Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Creeping and Common Juniper in my front yard

Creeping juniper, (Juniperus horizontalis)

About five years ago I planted the two species of juniper that are native to Alaska, creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) and common juniper (Juniperus communis), in our front yard. I got them from a local nursery, but they originally came from the wild, so are not cultivars.  Junipers are dioecious, with each plant only producing male or female cones.

Common juniper,  (Juniperus communis)

I've never seen ripe "berries" on the creeping juniper so I think the two plants I have only produce male flowers. The two common juniper plants were several years old and one was already producing a few berries when I planted them, so I knew It was likely I had male and female plants.

After nurturing the plants for five-odd years, we are finally starting to get a good crop of juniper berries from the common juniper. The berries (actually cones) take three year to ripen. The first year they are green and eventually ripen to a blue color.

Close-up of juniper berries

The berries of the common juniper are edible. (Some juniper species produce toxic berries, and many produce bitter ones. The berries off our bush are actually a little sweet.) I guess this year we will be harvesting berries to use as food flavoring.


  1. I'm curious how wide the creeping juniper has spread for ground cover? How long did it take to spread out? When it spreads out, does it act like a vine? Thanks for posting about this and your photos are great!

    1. Thanks for the questions. I'm surprised how much the creeping junipers have spread since I planted them. They are not fast growing plants, but they're not slow pokes either. When I planted them about seven years ago they weren't more that 12" in diameter. There is one that is now about 66" across.

      The other juniper decided it wanted to be a "regular" tree and has this one branch that is trying to shoot for the sky. While most of the branches aren't higher off the ground that a foot, this one branch is about three feet high. If you didn't want that to happen you could always prune.

      The branches are fairly stiff, so they don't hang limply or climb like vines. They just spread out pretty much flat across the ground. When branches over hang a wall they just gently droop but still retain their linear form.

      I'll go ahead and take some additional photos and post them.

      Best Wishes,

    2. I just posted another entry with new photos of the creeping juniper. Here is the url: .

    3. Guess I can't post URLs in comments.