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Juniper Pruning – Detailed Guide

Juniper trees are ideal plants for creating a variety of garden figures and bonsai. Undersized varieties that have a bush shape are best suited for this. I have several different juniper trees in the garden, and they differ in shape and size. I have been forming these plants for several years now.

Today’s topic is juniper pruning, and I’ll tell you how I do it. We’ll also talk about basic trimming methods and what tools to use. Also, you will find out when is the best time to do it.

Read also: 5 Best Hydroponic Growing Systems For House And Apartments

Best time to prune Junipers

Juniper, as well as thuja, differs in type of growth from most conifers. For example, pine, as a typical representative of coniferous plants, gives an increase once a year. The buds that formed last year are beginning to grow in the spring, and this process continues until the summer. Further growth stops, and young shoots begin to mature and form new buds.

In the juniper, growth is different. Since mid-spring, this plant has been steadily increasing until the end of summer. If the autumn is warm, then juniper can also increase slightly. Therefore, you can trim it several times a year.

I recommend first trimming in early spring. This type of pruning can be called basic. At the beginning of March, when the plant has not yet started to grow, I give it the shape in which the plant will grow in the following years. We will discuss below in what forms it is possible to grow juniper.

In the spring, you form the structure of the plant. Then during the year, you adjust it.

The next corrective pruning I do in the middle of summer when young growth is formed, and the plant is slightly overgrown.

The last pruning I do in the second half of autumn. If you do not have enough time, you can trim the juniper twice a year. The first time in the spring, you should form the structure of the plant. The second time in the fall to correct the shape.

I do not recommend trimming juniper in winter. At this time, the plant is weakened, and pruning can damage it.

Pruning type spring summer fall winter
Structural pruning yes no no no
Correction pruning yes yes yes no


I want to briefly talk about the tools that are needed for pruning. It will be best if you have all the tools you need in your arsenal, although it depends on the number and size of your plants.

First of all, you will need a hand pruner; this is the primary tool with which you will create the structure of the plant. It can also be used for corrective trimming.

The following tool will be hedge shears. With this tool, you can shape the exterior of the plant. It is necessary for large varieties of juniper, and it is better to prune thin young shoots.

Instead of hedge shears, you can use an electric trimmer. Its use is justified if your plants are large.

For cutting thick structural branches is the best-suited garden saw. The saw should be a small size and a narrowed end to reach the middle of the crown of the plant.

Sharpen and disinfect the entire tool before working.

Conditionally juniper can be divided into two types. The first is shrubbery, and they grow more horizontally. The second type is vertical columnar junipers, which more closely resemble the shape of a tree.

Next, we will talk about how best to cut these two types and how they can be formed.

Trimming Juniper bushes

The easiest way to trim overgrown juniper is to give it a ball or pillow shape. This shape looks pretty and does not require much labor and time.

In late spring, young shoots will appear. You need to cut it immediately with a hand pruner. Next, the plant will continue to grow, and you need to prune it once a month. There won’t be much work. Young shoots are soft and not many, a few minutes, and the work is done. The plant will quickly become dense, and by the end of the season, you will get a cute pillow.

If you do not trim the young shoots every month and allow them to stretch out and become woody, then branches will need to be cut with a saw or a looper. Forming such juniper will take longer.

If you do not have time to prune the plant monthly, then do so at least every two months. The main idea is not to let it grow long shoots. Keep the plant compact.

Another type of pruning is the formation of a cloud or as it is called Niwaki. Pruned plants in this style is trendy. As a result, you can get just fantastic-looking juniper. However, this pruning takes several years and requires a lot of attention and effort.

Select three to four main branches with lots of green mass, remove the remaining branches. Clean the bottom of the selected branches from the needles. Needles and small branches should remain at the ends of the main branches. Give them a flat oval shape with a hand pruner.

The photo shows how your juniper should be.

Tie the rope to the end of each branch. Tie a peg to the other end of the rope. Stretch the branches in different directions and at different heights, and secure them with pegs. Next, every month or every two months, you need to make a formative crop of these clouds. In a few years, you will get a unique form of juniper.

Among juniper shrubs, some varieties grow very slowly and almost do not need pruning. These include Blue Star Juniper. I also have one for several years. I almost do not cut it, only sometimes I can cut a shoot that goes beyond the pillow shape.

The main photo shows this particular variety. My Blue Star Juniper has been around for over five years now, its growth rate is very slow (1.5 inches per year). If you do not like to prune plants, I recommend planting it.

I want to share with you a little trick. When you are trimming low juniper bushes, cut off the lower tier of branches. As a result, all branches should not touch the ground. This will save the plant from the development of fungal diseases.

The fact is that if you cut the juniper in the shape of a ball when it becomes dense, the circulation of air in the middle of the crown will become difficult. This can lead to the development of the disease. Pruning the lower branches will give the plant better air circulation.

Trim the lower tier of branches

Creeping juniper has a special place among representatives of this genus. If you planted it in your yard, it is obvious that the purpose was to cover the ground so that weeds did not grow.

If your juniper is already very large, then all you need to do is trim its branches that extend beyond the area you want to cover. Regular trimming will make it thick and lush.

However, you may want to reduce it in size. Then you need to figure out what size it should be. Next, you have to cut all the branches that go beyond the size you want to give it.

There is a need for clarification. Experienced gardeners recommend pruning no more than a third of the plant for one pruning. This is because of the removal of more than 30% of branches, and the plant can get stress and die.

