Chinese junipers – Juniperus chinensis – are probably the most diverse juniper species with the greatest number of cultivars. They range in size from low-growing shrubs to trees that grow to more than 30 feet tall. Their coloration can be a show-stopping steel-blue, bright golden-yellow, or even variegated. No matter what landscaping niche you need to fill in your yard, there’s sure to be a Chinese juniper type that’s perfect for you!
Many Chinese junipers can also be grown in containers on your front yard porch or backyard patio. They can be pruned into a whimsical topiary of your choosing or trained into miniature bonsai trees. The outdoor landscaping uses for Juniperus chinensis are mind-blowing. Keep reading to learn how to care for these miraculous plants and how to use the most popular types for your next landscaping project.
How to Grow Chinese Junipers In The Landscape
Juniperus chinensis isn’t picky about the soil. They can grow in a wide variety of soil types and will adapt to either slightly acidic or slightly basic soil pH. The only soil that causes issues is poorly drained soil. Water-logged soils can lead to root rot and other disease issues for Chinese junipers.
Chinese junipers are moderately drought-resistant once established in the landscape. After planting, make sure to water them weekly if it doesn’t rain for the first year. Following the first year, their roots should be well established. You should only need to water them if there is a particularly dry, hot period lasting more than 2 weeks. Overwatering can lead to root rot.
Chinese junipers should be grown in full sun. This means they need to get at least 6 hours of full sunlight each day. Some nurseries suggest that Chinese junipers can be grown in partial shade. While they will survive in partial shade, they tend to grow slower, have thinner foliage, and have less vibrant coloration.
Temperature & Humidity Preferences
Juniperus chinensis should be grown in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9. When planted in these zones, temperature and humidity shouldn’t be an issue. When planted in humid regions like the southeast, take extra care that you space plants properly. This will allow for good air circulation which will help prevent disease issues which are more common in humid areas.
Fertilizing & Pruning Tips
You can fertilize your Chinese junipers starting the year after you plant them. It’s best to use a slow-release 16-4-8 fertilizer in early spring and again in late summer. Avoid fertilizing them in fall which could encourage new foliage growth which won’t have time to harden off before winter.
Most Chinese junipers maintain their shape without the need for pruning. Severe pruning can cause them to look malformed over time. You can prune back branch tips from shrub varieties to keep them more compact. It is also okay to limb up Hollywood junipers to turn them into trees. Pruning should be done in early spring before new growth begins.
Some Chinese junipers are commonly grown as topiaries or bonsai trees. These can be severely pruned since there is no interest in maintaining their natural form.
Pest and Disease Issues
Chinese junipers don’t have any serious pest or disease issues. They are susceptible to certain diseases, primarily blights. Most junipers only suffer from disease if they are planted in soil with poor drainage or when they don’t get enough sunlight. Chinese junipers are deer resistant too.
Types of Chinese Juniper Varieties & Their Landscape Uses
1. Blue Point
The dense branches of the Blue Point Chinese juniper create a medium to large pyramid-shaped shrub. Its dark blue-green foliage stands out among other coniferous evergreens, adding more dimension to your yard’s landscape. Juniperus chinensis ‘Blue Point’ has a moderate growth rate and can grow up to 12 feet tall by 8 feet wide.
Blue Point junipers have several landscape uses. They can be planted individually as a focal point in front yard flower beds or around the foundation of your home. Blue Point junipers can also be planted in rows to create a privacy screen for your backyard patio. When planted in rows, these shrubs can also act like a windbreak for your home. You’ll also find Chinese juniper Blue Point sold as topiaries which you can use as accent plants around your front door.
TIP: Make sure you give Blue Point enough room around its base to reach its mature size. It doesn’t tolerate crowding at the base well.
2. Blue Vase
Juniperus chinensis ‘Blue Vase’ has an upright, spreading habit which causes it to form a vase shape as it matures. Its shape and steel-blue foliage led to it being given the cultivar name ‘Blue Vase’. These small to medium shrubs can reach a size of 3 to 5 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. Chinese juniper ‘Blue Vase’ will add color and texture to your landscape design year-round.
