Temple junipers – Juniperus Rigida – are one of the most distinctive-looking junipers out there with their weeping foliage and irregular branches. They have a somewhat whimsical appearance to them, making them a great choice for use as a focal plant in your landscape design. If you don’t have room for a tree in your front yard, you can also grow Juniperus Rigida as a bonsai tree.
Temple junipers are commonly planted around temples in Japan which is how they got their common name. They are also called needle junipers or stiff-leaved junipers due to their sharp, rigid foliage. These trees are closely related to shore junipers (Juniperus Conferta) though they aren’t quite as easy to find at local nurseries. If you want your landscaping to stand out from your neighbors, adding a temple juniper or two in your yard is sure to help!
Juniperus Rigida Plant Characteristics
Temple junipers have a slow growth rate, reaching a mature height of 15 to 25 feet and 10 to 20 wide. They have an irregular growth habit with ascending branches and pendulous branchlets of foliage which give the tree its drooping appearance. Their native range is in Northeastern Asia and they are considered non-invasive in North America.
The leaves of needle junipers are rigid and have a bright green coloration with a thin blue-gray line down the center. Their Latin name Rigida comes from the rigid texture of the needles. Female trees produce their seeds in cones that resemble berries. The cones start out as a green color, changing to blueish-black as they mature over two years. Male trees have small yellow-brown cones that release pollen.
How to Successfully Grow Temple Junipers in the Landscape
Overall, temple junipers aren’t very fussy and don’t require much to reach their full potential. As long as you plant them in well-draining soil and make sure they get plenty of sunlight, they shouldn’t have any issues.
These evergreen, coniferous trees will add a touch of whimsy to your front yard or backyard with their weeping foliage. Check out the table below to ensure you can provide the right environment for growing temple junipers in your landscape.
TIP: It’s best not to prune your temple junipers unless you’re removing dead or damaged branches.
|Soil Type||well-drained, sandy, loamy, clayey, rocky|
|Soil pH||6.0 – 7.5|
|Water Preferences||Low to moderate, drought-tolerant once established|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Temperature||-10 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit|
|USDA Hardiness Zones||6 – 7|
|Fertilizer||Slow release 16-4-8 or 10-10-10 once in early spring|
|Pests||No serious insect pest issues, deer-resistant|
|Diseases||No serious disease issues|
Temple Juniper Varieties and Their Landscape Uses
Temple Juniper Bonsai Trees
Juniperus Rigida is a popular species to grow as bonsai trees. When grown in a container, you’ll likely need to water them every 7 to 10 days or whenever the top 1 to 2 inches of soil are dry. When grown as bonsai trees, you can prune temple junipers into the shape you desire. Just make sure you only remove all of the foliage from a branch if you want it to stay bare.
If you don’t have much space in your backyard, growing a temple juniper as a bonsai tree is a great landscaping solution. They can then be placed on your backyard patio, front yard porch, or in your garden. Their form complements the aesthetics of a rock or Zen garden well. Just make sure you bring them inside if temperatures drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hikari temple junipers, also known as Goldtip temple junipers, have pale yellow new growth on their branchlet tips. Hikari means light and is used as the cultivar name for this plant due to the color of its new growth. It is also commonly referred to as gold tip juniper. The interesting burst of color this variety provides in spring makes this plant stand out in the landscape.
Aside from its interesting new growth color, Juniperus Rigida ‘Hikari’ behaves just like its parent plant. Its growth form makes it a wonderful plant to add to your front yard landscape to add character and curb appeal. In the backyard, you can use Hikari in rock gardens or to provide some shade in hot summers. They are also a popular bonsai plant that you can grow in a container on your front porch.
TIP: Temple junipers tend to grow more open as they age so they aren’t a good choice for creating privacy for your backyard patio.
If you see a temple juniper growing in someone’s yard, it’s probably Juniperus rigida ‘Pendula’. The common name for Pendula is weeping juniper. It originated in Europe during the 1850’s and almost all temple junipers sold in North America are temple juniper ‘Pendula’.
When branches, flowers, or leaves bend downward or droop, botanists refer to them as being pendulous. Temple juniper ‘Pendula’ was cultivated to have a more drooping form than its parent plant which is how it got its cultivar name. It closely resembles the naturally occurring Juniperus rigida in all other aspects.
Pendula is a fantastic tree to use as a specimen or accent plant in your front yard landscape. If you have a rock garden or Zen garden in your backyard, a temple juniper ‘Pendula’ tree will fit in perfectly. If you don’t have room for it in the landscape, consider growing it as a bonsai tree in a decorative pot to liven up your backyard patio.
Breen, P. (n.d.). Juniperus rigida. Landscape Plants, Oregon State University.
Juniperus rigida. (n.d.). Missouri Botanical Garden.