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Ground Cover

Juniperus Conferta Care: Growing Shore Juniper


9 min read

Juniperus conferta is a dense, evergreen shrub native to the seacoast of Japan and Sakhalin Island. With prickly blue-green foliage, the Shore Juniper grows as a low-spreading, creeping plant, making it an excellent ground cover plant type.

An excellent ground cover for dry, sandy soils, and poor soils in general, conferta works perfectly in well drained soils in retaining walls. You can also plant it for erosion control.

here’s everything you need to know about its care and maintenance.

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Quick Care Guide

The 'All Gold' variety packs a nice pop of color against a darker mulch
The ‘All Gold’ variety packs a nice pop of color against a darker mulch. Source: F.D. Richards
Common Name(s)Shore juniper, Pacific blue juniper
Scientific NameJuniperus conferta
FamilyCupressaceae
Height & Spread6-18″ tall and 4-6′ wide
LightFull sun
SoilWell-drained soil, sandy soil
WaterMedium
Pests & Diseases:Aphids, bagworms, twig borers, scale, rust, and blights

All About Juniperus Conferta

Juniperus conferta belongs to the family Cupressaceae. This plant type can grow up to 6-18″ tall with creeping stems as wide as 8″. The awl-shaped, aromatic foliage on branched stems features pointed blue-green needles in groups of three.

Ground cover juniper also bears fruit. It produces berry-like seed cones that take on a silvery bloom upon maturity. The plants are sun-lovers and thrive well in medium moisture and well-drained, dry soil. Birds tend to enjoy munching on these berries.

The plant originated in Japan, where it grows as an evergreen shrub on the Pacific ocean side. It has spread to Russia, and is also present in varying parts of the US due to its use in home gardens. There are established cultivars that work well in any ground cover situation.

The Juniperus conferta common names include Shore juniper and conferta blue Pacific juniper, among various cultivar names. With unique characteristics and a lovely, rich green color, the Blue Pacific juniper is a wonderful shrub for rock gardens, roadside, and seaside planting.

Varieties

The Shore Juniper belongs to the genus Juniperus that is known for its blue-green, cascading branches. The most famous cultivars are Juniperus conferta ‘Blue Pacific’, ‘Sliver Mist’, and ‘Sunsplash’.

‘Blue Pacific’ is slightly more hardy than others, stands out for its blue-green foliage, and spreads wide as ground cover. Use conferta blue pacific to add accents to areas with well-drained soils. Conferta blue pacific is lovely punctuation in a retaining wall, too.

‘Silver Mist’ has a crowded, dense-growing habit and grows 16″ tall. It has beautiful, silvery blue-green foliage that develops a purplish cast in winters, as opposed to the blue-green of blue pacific. Plant it among yellow-flowering plants to offset its foliage.

Lastly, ‘Sunsplash’ is a variegated form of Juniper ground cover that, like conferta blue pacific, features bluish-green foliage. What differentiates it from conferta blue pacific is its gold-yellow needles. The foliage remains fresh in all seasons.

Juniperus Conferta Care

Here we see a more natural habitat, a sandy shore
Here we see a more natural habitat, a sandy shore; hence the Juniperus conferta common name, shore juniper. Source: F.D. Richards

The plant can withstand drought, erosion, and air pollution, which makes it easy to care for and maintain as a low-water option. Grow it in well-drained sandy soil with medium moisture and enjoy a rich, ever-green display all year.

Light and Temperature

Juniperus conferta requires full sun and grows well in USDA zone 6-9. The plant should be grown in a well-lit area where it can get 6 to 8 hours of full sun throughout the day. If you’re growing in a different zone, pay attention to care requirements ahead.

The plant thrives in a wide range of temperatures, but is sensitive to those below -10°F. While it may return in the spring following a sub-freezing winter, it may need some help from a frost blanket in these conditions.

Water and Humidity

As a drought-tolerant plant, the Shore Juniper survives well in dry, arid environments. It only requires medium moisture. Overly wet soil can cause the branches to die or turn brown. Give the young plants deep watering 2-3 times a week in the first month. Once the plants mature, give them deep watering of about 1-inch per week to retain their green growth.

Allow the soil to dry between waterings. Constantly wet soils, or even slightly overly wet soils can provide conditions where root rot can thrive.

Soil

This species thrives well in well-drained, dry, and sandy soils. It can tolerate acidic and neutral soils but grows especially well in slightly alkaline soils with pH 8-8.5. If the soil you’re working with is not a sandy type, a well-draining soil works. Try not to add too much organic matter to the mix, as this can increase water retention and may make the soil too wet.