When it comes to landscaping, you can use Blue Vase junipers in a variety of ways. They make wonderful foundation plants in the front yard due to their size. They can also be planted as focal plants in flower beds. They can also be used as border plants along property lines in the backyard or as edging plants along walkways and patios.
TIP: Hostas and Lavender make great companion plants for Blue Vase junipers. Their colors will complement each other well and they tolerate similar growing conditions.
3. Gold Lace
While there are several Chinese junipers with golden foliage, Gold Lace stands out as having the most uniform golden color that lasts all year long. Juniperus chinensis ‘Gold Lace’ has a spreading growth habit with mature plants reaching a height of 4 to 5 feet and a width of up to 6 feet. They have a moderate growth rate, growing about 12 inches per year. Gold Lace shrubs have a lifespan of about 30 years when grown under ideal conditions.
Chinese Juniper ‘Gold Lace’ doesn’t have an invasive root system, so it can be used as a foundation plant for landscaping around your house. It can be used as a focal plant in front yard flower beds or as an accent shrub around your backyard. Gold Lace can also be planted on slopes in front of taller plants or in dry, rocky conditions such as rock gardens.
TIP: Gold Lace can tolerate pruning if you want to keep shrubs more compact. However, they will lose some of their form when pruned. The best-looking mature plants are those which haven’t been pruned.
4. Hetz Columnar
Juniperus chinensis ‘Hetzii Columnaris’ is commonly sold under the cultivar name ‘Hetz Columnar’. It has dense, bright green foliage and produces more juniper berries than many other Chinese juniper species. The bluish berries add character and a dash of extra color to this slender shrub. Hetz Columnar junipers have a pyramid shape, growing up to 15 feet tall and 5 feet wide.
There are several ways you can incorporate Hetzii Columnaris Chinese junipers into your landscaping. They can be planted in rows in the backyard where their dense foliage will create a privacy screen. They also act as a wind buffer for your home which can actually reduce the cost of heating your home in winter. Thanks to their narrow width, Hetz columnar junipers can be planted at the corners of two-story homes or on either side of the entryway where they will improve curb appeal.
TIP: When creating a privacy screen with Hetzii Columnaris, make sure you space plants at least 5 feet apart. Planting them too close together can lead to competition and dieback of branches as they mature.
Keteleeri Chinese junipers are a popular landscaping plant, particularly throughout the Midwest region. They have a broad, pyramid shape, and medium green foliage. Juniperus chinensis ‘Keteleeri’ can reach a mature height of 15 to 20 feet and a width of 8 to 10 feet.
The most common landscaping use for Keteleeri junipers is as a privacy screen. Whether you plant them in the backyard around porches or along your entire property line, they will make your yard feel more secluded. They can also be used in a row along your front yard if you live on a busy street where they will help reduce traffic noise. Use Keteleeri junipers to add height to a landscape design for overall balance and dimension.
TIP: Keteleeri junipers are resistant to cedar-apple rust making them ideal plants in areas where this disease is prevalent.
6. Old Gold
Old Gold Chinese junipers are another small to medium shrub with golden foliage. Unlike Gold Lace, the foliage of Old Gold junipers are most golden near the tips where the newest growth occurs. As the needles age, they turn green. It is also more compact, only growing 3 to 4 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide.
Juniperus chinensis ‘Old Gold’ makes it a delightful plant to use as an accent or focal plant in the landscape. Their golden coloration will add more interest to your yard during the winter months. They can also be used for mass plantings on slopes to help with soil erosion. Old Gold junipers can be used as foundation plants and they will thrive in backyard rock gardens too.
TIP: When using Old Gold junipers for mass planting, make sure to space them at least 5 feet apart.
7. San Jose
Juniperus chinensis ‘San Jose’ is a creeping cultivar that grows to about 2 feet tall and spreads up to 8 feet wide. It has sage-green foliage that grows quite dense making San Jose a superb ground cover. San Jose junipers tolerate pruning but often don’t add new foliage to old, bare wood.
For landscaping, San Jose junipers can be grown as ground covers on hillsides to help with erosion control. They can also be used as edging plants along flower beds or front yard walkways. San Jose junipers are commonly sold as topiaries which can be used as accent plants in the garden or around entryways.
