’t tolerate high humidity, warm nights, or ice well. That’s why most Rocky Mountain junipers grow best in USDA hardiness zones 3A to 7B.
TIP: If you live in a warm, humid climate like the Southeastern U.S., consider planting Eastern Redcedar instead which is better adapted to hot, humid weather.
Make sure you plant your Rocky Mountain juniper in well-draining soil. Soils that hold too much moisture can cause them to develop root rot. They need full sun, which means at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. Without enough sunlight, Rocky Mountain junipers tend to look thinner and have less vibrant foliage colors.
Though they don’t tolerate certain conditions, the Rocky Mountain junipers will grow in sandy soils, dry conditions, mountainous areas, and coastal areas. They have a slow growth rate and only need to be fertilized once per year to optimize their growth. Use a slow-release 16-4-8 fertilizer for the best results.
When given the right growing conditions, Juniperus scopulorum doesn’t typically have any serious disease or insect pest issues. They are deer-resistant as well which is an added bonus!
10 Landscaping Ideas
1. Provide Ground Cover with Short Shrubs
Low-growing varieties of Rocky Mountain Junipers, like the Juniperus scopulorum ‘Burly Blue’ cultivar shown above, have a variety of landscape uses. They can be used in front yard flower beds as ground cover to fill in empty space and reduce weed growth.
You can also create a mass planting of spreading Rocky Mountain Junipers on backyard hillsides where they will cover the ground, helping prevent soil erosion. Low-growing cultivars can grow 1 to 3 feet tall and spread up to 10 feet wide.
2. Accentuate Architecture
Most cultivars of Rocky Mountain Junipers grow into medium to large shrubs. They have a natural column, pyramid, or round shade as they grow and don’t require heavy pruning to maintain their shape. You can use these beautiful shrubs to accentuate the architecture of your home.
Plant them between windows like the cultivar Juniperus scopulorum ‘Moonglow’ above or at the corners of the house in the front yard. They will help to soften the straight lines of a house, blending it into the landscape for better curb appeal. Narrow-form cultivars like ‘Blue Arrow’ can be grown on either side of entryways to give them a grand feeling.
TIP: There are many different cultivars of Rocky Mountain junipers. Make sure you pick one that will fit the space where you’re planting it when it reaches its mature size.
3. Add Height To Landscape Beds
Using plants with different heights when landscaping helps to improve the overall design by adding dimension. You can use Rocky Mountain junipers at the back of landscape beds to add height.
Consider choosing a cultivar of Rocky Mountain juniper that will complement the other species growing in your front or backyard garden. For instance, the Rocky Mountain juniper cultivar Juniperus scopulorum ‘Wichita Blue’ in the photo above has a blue-green to silvery-green hue. They pair well with green, blue, and purple plants in the landscape.
4. Shear Junipers to Create Topiary Shapes
While Rocky Mountain junipers don’t need to be sheared to keep their amazing pyramid shape. However, a light shearing can make them look pristine and formal. The Rocky Mountain juniper cultivar Juniperus scopulorum ‘Gray Gleam’ shrubs in the photo above have been sheared. This gives the overall backyard garden landscape design a more manicured look.
TIP: If you shear your Rocky Mountain junipers, try to remove as little foliage as possible to achieve the desired look. Severe pruning over several years can lead to branch dieback.
5. Line Walkways With Rocky Mountain Junipers
Narrow-form Rocky Mountain junipers can be used to line front yard walkways or backyard fence lines. They help tie hardscape features in with the rest of your landscape design. The Rocky Mountain juniper cultivar Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’ (shown above) works well for lining paths as it only grows to 2 feet wide.
TIP: When planting Rocky Mountain junipers in a row, make sure to leave enough space between them so they can easily grow to their mature size.
6. Grow A Privacy Screen
The tall pyramid form of many Rocky Mountain juniper cultivars is perfect for creating privacy screens. Adding a privacy screen to your backyard landscaping makes it feel more secluded and cozy. A privacy screen will make you feel more comfortable about enjoying your morning coffee in your pajamas on the back porch.
Similarly, Rocky Mountain junipers can be used to delineate your property from your neighbors by planting a row down the entire side from the front yard to the backyard. The privacy screen shown above has been created using the Rocky Mountain juniper cultivar Juniperus scopulorum ‘Moonglow’.
7. Add Unique Colors To Landscapes
While many people don’t think of conifers as plants that add color, there are actually quite a few junipers with gorgeous coloration. They come in various shades of green, blue, silver, and even golden-yellow. There are even variegated varieties of Rocky Mountain junipers like the cultivar Juniperus scopulorum ‘Snow Flurries’ shown above.
I love variegated plants since they add both unique color and texture to a landscape design. You can use Rocky Mountain juniper cultivar ‘Snow Flurries’ in the front yard or backyard as an accent plant that’s sure to garner plenty of attention from guests.
8. Use Weeping Rocky Mountain Junipers for a Whimsical Accent
If you have a large front or backyard, consider planting this majestic Rocky Mountain juniper cultivar. Juniperus scopulorum ‘Tolleson’s Blue Weeping’ (shown above) will stand out from other trees with its evergreen, weeping foliage. Their cascading foliage is mesmerizing with a light breeze and can make your yard feel enchanting. These trees can grow up to 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide.
Unlike weeping willows, weeping junipers won’t lose their leaves. They’ll add color to the landscape year-round and won’t leave a mess in the fall for you to clean up.
9. Create Landscape Art
If you’re looking for a plant to serve as a focal point in your front yard, consider pruning a Rocky Mountain juniper into a topiary. Pruning can transform these shrubs into living works of art. You can create spiral shapes or whichever shape you prefer. Get creative and tailor your Rocky Mountain juniper to meet your landscaping needs and aesthetic preferences. Topiaries can be used as focal points in flower beds or planted in containers and placed around doors as decorations.
TIP: If you’re not particularly artistic, you may want to purchase a Rocky Mountain juniper that has already been pruned into a topiary for you. Then you can simply snip off any new growth as it grows to keep its shape maintained.
10. Transform Rocky Mountain Junipers into Bonsai Trees
Rocky Mountain junipers can be turned into bonsai trees. These exquisite miniature trees will look adorable on a table on your backyard patio. They can also be placed on a pedestal in your rock garden to add more character.
It takes many years to grow a substantial bonsai juniper, but the results can be so rewarding! If you don’t have the patience to train a bonsai yourself, you can simply purchase a Rocky Mountain juniper that’s already been transformed into a bonsai for you.
Cornell University Woody Plants Database. (n.d.). Species: Juniperus scopulorum. Cornell University.
Gilman, E. F. & Watson, D. G. Juniperus scopulorum: Rocky Mountain Juniper. University of Florida, IFAS Extension.