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 can be 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
  • Foliage Evergreen (foliage year-round)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium shrub (5-8 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Compact tree (10-15 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 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Alkaline soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Road salt
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, early spring, mid spring, late spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Irregular, Upright
  • Growth rate Slow

More Information

Size and 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 and 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 wind-pollinated, dioecious, with males and females on separate plants.

Fruit, Cone, 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 can be used to flavor gin.

Care Knowledge

Plant Care

Prefers open, sunny locations in light, sandy, 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 area will not generate any new growth.

List of Pests, Diseases, Tolerances and Resistance

Susceptible to juniper tip blight, twig blight, cedar-apple rust, scale insects, 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’ common juniper (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™ common juniper (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 common juniper (Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’)

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


Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift