If you need an easy to care for evergreen groundcover, Juniperus conferta may be just what you are looking for. This dense shrub remains low to the ground but will spread to as much as eight feet across. Low maintenance makes it a popular choice for areas that are not easy to mow.
Native to the coastal regions of Japan as well as the Russian island of Sakhalin, it is aptly referred to as the shore juniper. It is available in a number of cultivars
The common name for this shrub is shore juniper or Japanese shore juniper. Additionally, there are a number of cultivars which are named 'Blue Pacific', 'Emerald Sea', ‘Golden Pacific’, 'Irozam', 'Silver Mist' and 'Sunsplash'.
Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones
The preferred USDA hardiness zone of shore junipers is 6 to 9. The 'Emerald Sea' cultivar is more cold tolerant than other varieties and can be used as far north as zone 5.
Size & Shape
Shore junipers rarely grow more than one foot high but will spread to as much as six to eight feet across. This species is also frequently grown as a bonsai.
The preferred exposure for shore junipers is full sun, but they will tolerate partial shade. They are tolerant of air pollution, salt aerosol, as well as drought conditions.
The foliage of the shore juniper is composed of half-inch-long evergreen needles that are borne in clusters of three. Although the needles have sharp points, they are soft to the touch. The fragrant needles are gray-green to blue-green in color. Initially green in color the slender stems turn reddish brown as they mature.
The plant does not flower but produces small round seed cones. Initially these cones are green to dark blue, eventually turning blue-black. Plants are either male or female, and both must be grown if seed is desired.
Shore junipers make an outstanding ground cover due to their low spreading nature and little need for maintenance. They are also a good option for slopes that require plantings to control erosion.
Tolerance for poor conditions makes them useful in highway embankments, recreational areas, and shopping locations. They are useful along foundations, in rock gardens, over retaining walls and for mass plantings. Use of differently colored cultivars can create an attractive and interesting landscape.
Adaptable to a wide variety of conditions, this hardy shrub prefers dry sandy soil. Wet soils or heavy clay soil should be avoided. Use bark or wood mulch to suppress weed growth and retain moisture. When first established, the use of a balanced fertilizer is recommended.
They require little to no maintenance but will benefit from using a balanced fertilizer when first planted. To maintain a full center, prune around the edges once a year.
Pests & Diseases
Shore junipers are not as susceptible to winter damage as other junipers. They have no serious insect or diseases but may suffer from blight during unusually wet conditions in the spring. They are not prone to being damaged by deer.