How to Grow Greek Juniper

A Hardy, Drought-Tolerant and Low Maintenance Species

Greek Juniper Tree overlooking the sea

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Greek juniper (Juniperus excelsa) is an evergreen and slow-growing tree that can reach up to 20 metres in height, although typically it remains considerably shorter.

Native to Mediterranean regions, this juniper species is drought-tolerant and can handle harsh extremes. They grow best in gardens that experience hot and dry summers but can tolerate colder winter conditions.

Young trees normally form a pointed, narrow, shrub-like shape that spreads more widely as it matures. The canopy is dense, and it regularly becomes home to birds seeking shelter.

Greek juniper is generally a dioecious species, so it isn't self-fertile, and a male and a female tree are needed to produce viable seeds. Very occasionally, however, monoecious trees do form with both male and female flowers present.

The trees produce small cones that are berry-like in appearance. They're blueish-black in color and have a waxy, white bloom over their surface.

Greek juniper has a variety of practical uses. The bark can be used for roofing, and the high-quality wood is used for building purposes and as fuel. The branches also have a pleasing pine scent. They're sometimes burned as incense and are often added to Christmas wreaths and arrangements.

The fleshy, berry-like seed cones that usually appear in the fall are edible raw or cooked, and they were used in traditional medicine in past times. Amongst other qualities, they have been shown to have specific anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties.

It's worth noting that Greek junipers are known to be highly flammable, and aren't a good choice for gardens in regions prone to wildfires.

Botanical Name Juniperus excelsa
Common Name Greek juniper
Plant Type Tree, shrub, evergreen, perennial
Mature Size Up to 20 m. tall
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Variety of well-drained soils
Soil pH Neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Blue berry-like cones rather than flowers
Hardiness Zones 5 - 9, USDA
Native Area Mediterranean
Greek juniper seeds close up
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Plant Care

Greek junipers are regarded as relatively low-maintenance. They're drought-tolerant, not prone to pest problems, and don't have onerous pruning requirements. They just need plenty of sun and well-drained soil.

Light

One of the key requirements for the Greek juniper, as you would expect from a species native to the Mediterranean, is that they need to be planted somewhere they'll receive lots of sunlight. These trees don't grow well in shady positions.

Soil

Greek junipers tolerate a wide range of soil types. They can cope in sandy, loamy, and even clay soils, and are known for handling the most alkaline pH levels. They just need it to have good drainage as they don't tolerate waterlogged roots. Their preference is for dry to semi-moist conditions.

Water

Once your Greek juniper is mature, it'll handle drought conditions with ease. While establishing, however, watering deeply at least once a week for the first few months is recommended.

Temperature and Humidity

Young trees are more delicate and appreciate a sheltered garden position to help them establish successfully.

It will already be clear that hot and dry conditions don't phase Greek junipers. They're also, however, a surprisingly cold-hardy species and, during the winter, when dormant, they can even handle short bursts of winter frosts all the way down to -5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fertilizer

Greek junipers appreciate occasional feeding with a complete and balanced fertilizer. Unless rainfall is expected, its a good idea to water-in after the fertilizer has been applied. This will allow the fed to reach all the wide, shallow, spreading root system.

Propagating Greek Juniper

It's possible to propagate Greek junipers from mature wood cuttings. It can be tricky, though, because these trees are very slow to develop. It can take up to a year for the cuttings to fully take root and be ready to be transplanted outdoors.

Pruning

Because of their slow growth rate, Greek junipers won't require a lot of pruning, and they won't appreciate it if it's excessive either.

As it grows, it's the lower branches that are often cut away to produce a tree shape rather than the shrub-like form develops in the beginning.

How to Grow Greek Juniper From Seed

Unless you have both male and female trees in your garden, you'll need to source Greek junipers seeds to ensure fertilization.

It's a bonus that seeds can still be viable after several years if they're stored dry, but they aren't always the easiest seeds to germinate.

They're slow to form into seedlings, and it can take over a year to see results. They also have complex stratification requirements before sowing. Ideally, they need a few months of cold stratification, then a few months in warms, and then another cold period.