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How to Prune Spreading Junipers

Spreading junipers are a popular evergreen in landscape design as they grow quickly, adapt to various soils, and are low maintenance plants. They are used to cover slopes and embankments acting as a ground cover. Once they have matured the area in which they are planted will not require any mulching or weeding as these spreading evergreens will completely cover the ground. Easily maintain your spreading junipers by following a program of regular and proper pruning.

Cut out any branches that were damaged or broken due to heavy snow and ice in the winter. Do this in early spring (before any buds appear). The evergreen will produce new spring growth and fill in quickly. If the plant should get any broken or damaged branches throughout the rest of the season they can be removed without harming the juniper, as light pruning can occur at any time of the year.

Prune to maintain the spreading juniper’s size and shape within your landscape design by selectively thinning it. Spreading junipers need annual pruning and thinning can be done in early spring before any buds appear.

Look for dominant branches to prune. Cut the dominant branches where it meets the parent stem or at a branch junction, remembering not to expose the “dead zone.” All junipers have a dead zone in the middle or interior of the plant. The dead zone is made up of old wood and if the old wood is exposed it will remain empty as old wood does not produce new growth. That is why it is important to leave enough foliage to cover the dead zone.

Create a layered effect by pruning the length of the branches from top to bottom – shorter branches on the top of the juniper and longer branches on the bottom of the juniper. Cut the branch where it meets the parent stem or at a branch junction. Early spring is the ideal time to do this.

Cut out any interior branches that appear weak or undesirable, remembering not to expose the “dead zone”. This light pruning can be done at any time during the year.


The pruning tool that you use will depend upon the size and location of the branch that you are pruning.

If your spreading juniper requires severe pruning caution must be taken to keep the dead zone covered.

You can prune side limbs to create a pleasing appearance. The best time to do this is in early spring as the plant will produce new growth quickly.

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