How to Grow Creeping Juniper

A low maintenance and vigorous ground cover

Creeping Juniper in a large landscaped display

MayCal / Getty Images

If you really don't enjoy spending a lot of time maintaining your garden, or you aren't a fan of mowing the lawn, then Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) could be a perfect choice.

This hardy, low-growing evergreen shrub is often used as an alternative ground cover, although it doesn't cope well with high footfall.

A versatile and popular shrub, it's often used on rocky slopes where other plants struggle to survive, and it can help to prevent soil erosion. This drought-tolerant species is also commonly used in dry regions where xeriscaping is popular.

The foliage is aromatic and usually takes on an eye-catching blue-green hue through the spring and summer.

Botanical Name Juniperus horizontalis
Common Name Creeping Juniper, Creeping Cedar
Plant Type Evergreen shrub
Mature Size Up to one foot
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Soil Type Tolerates a variety, but must be well-drained
Soil pH Not particular
Bloom Time only foliage, no flowers
Flower Color green
Hardiness Zones 3 to 9
Native Area North regions of North America

How to Grow Creeping Juniper

Creeping Junipers appeal lies in the fact that it's a fast-growing and incredibly low maintenance shrub. Once established, it doesn't have any complicated care requirements and grows vigorously.

Drought-tolerant and not fussy about soil types, all this shrub looks for is a decent amount of sun.

Light

Creeping Juniper will grow in a wide range of light conditions, although it thrives most when it gets a decent amount of sun. Avoiding a shady position will guarantee speedy growth, spread, and healthy, full foliage.

Soil

Part of the appeal of Creeping Jupiter is the fact that it's so adaptable. While it has a preference for sandy soil with light to medium moisture, it isn't particularly fussy.

It will grow in poor quality, dry, compacted soils where other species won't. The only thing it asks is that the soil be well-drained. Overly wet conditions can result in root rot.

Water

This drought-tolerant shrub copes in hot, arid conditions well. When young plants or seedlings are being transplanted into the ground is the only time you'll want to ensure the soil is kept consistently moist.

Once established, Creeping Juniper will generally be happy with just natural rainfall, unless you experience a particularly long and intense dry spell. During this period a once a week watering should be sufficient.

Temperature and Humidity

Creeping Juniper is popular in part because of its ability to thrive in a mix of temperatures. Arid, hot summers aren't a problem, and it can cope with cold, snowy conditions too.

Fertilizer

This type of ground cover won't need fertilizer to do well. If you think the foliage could do with a boost, you can feed your Creeping Juniper annually, ideally in the fall, with a balanced fertilizer designed for shrubs.

Propagating Creeping Juniper

Although Creeping Juniper can be propagated from cuttings, be prepared for a long wait. They're particularly slow to root, and you won't be able to transplant them into their permanent position for at least a year or two.

Cuttings can be taken any time through the year apart from the winter.

Varieties of Creeping Juniper

There are over one hundred cultivars from the Juniperus horizontalis species. They all vary in terms of their height, spread and foliage color.

Some of the most popular cultivars are outlined below.

  • Blue Rug Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis 'Wiltonii') is thought to be the most common of all the Creeping Juniper cultivars. It grows up to about six inches and can spread to around eight feet. It has an attractive blue-grey color.
  • Juniperus horizontalis 'Pancake' is perfect if you're looking for a very low growing cultivar. It rarely grows above three inches tall.
  • Juniperus horizontalis 'Lime Glow offers a more unusual green/yellow shade that could be described as chartreuse.

Pruning

Unlike some ground covers, you don't need to mow Creeping Juniper. It will spread outwards, but not upwards (the maximum height is around two foot tall). Pruning isn't required unless your shrub is suffering from disease or the spread is becoming particularly unruly.

If you plan to use it on a path border, it may be best to opt for a cultivar that grows to a specific size and height that would suit that space.

Growing From Seeds

Seedlings are best planted out when the warmer spring weather arrives and before dry summer seasons set in.

Make sure the area you plant them in will allow appropriate room for them to spread and don't expect the shrubs to cover the space in their first year fully

Common Diseases

Creeping Juniper can suffer from yellowing dieback on the foliage. This is most commonly caused by a fungal disease known as Juniper Blight (Phomopsis).

You can carefully trim away the infected parts of the shrub. Just make sure you dispose of the branches without letting them come into contact with the rest of the bush, and your pruning shears should be sterilized before using them again.

Fungicides specifically for Juniper shrubs are also available.