A large genus with species that grow into pyramidal-shaped trees or low-spreading bushes, junipers (Juniperus spp.) are one of the most widely planted evergreen varieties in urban yards. They grow well in partial shade, and smaller varieties are ideal to use as foundation plantings. Junipers also have some commercial value for their wood, and their volatile oil is used in a variety of medicinal applications.
Junipers have tiny flat leaves that grow from lateral stems from the main branches. Unlike pine needles, juniper leaves are short, prickly and bend easily. Juniper's leaves are dark or light bluish-green, with consistent coloration year-round.
Tolerates Adverse Conditions
Juniper trees prefer full sun to partial shade and will grow in a wide range of soil types. Their root systems grow shallowly in moist soil but grow much deeper in dry soil. Junipers tolerate sandy soil, alkaline pH levels and salt spray. Although juniper prefers moist soil, they tolerate drought quite well once they become established.
The wood of the juniper tree is decay resistant and widely used for fence posts, to line cedar chests and in manufacturing pencils. Juniper berries are one of the main flavoring components in gin, a distilled spirit. Medicinally, its volatile oil is used as a source for podophyllotoxin, an antibiotic. Other medicinal uses include cancer treatments, coughs, sore throats and topical pain relief.
Junipers are reliably hardy as far north as USDA hardiness zone 3.