12 Species of Juniper Trees and Shrubs

Plants in the Juniperus Genus

California juniper
Joshua Tree National Park/Flickr/CC By 1.0

Juniper trees and shrubs are in the genus Juniperus in the cypress (Cupressaceae) family. These evergreen conifers feature leaves that can either be like needles or scales, and most of the species change from needle form to scale form as they mature. Most junipers offer at least some level of drought resistance.

Many of the common names include the word cedar, though true cedars belong to the genus Cedrus.

Junipers may be monoecious or dioecious. While the female fruits appear to be berries, they are actually fused cones. The cones of the common juniper (Juniperus communis) provide the flavoring for gin. Juniper fruits are also used as a spice in cooking.

Warning About Juniper Trees and Apple Trees

Do not plant a juniper in your yard if there are apple trees in your yard or within a mile or two. There is a fungus called cedar-apple rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae) which makes its home on juniper trees first, then transfers to apples, crabapples, hawthorn, and quince, causing damage to both plants. The eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) is the usual host on the juniper side, though many of the other species are also susceptible to at least some degree.

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    Alligator Juniper

    Alligator Juniper
    Susan Dussaman/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    The alligator juniper is named for its distinctive bark that resembles the rough, checkered skin of an alligator. This species can either be a shrub or tree depending on the growing location and conditions.

    • Botanical Name: Juniperus deppeana. Synonyms are Juniperus mexicana and Juniperus pachyphloea.
    • Other Common Names: Checkerbark juniper, oak-barked juniper, thick-barked juniper, western juniper, mountain cedar
    • Native Area: Mexico and the Southwestern United States
    • USDA Zones: 7 to 9
    • Height: Can grow up to 60 feet tall; generally 20 to 40 feet tall
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    California Juniper

    California Juniper
    Danita Delimont/Getty Image

    This juniper is usually found as a large shrub in the Southwest, though it can sometimes grow to be a medium-sized tree in the wild. It features scale-like leaves and reddish-brown cones.

    • Botanical Name: Juniperus californica. Some also use Juniperus cedrosianaSabina californicaJuniperus pyriformis or Juniperus cerrosianus
    • Other Common Names: Desert white cedar
    • Native Area: California, Baja California, Nevada, Arizona
    • USDA Zones: 8 to 10
    • Height: 10 to 15 feet tall; sometimes can be 35 feet or more
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    Chinese Juniper

    Chinese juniper
    Kwhisky / Getty Images

    One variety of the Chinese juniper ("Toruloso") is known as the Hollywood juniper. As it matures it creates an intriguing twisted form that works well as a specimen plant. There are many other varieties composed of different shapes and colors.

    • Botanical Name: Juniperus chinensis
    • Native Area: Japan and China
    • USDA Zones: 4 to 9
    • Height: Size varies greatly depending on the variety; many are groundcovers and shrubs
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    Common Juniper

    Common juniper image

    Silversyrpher/ Flickr CC 2.0 

    As the name suggests, this juniper shrub is commonly found throughout much of the world. It grows well in both alkaline and acidic soils, as well as adapting to many locations such as windy sites.

    • Botanical Name: Juniperus communis
    • Other Common Names: Dwarf juniper, prostrate juniper, mountain common juniper, old field common juniper, ground juniper, creeping juniper, carpet juniper
    • Native Area: North America, Europe, northern Asia, Japan
    • USDA Zones: 3 to 8
    • Height: The shrub usually matures to around 15 feet tall; it can sometimes reach 30 feet tall
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    Creeping Juniper

    Creeping juniper
    F.D.Richards/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    Creeping juniper lives up to its name and works well as a groundcover. It is very adaptable and can handle many different soils and situations.

    • Botanical Name: Juniperus horizontalis
    • Other Common Names: Creeping cedar, trailing juniper, creeping Savin juniper
    • Native Area: Northern United States, Canada, and Alaska
    • USDA Zones: 3 to 9
    • Height: 1 to 2 feet tall
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    Drooping Juniper

    Drooping juniper image

    homeredwardprice/Flickr CC 2.0 

    Drooping juniper gets its name because of the way that the branchlets droop down. The reddish-brown or grey bark shreds off in strips.

