How To Plant Low Growing Junipers In The Ground Or On Slopes, Hills And Embankments

Junipers are perhaps some of the easiest plants to grow when planted right and in the right spot. Low growing junipers, which grow from just a few inches tall to 5 feet tall, are ideal for use in the landscape massed as groundcover on slopes, embankments and hillsides, in groupings, or as a border along walkways, paths and other structural surfaces. Junipers are in deign for their unique foliage textures and colors that contrast nicely with other types of plants in the landscape.

A little advice goes a long keep reading to find helpful tips that will have you planting and growing junipers like the pros.

Cultural Preferences


Junipers tolerates a wide range of soils and soil conditions, except for constantly soggy or wet soils. When growing in containers use a good potting soil, potting mix, or combination of thereof. Though most junipers will grow well in clay soils, it's a good practice to amend heavy clay soil with organic matter such as sand, gravel or bagged top soil. More on that below in the step-by-step planting instructions.

Testing Soil Drainage

If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your Juniper, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions and possibly a need to add organic matter to help retain moisture. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and is a caution you need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.

Soil pH

Junipers grows best in a moderately acid to neutral soil ranging from 5.5 to 7.0 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.   

Testing Soil pH

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing Juniper, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.

Light Preferences

Most Juniper varieties like as much sun as you can give them. That said, they will tolerate some light shade. I recommend at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Planting Junipers In The Ground

(Scroll down to see planting instructions for containers and pots)

Site Preparation When Mass Planting

Weed Elimination

 Before planting, eliminate existing weeds or grasses in the planting area. You can pull weeds by hand or spray them with a solution of glyphosate-based broad spectrum weed killer. Wait at least two hours after spraying a glyphosate-based product before you begin planting. Before using any chemical read the mixing and application instructions on the label.

Soil Preparation

Tilling the soil in the planting area is optional. There are several reason I usually don't recommend it. Tilling on sloped ground loosens soil making it more susceptible to erosion in the event there comes heavy rainfall. Tilling can also bring buried dormant weeds seeds to the surface, and freshly tilled ground is a perfect environment for weed seeds to sprout in. Also, if you are planting groundcover plants under established trees, be aware that tilling can cause serious damage to tree roots, which can effect the health of a tree. The feeder roots of trees can often extend well beyond the perimeter of the canopy.

If you do decide to till, we recommend the application of a landscape landscape weed preventer to the soil surface. 

How Many Plants?

If you are mass planting your Juniper as a groundcover over a large area, to determine how many plants you will need it is often necessary to determine total square feet of the planting area. Once you have the square footage, and know how far apart you will space plants in the planting area you can determine how many will be needed to fill the space. 

Note:  Under the description tab on every plant page in Wilson Bros Gardens you will find a spacing recommendation. 

Step-By-Step Planting Instructions

Step 1

Set and space all plants out in the planting area before starting to plant. Alternatively, you can use marking paint to mark the spot where each plant will go, which is often necessary when planting on steep slopes where plants in containers will not stay put. 

If there will be more than one row of plants, begin by setting out or marking one straight row of plants. It's best to start along the edge of the planting bed making sure to space plants at a distance far enough from the edge of the planting bed to allow for future spreading. For example, plants with a recommended spacing of 24" apart should be spaced at least 12" from the edge of the bed (or surfaced area) to the center of the plant. 

After setting out the first row, stagger the plants on the second row and so on until the space is filled.

Step 2

Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area, it may be beneficial to amend the native soil. When planting in heavy clay or other compact soil mix in organic matter such as bagged top soil, said or small gravel at a 25 to 50 percent ratio with the soil. When planting in a sandy, quick-draining soil amending with top soil, organic compost, or peat moss can help to retain moisture and supply vital plant nutrients. 

Step 3

To remove your juniper plant from the container it was growing in, firmly grasp the base of the plant and very gently try to lift and remove it from its container. If the root ball is stuck in the container either cut the container away or place the plant on it's side and tap on the side of the container to loosen the root ball. After having removed the plant from the container, use your fingers, a claw tool, or some other tool to loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. If root bound, you can gently spray the sides and bottom of the root ball with a stream of water from a garden hose. This will help to wash away some soil from the exterior of the root ball making it easier to loosen roots. 

Step 4

Set your plant in the planting hole so that the top edge of the rootball is at or slightly above ground level to allow for settling. It may be necessary to place some of your backfill soil mixture in the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height.

Step 5

After setting your juniper plant in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight while using your other hand to begin backfilling the soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue backfilling to the top edge of the root ball. To avoid suffocating your plant, avoid placing any soil on top of the root ball.

Step 6 

After planting your junipers, deeply water the entire planting area. For an extra boost, you can also water with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development, reducing plant shock and promoting greener, more vigorous plants.

Step 7

Apply a 1" layer of cured, shredded wood mulch or bark chips or a 1-2" layer of pine straw around your newly planted junipers. Avoid the use of freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. 

Planting Junipers In Containers

Junipers are ideal for adding unique texture to solo or mixed container garden plantings.

When growing in pots Junipers appreciate a moist but well-drained soil. Constantly soggy soil can and often will cause root rot or other harmful or deadly plant diseases. Therefore, plant your juniper in a container or pot that has a drainage hole(s) and use a quality potting soil or potting mix, or a 50/50 combination thereof for planting. You can add some pumice or perlite (maybe 10 to 20%) to the soil mixture to help with drainage.

Make sure to choose a container with drainage holes at the bottom and one that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before shifting up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 6 inches or more in width than the root ball of your plant. 

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the foliage color of your juniper, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.

Container Planting Instructions

Step 1

Before filling your container with the soil mix, we recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil. 

Step 2

To remove your juniper from the container it was growing in, firmly grasp the base of the plant and very gently try to lift and remove it from its container. If the root ball is stuck in the container either cut the container away or place the plant on it's side and gently pound on the side of the container to loosen the root ball. After having removed the plant from the container, gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. 

Step 3

Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set your juniper in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit 1/2 to 1" below the rim of the container.

Step 4

Backfill with your potting soil around root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.

Step 5

Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more potting mix if settling occurs during watering.

Step 6 (Optional)

Apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips or sphagnum moss to soil surface to help conserve moisture.

Plant Long & Prosper!

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