Juniper (Juniperus)

Quick facts and care essentials

• Evergreen shrubby ground cover
• Zones vary
• Full sun; most tolerate light shade
• Regular to moderate water

So many juniper species and varieties are available that you'll find ground cover choices for almost any climate. These adaptable plants vary in height from a few inches to 2 to 3 feet; their foliage color ranges from silvery blue through many shades of green to nearly yellow, and there are variegated kinds as well. They thrive in most soils - from light to heavy, acid to alkaline - but they won't tolerate waterlogged soil, which can lead to root rot.

Most junipers grow at a slow to moderate rate, but it's best to space them 5 to 6 feet apart to avoid future overcrowding. Mulching will help keep weeds under control while the plants are filling in. A few of the most widely sold junipers are described below; check with local nurseries for other species and varieties.

Japanese garden juniper (J. chinensis procumbens). Zones 1-24, 28-43. Blue-green, feathery foliage comes on a plant that reaches 3 feet high and spreads 12 to 20 feet.

Shore juniper (J. conferta). Zones 3-9, 14-24, 26-28, 31-34, 39. A trailing plant to 8 feet across and 1 1/2 feet high; soft, bright green foliage. 'Blue Pacific' has blue-green leaves.

J. horizontalis 'Bar Harbor'. Zones 1-24, 28, 31-45. Spreads quickly to 10 feet, but grows no more than a foot high; feathery blue-gray foliage turns plum purple in winter. Foliage of J. h. 'Wiltonii', blue carpet juniper, is a striking silver blue; the plant is a very flat grower (just 4 inches tall), creeping to 8 to 10 feet across.

J. sabina 'Calgary Carpet'. Zones 1-24, 31-45. Extremely cold hardy, with soft green foliage. Grows 6 to 9 inches tall, 10 feet wide.