Chinese Juniper Shrubs: Blue Pfitzer, the Pom-Pom Bush

AKA Poodle Shrub

Blue Pfitzer juniper shrub sheared into pom-poms.
David Beaulieu

Blue Pfitzer junipers are those shrubs that are commonly sheared so as to bear what look like pom-poms at the tips of their branches. Some gardeners value this look as a way to introduce novelty into their landscapes, while others detest it as being too contrived. If you fall into the former group, learn how to grow these bushes and how to shear them into those odd shapes.

Taxonomy and Botany of Chinese Juniper Shrubs 

According to plant taxonomy, Blue Pfitzer junipers are labeled Juniperus chinensis Pfitzeriana Glauca.

The part not in italics is the cultivar name. These pom-pom bushes are considered evergreen shrubs.

Features of the Bush, Planting Zones, and Origin

Needled evergreens are typically valued most for their foliage, despite the fact that the leaves may not actually be green. An example is provided by the shrubs with golden foliage. Likewise, the chief selling point of Blue Pfitzer Chinese juniper, before any pruning is done, is its blue-green foliage, although it is not as deep a blue color as that on Blue Star juniper.

Blue Pfitzer junipers are often trained into pom-pom shrubs prior to arriving at the garden center to be sold to the public. As the buyer, you simply have to maintain them in that shape afterwards by shearing them. Thus most of the hard work has already been done for you. They have become so popular in this form that people automatically think "pom-poms" when mention is made of Juniperus chinensis Pfitzeriana Glauca.

This type of Chinese juniper shrub gets to be about 6 feet tall at maturity, with a similar spread.

Planting zones 4 to 9 are suitable for Chinese juniper shrubs, which are indigenous to eastern Asia.

How to Cheerlead for Your Pom-Pom Bushes (Location, Care)

Chinese junipers are rugged, but even the toughest of plants will perform better with the proper encouragement from you.

Grow your shrubs in full sun. While they will tolerate some drought once mature, young plants should be supplied with a moderate amount of water by the homeowner during dry periods. It is best to select ground that drains well as a location in which to establish them.

In terms of additional care after planting, apply an all-purpose fertilizer in spring and again in fall. They may well thrive, though, without any fertilizing.

Landscaping Uses for Pom-Pom Bushes

People who grow pom-pom bushes often do so with the intent of featuring them as specimen plants. As tough shrubs that resist drought and street pollution, they are well-suited for use as specimens in driveway landscaping, especially at the entry to your driveway.

More generally speaking, as evergreens, these pom-pom bushes are valued in the North for winter landscaping. And, as with other types of Juniperus, we sometimes take advantage of their toughness to use them in soil-erosion control, although creeping juniper is the poster child for this role.

Warning, Bonus in Growing Chinese Juniper Shrubs

The scaly leaves have a coarse feel, so touching them is not the most pleasant of experiences. Do not plant this bush in a location where you would be rubbing up against it frequently with exposed skin (for example, in landscaping around swimming pools).

Happily for those in deer country, Pfitzer Chinese junipers are deer-resistant shrubs.

Other Plants Used As Pom-Pom Shrubs

Blue Pfitzer is not the only shrub suited to the "pom-pom look." Other Chinese junipers commonly used for this purpose include:

  • Juniperus chinensis Mint Julep
  • Juniperus chinensis Hetzii Glauca

Nor are you limited to the Juniperus genus. Often sheared to have a similar look are:

Origin of the Name

The cultivar name, Pfitzeriana Glauca, comes from two sources:

  • "Pfitzeriana" comes from the name of German botanist, Ernst Pfitzer (1846 to 1906).
  • "Glauca" means "grayish-blue" in Latin and crops up time and again in plant names to indicate the presence of the color, blue. For example, Festuca glauca is that lovely blue fescue grass.

    How Do You Get the Pom-Poms Round? And Who Would Trim a Shrub That Way?

    So how do you shear the pom-poms so that they come out round? Well, some people fashion a rough circular guide for themselves out of wires. Such frameworks are also sold by high-end garden centers. This wire framework is then put in place prior to shearing, and all foliage sticking out from the framework is removed.

    But you do not need to be that fussy about the operation if you are not a perfectionist. Instead, you could simply eyeball it and just shear away. The bushes are very amenable to shaping (and forgiving of slight mistakes), so if you cut a bit too much away in one instance, just give the plant a little time to correct your mistake. Try to remember to shear three or four times per year, at least. The more often you remove growth, the denser your pom-poms will become.

    The purists among you who prefer more of a so-called "natural landscape design" may be taken aback by the answer to the question, Who would trim a shrub that way? For the answer is: A lot more people than you might think. Granted, many would take your side in abhorring these pom-pom bushes as gauche. But there are also many homeowners who are proud to display shrubs pruned in "unnatural" ways. Nor is there anything new about this. The following creations have been around for centuries in formal landscape design:

    The fact that these creations require more skill than does shearing a shrub so as to give it pom-poms probably accounts for why people are less likely to scoff at them. But none of these are "natural." Indeed, landscaping by its very nature is artificial, the only natural plantings being those found growing in the wild.

    In addition to what one refers to as the "pom-pom" shaping done on Blue Pfitzer junipers, you will hear other, similar terms used. For example, you will hear talk of "poodling" a bush (or a "poodled" shrub). Likewise, the Japanese speak of "cloud pruning."