With some time and training, you can turn San Jose into a lovely bonsai tree to brighten up your backyard patio.
8. Saybrook Gold
Saybrook Gold junipers are the third golden-colored juniper on our list. They have the brightest golden-yellow coloration of the golden Chinese Junipers. They are also the shortest, only growing to about 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Juniperus chinensis ‘Saybrook Gold’ foliage takes on a more bronze hue during the winter months.
Use Saybrook Gold junipers to add color to your landscape beds or plant them around your house as foundation plants. Since they don’t get too tall, you can add them to slopes in the front yard or backyard to help with water runoff. You can even use them as edging plants along garden borders or walkways to make them stand out in the landscape.
TIP: You can keep Chinese juniper Saybrook Gold more compact by pruning off the tips of its branches.
9. Sea Green
Juniperus chinensis ‘Sea Green’ has a distinctive look with its arching branches that resemble a fountain. It is considered to be a compact, spreading Chinese juniper variety that reaches a height of up to 6 feet and a width of up to 8 feet. It has deep green foliage that gets darker during winter.
Sea Green Chinese junipers have similar landscape uses as other Chinese juniper shrubs. They make exceptional accents or focal plants in the front yard. You can mix them with golden varieties to create a mixed planting of Chinese Junipers on slopes that will look absolutely stunning. This variety is a bit too big to use as an edging plant, but it will help with erosion control when planted on slopes.
While many varieties of Chinese junipers are used as bonsai trees, Shimpaku is almost exclusively used as a bonsai tree. They tolerate pruning and training well which makes them easy to use for bonsai. Patience is key, as it will take several years to grow and train this miniature tree.
Some people keep their bonsai indoors but you can grow Juniperus chinensis Shimpaku outdoors too. They are able to withstand temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside. You can grow Shimpaku bonsai trees in a decorative pot and use them to add some greenery to your backyard patio. They also look spectacular when placed on a flat rock or pedestal in a rock or Zen garden.
TIP: Make sure you water your bonsai tree weekly if it doesn’t get any rain.
Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’ is a fast-growing variety with dense foliage. It keeps its pyramid shape very well, making it look quite formal in the landscape without much effort. They will grow up to 20 feet tall and 5 feet wide.
Spartan junipers can be used to create privacy screens or windbreaks when planted in rows. They can also be turned into topiaries with a variety of shapes from spirals to pom-poms. As topiaries, they can be planted in the ground or in large, heavy pots. Their height allows them to be used to delineate different areas of your yard. Add them along property lines as an alternative to fences.
12. Torulosa / Kaizuka
Juniperus chinensis ‘Torulosa’ or ‘Kaizuka’, commonly called Hollywood juniper, has a unique growth form among junipers. Their branches are somewhat twisted, making them look windblown even when there isn’t a breeze. Their foliage is a dark green color year round. They can grow up to 30 feet tall.
When landscaping with Hollywood junipers, you can either grow them as irregularly shaped shrubs or limb them up to create trees. Their irregular form keeps them from being a desirable hedge variety. Torulosa is best used in the landscape as a stand-alone accent plant. Place them around gated entries in the front yard or at the corners of the house to add drama. When grown as trees they will provide shade you can enjoy on hot summer days in the backyard.
13. Variegated Kaizuka
The Variegated Kaizuka has a similar form to Hollywood junipers, with twisted branches that look windblown. They have outstanding splashes of creamy-white to yellow foliage throughout which makes them stand out from most other junipers in the landscape.
Like Hollywood junipers, it is best to use Variegated Kaizuka as a focal plant in the landscape. They have a conical form when left unpruned but you can prune away the bottom branches to grow them as a tree. Make sure they get plenty of sunlight wherever you plant them which will ensure they have vibrant foliage.
Breen, P. (n.d.). Juniperus chinensis. Landscape Plants, Oregon State University.
North Carolina Extension Gardener Tool Box. (n.d.). Juniperus chinensis. North Carolina State University Extension.
Westerfield, R.R. (2012). Junipers. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.