If you have no experience in pruning plants, I also recommend not removing more than 30% of branches per pruning. If you need to do more, then do it next year. Within two years you can reduce the size of the plant by three quarters.

I want to say that I pruned the plants by more than 50% for one pruning, and everything was fine, but I do not recommend doing so to anyone.

One of my favorite varieties is the Mint Julep Juniper. It has a bright green needle color and a spreading crown shape. This variety is ideally suited for the formation of various garden forms, ranging from the ball to the garden bonsai.

A friend of mine owns a nursery and forms this variety into balls on branches. His works look very beautiful and sophisticated. Of course, it takes a lot of time and patience to create such a plant, but it is worth it.

Trimming Juniper trees

In the second part of this post, we’ll talk about cutting juniper trees that have a vertical growth shape. This type of juniper is also trendy, and it can create hedges and many other forms.

The first question most gardeners ask is:

Can junipers be topped?

Yes, you can cut the top off, and everything will be fine. Very often, some varieties grow too large and have something to do with them.

For example, Blue Point Juniper is very common and has a beautiful crown and blue needles. However, it grows large enough, and not everyone can give it enough space. If you are in a similar situation, then you should trim it.

First, cut the top to the height you need. Depending on the thickness of the upper branches, use a hand pruner or saw. Then use the hedge shears to trim the side branches to reduce the plant in diameter (if required). This type of trimming does not shorten the lateral structural branches, so cut only the soft lateral branches.

To speed up your work and spend less tired, use an electric trimmer.

One day, I trimmed the upright juniper to a third of its height, and within a year, it was hardly noticeable. So do not be afraid to cut this plant in height, it is quite hardy and vigorous.

Another way to trim tall juniper trees is to raise the crown. Such pruning will free up space under the plant.

Use the saw to remove the lower branches to the level you need. Try not to damage the trunk. Some people worry that the plant may die from pruning the lower branches. I have pruned the lower branches several times in juniper, and I can say without hesitation that the plant will tolerate such pruning.

Before pruning, you need to think well about whether you really want it. The fact is that if you remove the lower branches, then they will never be restored.

The advantage of raising the crown is the extra space under the plant where you can plant shady perennials such as Hostas or Coral bells. Also, such juniper looks more refined.

Juniper trees are also great for Niwaki-style molding. This is a real art, and if you have the time and inspiration, you can turn your juniper into a masterpiece.

How to trim Niwaki-style juniper I described above. Of course, I do not pretend to be a Niwaki master. There is a lot of information on the internet about how to do it professionally.

If you are a busy person and you do not have much time, then you can mold your plant into columns. Just trim the top and remove the side branches that extend beyond the column. The result of this trimming method will also look very nice.

Another thing used by juniper is the creation of hedges. And indeed, the living wall that surrounds the yard looks very energetic. Hedges also surround my yard, but it is formed of thuja.

An electric pruner is best suited to create a hedge. First, let the plants grow to the desired height so that you can fertilize the growth once or twice a year.

After a few years (depending on the variety), the juniper will reach the desired height. Next, trim the top of the plants higher than you need and remove the lateral branches that extend beyond. With an electric pruner, it can be done very quickly.

A friend of mine planted a large number of Moonglow Juniper around the house. After a few years of trimming, he got a beautiful wall of blue.

Finally, let’s talk a bit about the pros and cons of juniper pruning.

Obviously, most gardeners prune their plants to reduce size. A neat and compact shrub looks very harmonious against a lawn or stones. However, pruning also promotes plant health.

The fact is that juniper in most have a thick crown in which very often develop fungal diseases. Therefore, if you remove the extra branches and needles, you will reduce the risk of disease.

The disadvantage of pruning may be the fact that not all people love pruned plants. Many gardeners prefer the natural appearance of plants. The disadvantages are that after the removal of the lower branches, in most juniper trees, they will not grow back.

After pruning, you should treat the plant with fungicide and insecticide. You can also feed the plant a small amount of fertilizer to restore its strength.

People also ask

When should junipers be pruned?

The best time for pruning juniper is early spring. Corrective pruning can also be done throughout the year except in winter.

Can junipers be cut back?

Yes, you can shorten junipers. This can be done both in width and height. It is important that you do not remove more than 30% of branches in a single season.

How do you prune an overgrown juniper bush?

The easiest way is to cut young long shoots that grow at the ends of the branches. As a result, the bush will become thicker and more compact. I described this process in more detail in this article.

How do you shape a juniper bush?

The best way to shape juniper is to prune terminal shoots that extend beyond the bush. In this way, you can get a ball or pillow shape.

Will junipers grow back?

Yes, juniper will grow after pruning, and it will happen soon enough. In fact, to form a beautiful shape, you need to cut it quite often.

Can you prune Skyrocket Juniper?

Skyrocket Juniper has an elongated columnar shape. It grows tall enough, so you only need to cut it in height. Side trimming is not required for this variety.

How do you keep junipers small?

To keep juniper compact, they need to be trimmed regularly. You must first make a structural trim, and then constantly adjust the shape with frequent trim.

When should I prune my Blue Rug Juniper?

It is better to prune this ground cover three times a year. The first time in the spring before the start of growth. Second time in summer and last time in autumn.

How to trim a large juniper bush?

Large juniper bushes are best cut with an electric pruner. First, give it a ball shape. Next, correct the shape with regular trimming.

How to prune Sea Green Juniper?

I would recommend trimming this juniper in pillow form.