Chinese Juniper (Juniperus chinensis)
Chinese juniper comes in many forms, from creeping groundcovers to bushy shrubs to full size trees. The typical form is a tree, 50-70' tall, with an upright conical form and a spread of only 20' or so. The bark is brown and shreds off in thin strips. Chinese Juniper leaves are fine-textured evergreen needles. While some newer ones on the branch may be prickly, most are flat, arranged like scales on the stems. Individual needles may be 1/16 to 1/3 inch long. The color of the needles varies, according to the type of Chinese Juniper, from green to blue. Some varieties turn purplish in the winter or feature golden needles.
Chinese Juniper flowers are inconspicuous little cylindrical cones. Male flowers are pale brown and female ones are yellow green when they appear in late May or early June. The sexes are in separate bushes so only a female shrub bears fruit. Tiny bluish Juniper "berries" appear in early August and last until the following April. Only 3/8 inch in diameter, the berries are sought after by deer, and large and small mammals as well as songbirds.
Chinese Juniper Choices
The cultivars of Chinese Juniper will vary in size from prostrate, spreading types to upright tree forms. Others will vary in color of foliage. Versions of Chinese Juniper may reach only 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall (Parsonii) or may grow as tall as 30 feet (Keteleeri). Of all, the Pfitzer Chinese Juniper is most popular for residential landscapes, so in a way you should avoid this cultivar and get one of the newer more interesting versions.
Armstrongii grows to an upright 4 or 5 feet tall and wide with lacy green textured foliage on slightly arching branches. Blaauw is a compact, densely branched, vase shaped upright, 4-foot tall shrub with gray-green foliage. Fruitlandii grows to 3 feet, spreads out to 6 feet. Gold Coast Aurea shows golden new growth that deepens color in winter on lacy, compact branches that rarely need trimming. Hetzii Columnaris grows to 15 feet with sharply pointed, bright green foliage on dense branches. Mint Julep has compact upward-arching branches that make it look like a 4 to 6 foot tall fountain of mint green. Torulosa (Hollywood Juniper) grows to 15 feet tall, 10 feet wide, has a twisted growth habit, bright green needles and is good for damp coastal climates. Keteleeri is common in the Midwest, good for hedging, tall and broad with frosted cones. San Jose is a ground cover, grows to 2 feet, is reliable (particularly in the South) and makes a good bonsai specimen.