Fertilizer

Evergreen ground covers don’t need much fertilizer. However, you can treat Juniperus conferta (Shore Juniper) with a complete fertilizer like 12-4-7 or 16-4-8 in early spring and late summer. Dilute to half strength and do not fertilize in fall and winter.

Transplanting Shore Juniper

If you want to transfer the plant from a container to the garden, simply dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the plant’s root ball. Make sure the place has good-draining soil and full sun, water-appropriate exposure. Gently tilt the juniper to one side and remove the root ball from the pot.

Place the shore juniper in the hole and add or remove soil accordingly. Spread the roots properly into the hole and refill the soil around them. Space the plants at least 5-8′ apart to prevent overcrowding. Ensure good circulation and water the soil an inch-deep twice a week to encourage healthy roots.  

Juniperus Conferta Propagation

Juniperus conferta can be propagated by using juniper cuttings. Take healthy branches and cut up 8-10″ long stems. Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone and stick them into a well-prepared planter. Lightly mist the potting mist till it’s moist. Place the planter under indirect sunlight at 60-65°. Mist the cuttings daily and pull up on the plant gently to check for root development every 4 weeks.

Pruning Shore Juniper

The best time to prune the plants is late winter to early spring, just before new growth begins. Prune the dead branched stems beneath the canopy of the plant to improve air circulation. Don’t try to prune to reduce the size of the shrub. Instead, move it to another area if it is an obstruction. Trimming isn’t effective on juniper shrubs.

Troubleshooting Juniperus Conferta

Juniper conferta is generally a low-maintenance plant that can survive a wide range of conditions as long as it has the right full sun, water, and soil. However, despite their resilience, the plants are susceptible to a couple of pests and diseases.

Growing Problems

There are few growing problems you may encounter with your conferta. You might run into an improper planting, or planting in an area with too much shade or water. If this is the case, move the shrub to an area with well-draining soil, and full sun.

Pests

The plant is quite susceptible to aphids, bagworms, twig-borers, and webworms. Bag worms create a carapace from dried juniper leaves. Twig borers are metallic blue beetles with long antennae. They bore into the juniper stems and trunk, and cause sections of the canopy of awl shaped leaves to yellow and die off. Webworms are caterpillars that spin dense webs around parts of the branches as they feed.

Start treating these by pruning damaged areas in early spring. If you’re not concerned about potential harm to wildlife, use insecticidal soap, neem oil, or a strong horticultural oil to ward off the pests from the plant.

Diseases

To fight fungal blights, application of a copper fungicide or chemical fungicide should handle most of the problem. Bacterial blights can be treated by copper fungicide as well but with a slightly-less-effective outcome. In order to prevent rust diseases, apply sulfur powers or copper sprays to destroy the infection on the susceptible plants. For effective results, spray at the first sign of disease.

The main problem with junipers is root rot. They are not tolerant to water-logged soil, which can easily lead to the development of fungi that cause root rot. Make sure to have well-draining soil, plant it in full sun, and water when necessary. Remember, all of these treatments can affect wildlife in a negative way. Use them with caution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between Juniperus horizontalis and Juniperus conferta?

A: Juniperus horizontalis, also known as Blue Rug Juniper, is closely related to the Shore Juniper. The former is a low-growing, shrub native to North America that forms foliage resembling an evergreen mat. The color is greener and less blue. One awesome conferta cultivar to consider when you’re choosing plants is conferta blue pacific.

Q: What kind of fruit does the Shore Juniper bear?

A: Once the plant is mature, it produces fruit that is purplish-black inside the seed cones.

Q: Is Juniperus Conferta drought tolerant?

A: Among its tolerance to saline and poor soils, it is, in fact, drought-tolerant.

Q: How fast does shore juniper grow?

A: Even as a mature shrub, it’s a moderately growing low spreading plant that produces 6 to 8 inches of outward growth annually.

Q: How far apart should you plant Blue Pacific juniper?

A: Plant them in retaining walls and rock gardens about 3 to 5 feet apart. Denser plantings, for erosion control provide more coverage than those planted more sparsely.

Q: How do you propagate Juniperus Conferta?

A: Like many junipers, you can take stem cuttings of this shrub and make new plants from them. Check out the Propagation section for details.

Q: Can I propagate juniper in water?

A: Woody stems don’t propagate well in water, due to their tendency to rot. Instead, propagate in soil.

Q: How long does it take for a branch to grow roots?

A: It takes about 4 weeks for a treated cutting to set roots in soil.

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