    • Botanical Name: Juniperus flaccida or Juniperus gigantea, Juniperus gracilis, and Sabina flaccida
    • Other Common Names: Mexican drooping juniper, weeping juniper, weeping cedar, drooping cedar, tascate
    • Native Area: Texas, Mexico, and Guatemala
    • USDA Zones: 8b to 11
    • Height: Most trees peak at around 35 to 40 feet tall.
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    Eastern Redcedar

    Eastern Redcedar

    Matthew Beziat/Flickr CC 2.0 

     

     

    As mentioned above, this is the main host for cedar-apple rust disease. This juniper species is especially fragrant, and this quality is sometimes used to repel insects. This tree is also used as a Christmas tree.

    • Botanical Name: Juniperus virginiana or Sabina virginiana.
    • Other Common Names: Red cedar, red cedar juniper, red juniper, savin, Virginia juniper
    • Native Area: Eastern Canada, midwestern, southern and eastern United States, Oregon
    • USDA Zones: 3 to 9
    • Height: 30 to 40 feet tall
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    Greek Juniper

    Greek Juniper

     Nick Savchenko/Flickr CC 2.0 

     

    The Greek juniper is often found growing alongside the stinking juniper (Juniperus foetidissima). These hardy trees can even grow on the sides of rocky cliffs.

    • Botanical Name: Juniperus excelsa
    • Other Common Names: Grecian juniper
    • Native Area: Eastern Mediterranean
    • USDA Zones: "Stricta" variety grows in 5 to 9
    • Height: 20 to 65 feet tall
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  • 09 of 12

    One Seed Juniper

    One-Seed juniper

    Paul and Jill/Flickr CC 2.0 

    Although this plant's cone usually has one seed (inspiring the name), it can produce up to three once in a while. This is a common host for the juniper mistletoe (Phoradendron juniperinum).

    • Botanical Name: Juniperus monosperma
    • Other Common Names: Oneseed juniper, sabina, single-seeded juniper, cherrystone juniper, red berry juniper
    • Native Area: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Mexico
    • USDA Zones: 3 to 7
    • Height: 10 to 40 feet tall, sometimes taller in the wild
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    Rocky Mountain Juniper

    Rocky Mountain Juniper
    Tony Frates/Getty Images

    This is a close relative to the eastern redcedar and is susceptible to cedar-apple rust. The Rocky Mountain juniper usually grows in a pyramidal shape. "Skyrocket" is an especially narrow type that is bluish-green. 

    • Botanical Name: Juniperus scopulorum
    • Other Common Names: Mountain red cedar, Rocky Mountain cedar, Colorado redcedar
    • Native Area: Western Canada and the United States, Nebraska, Texas and North Dakota
    • USDA Zones: 3 to 8
    • Height: 30 to 40 feet tall, though often more of a smaller shrub
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    Utah Juniper

    Utah juniper
    Michael Weber/Getty Images

    The city of Cedar City, UT, and Cedar Breaks National Monument got their names because of these trees, which grow abundantly in Utah and do well in its alkaline soils. It is also the juniper that you are most likely to run into in Arizona, as well as finding it growing throughout the rest of the western United States.

    • Botanical Name: Juniperus osteosperma, Juniperus utahensis, or Sabina osteosperma.
    • Other Common Names: Bigberry juniper, desert juniper
    • Native Area: Western United States
    • USDA Zones: 3 to 7
    • Height: 10 to 25 feet tall
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    Western Juniper

    Western juniper
    Tyler Hulett / Getty Images

    The western juniper provides food for a variety of wildlife throughout the year. The wood was used for many different tasks during the pioneer era.

    • Botanical Name: Juniperus occidentalis
    • Other Common Names: Sierra juniper
    • Native Area: California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington
    • USDA Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 15 to 30 feet tall