By: Liz Baessler
Juniper shrubs and trees are a great asset to landscaping. They can grow tall and eye catching, or they can stay low and shaped into hedges and walls. They can even be formed into topiaries. So what can you do with a juniper that’s gotten out of hand? Keep reading to learn more about how to prune an overgrown juniper.
Pruning Unruly Junipers
Can you prune an overgrown juniper? Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t a definite yes. Juniper trees and bushes have something called a dead zone. This is a space toward the center of the plant that doesn’t produce new leafy growth.
As the plant gets bigger and thicker, sunlight is unable to reach its interior, and the leaves in that space fall off. This is completely natural, and actually the sign of a healthy plant. Sadly, it’s bad news for pruning. If you cut back a branch below the leaves and into this dead zone, no new leaves will grow from it. This means that your juniper can never be pruned smaller than the border of its dead zone.
If you keep up with pruning and shaping as the tree or shrub grows, you can keep it compact and healthy. But if you try to attempt overgrown juniper pruning, you may discover that you just can’t get the plant down to a size that’s acceptable. If this is the case, the only thing to do is remove the plant and start again with a new one.
How to Prune an Overgrown Juniper
While overgrown juniper pruning has its limits, it is possible to trim your plant down to a more manageable shape. One good place to start is the removal of any dead or leafless branches – these can be cut off at the trunk.
You can also remove any branches that are overlapping or sticking out too far. This will give the remaining healthy branches more room to fill out. Just remember – if you cut a branch past its leaves, you should cut it off at its base. Otherwise, you’ll be left with a bare patch.
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How to Prune Skyrocket Juniper
Skyrocket junipers are a type of eastern cedar tree (Juniperus scopulorum "Skyrocket"), and are known for their cylindrical shape. Skyrocket junipers can grow high enough to block sunlight from reaching other plants, and may require pruning to maintain the desired height. Pruning Skyrocket junipers may take a little time, but gardening trimmers should help you with this task.
How To Prune Junipers & Other Conifers
Pruning junipers is easy. Just follow the steps below:
When to Prune
Since junipers and other narrow-leaved evergreens produce new growth in spring and fall and do not grow much in summer, prune them in early spring in warm regions or early summer in cooler areas. The only exception to this rule is pines, which should be pruned before the candle growth develops in the spring.
How to Prune Junipers & Coniferous Evergreens
Prune evergreens according to their growth habits. It is best to allow these plants to assume their natural shape. Pruning is a matter of cutting the branches so that a more desirable plant is attained through compact, controlled growth. This requires pruning individual stems rather than shearing. Shearing not only ruins the natural growth habit but prevents light from penetrating into the center of the plant resulting in foliage drop.
There are certain rules to follow for various types of narrow-leaved evergreens:
- Start pruning when evergreens are small, usually the first year after they come from the nursery. Then, if they are pruned a little each year, severe pruning is not necessary.
- Remove dead branches whenever they occur. New foliage from surrounding branches will fill in these gaps.
Pruning Techniques for Various Types of Evergreens:
Upright Spreading Forms:The spreading forms of junipers should have the tip ends of their growth trimmed each year. This holds the plants in check and induces a compact growth habit. An example of a vigorous-growing, spreading evergreen is pfitzer juniper. It is common for this plant to grow 12 to 18 inches or more in height each year. To maintain the natural shape of this plant, it is necessary to cut back to growing points. It also may be necessary to cut back into the previous year's wood to maintain the plant's size and shape.
Upright Pines, Junipers and Other Evergreens: For the narrow-leaved, upright evergreens, such as pines or junipers, little pruning is required. When pruning any narrow-leaved evergreen do not cut into bare wood behind the foliage on the tips. Since few adventitious buds are formed on older twigs, the plants may be damaged beyond repair. Do not cut the central leader (top vertical branch) of these plants except to remove a multiple leader. This may occur when the plants are young. Remove all but one of the stems, leaving the straightest and strongest. When pines are young and growing vigorously, the top growing point may outdistance the rest of the plant, resulting in an open space between the main body of the plant and the growing tip. To encourage the plant to branch and be more compact, cut the top back to a dormant bud located near the main body of the plant. If this cutting back is done when the plants are young, there is little effect on plant appearance. It is better to select a compact or dwarf form of narrow-leaved evergreen than to do a lot of pruning.
Prostrate, Groundcover Junipers:When the right variety of groundcover juniper is selected and planted, no pruning should be necessary. These are low-growing plants that should never require pruning, except for a stray or broken branch. That being said, we often plant groundcover junipers in areas in which they will spread beyond their boundaries over driveways, sidewalks or into the lawn. When this happens, simply prune them back.
TIP: When planting a groundcover juniper near a walk or driveway, choose the lowest growing variety you can find that will grow good in your area. Matt-forming junipers, such as Blue Rug juniper, are much easier to prune or edge. Nothing looks worse than a sheared-off Blue Pacific or Shore juniper!
Landscaping with Juniper: Maintain and Prune This Hearty Conifer
Juniper is a beautiful plant that you can find virtually anywhere once you know what to look for. I knew nothing about Juniper just a few years ago, but once I realized that several juniper bushes located on our property required frequent maintenance in order to control them, I became familiar with them very quickly.
Going back, our property was home to a former nursery and showcased a variety of bushes, trees and plants. Unfortunately, when we purchased it, the interior of the house needed so much renovation — two years passed before we even touched anything on the outside. When we finally did, we found that we had several different types of juniper right in our backyard, and I have a love/hate relationship with every one of them.
Juniper is a coniferous plant belonging to the cypress family. It is a very common plant used in landscaping as garden hedges, hill coverings, and property barriers, to name just a few. Some juniper are low-laying creeper versions, while others are standalone bushes. The color of needles and berries can vary among type but are usually a beautiful green/blue color.
For many plants, years of no pruning may not be an issue, chop them back when you get to it and it will grow back, similar to a haircut. However, Juniper can be much more unforgiving.
Juniper is beautiful in appearance and has a wonderful, refreshing scent, so I would love to keep the bushes around if possible. Juniper also has many wonderful uses that make it a beneficial plant to have in your backyard. It makes beautiful cuttings for holiday arrangements.
Juniper berries can also have a variety of uses from cooking, to healing salves, to essential oils. While junipers can be very enjoyable, the amount of maintenance required is something you definitely want to consider before planting them.
For one, juniper bushes are extremely dense plants that grow relatively quickly. This means that a Juniper will typically have a dead center. Sunlight cannot reach the center of the plant causing the branches in the middle of the plant to brown and die. Unfortunately, as the plant grows, so does the dead center. This dead center makes frequent pruning necessary in order to keep the dead center small and manageable.
Once the dead center grows, you will only be able to prune the plant back as far as the live branches begin. Pruning the bush into the dead center will cause the bush to have large dead spots which will never grow back. Frequent pruning is the only way to combat this.
In addition to being beautiful and having a variety of uses, it is also a very hearty plant that will grow with little care, which is one of the reasons it is so commonly used in landscaping. We have a creeping juniper plant as a hill cover in our backyard. It is hearty and is wonderful for preventing soil wash out.
Due to its heartiness however, it is very hard to weed and is also an inviting place for black snakes to hang out. It is for this reason that we have plans to replace it with a different option this summer.
We have a huge juniper bush which has been neglected for years. It measures approximately 10 feet wide and 7 feet tall. The dead zone is pretty much larger than the new growth at this point. Unfortunately, no amount of pruning can return the bush to a manageable size. At this point, the only hope is to rip it out of the ground.
Aside from a few of these overgrown bushes, we also have some in areas which require frequent pruning that we do several times a year. We have some lining a small pond on the property, as well as lining the road in front of our home. Although these plants are much bigger than I would like, I have learned to prune them properly so that they maintain their current shape and volume.
Early spring is the best time for us to focus on pruning the juniper bushes that line our driveway. We will also prune them back in early fall. These require frequent pruning in order to ensure that the juniper branches do not block out view of the road when pulling out of our driveway.
Can you trim junipers?
Prune junipers if the plant is overgrown or branches are damaged or dead. Pinch back or snip errant green shoots on junipers before they harden and become woody. This promotes branching and reduces the need for future pruning. Pinch back shoots anytime except late summer, when the bush needs new growth.
Likewise, how do you shape a juniper shrub? Junipers (Juniperus)
- To correct the shape, prune before new growth starts in the spring lightly prune side branches to reduce their size and to bring the plant back into scale.
- Prune spreading and creeping junipers by selectively cutting back to vigorous, lateral side branches.
Thereof, when should junipers be pruned?
Answer: The best time to prune junipers is late winter and early spring just before growth begins. However, because junipers are usually very vigorous, they can be pruned almost any time. You can prune them now with little harmful effect on the tree.
Can you trim blue point juniper?
"Blue Point" is listed as growing to 7 to 8 feet but does indeed grow larger as you have discovered. Junipers can certainly be pruned, but unfortunately there is no way to discourage new growth by pruning. They are vigorous plants! If you attempt to shorten it, you will end up needing to prune the sides as well.