Content Detail

The common juniper may be a shrub or small tree. This is one of the most commonly found junipers throughout the world. It’s typically found in dry, rocky, wooded hillsides or exposed slopes. The oil from the fleshy cones is used as flavoring and to make gin. 

This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.    

  • Family (English) Cypress
  • Family (botanic) Cupressaceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Compact tree (10-15 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Medium shrub (5-8 feet), Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Alkaline soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Road salt
  • Season of interest early fall, early spring, early summer, early winter, late fall, late spring, late summer, late winter, mid fall, mid spring, midsummer, midwinter
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Irregular, Upright
  • Growth rate Slow

Size & Form:

Common juniper is a low spreading shrub or tree. Although its size varies by cultivar, it is typically 5 to 10 feet high and 8 to 12 feet wide with ascending branches.

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 10 Found throughout North America, into northern Mexico, Europe and Asia.

Attracts birds & Butterflies:

Birds eat the fleshy cones and disperse seeds.

Bark color and texture:

Bark is reddish brown peeling off in strips.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Awl-shaped leaves are sharply pointed and spreading at a wide angle from the base, in whorls of three. Needles last on the plant for three years before shedding. Color is gray-green to blue- green in summer, turning yellow-green in winter.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are dioecious, with male and female on separate plants and are wind pollinated.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Female fruit is a purple-black berry-like cone with a bloomy, blue waxy coating. The seeds are dispersed by birds.  Fruit is a diuretic and used to flavor gin.

Plant care:

Prefers open, sunny locations in light, sandy to well-drained soils. It is pH adaptable and has a good tolerance for windy sites. Do not prune into the center dead zone as that will not generate any new growth.

List of pests, diseases, tolerances and resistance:

Susceptible to juniper blight, twig blight, cedar-apple-rust, scale, mites, aphids, bagworms and many other insect and disease problems. Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.

‘Aurea’ (Juniperus communis ‘Aurea’):

A low-growing shrub, 10 inches high by 5 to 6 feet wide.  New needles emerge bright yellow fading to gold in winter.

Blueberry Delight™ (Juniperus communis ‘AmiDak’):

A dense, low-growing, and spreading juniper, this cultivar reaches 1 to 1 1/2 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide. Dark green needles have a silver-blue band; female plants produce bloomy black fruit.

‘Compressa (Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’):

With an upright, narrow form, Compressa grows 2 to 3  feet high and 4-6 feet wide.


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