How to Prune a Juniper Tree


Juniper trees perform best when kept neat, compact and healthy by pruning, but these trees pose a unique challenge for gardeners. The center of the plant stops producing as the plant ages, so the juniper cannot be pruned as severely as other trees and shrubs. The University of Missouri recommends pruning juniper in March or April.

Step 1

Check your juniper for dead, diseased or damaged branches. Diseased or damaged branches will show scars, cuts, bruising or discoloration. Dead branches won't move with the wind and will feel hollow. This wood needs to be removed for the health of the tree.

Step 2

Prepare a sanitizing solution by mixing 1-part bleach with 10-parts water in a bucket. Place your pruning tools in the bucket. Then cut off the unhealthy wood at its intersection with the trunk or with a main branch. In between every cut, place the tools back in the sanitizing solution to cleanse.

Step 3

Trim back the overall size of the plant by shortening long limbs. The University of Missouri recommends pruning juniper branches back to a Y-intersection to promote a more compact juniper.

Step 4

Cut down the juniper's height by 20 percent if you feel the tree is too tall. Prune back the top branches and outer branches.

Tips and Warnings

  • Junipers develop a "dead zone" in the center of the tree. Gardeners must not prune into the dead zone and must leave some green foliage on any branch they do prune. If a branch is cut back to a point where it has no growth, it is not likely to produce new foliage.

Things You'll Need

  • Anvil pruners
  • Lopping shears
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Bucket


  • University of Missouri: Pruning Ornamental Shrubs
Keywords: shrub care, prune juniper, juniper tree pruning

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.