Caring for Your Juniper Tree
The juniper tree belongs to the cypress family and is widely found across the world. Junipers occur both as trees and shrubs with small needle-shaped or scale-like leaves. These coniferous evergreens are a favorite on the landscape because of their numerous uses. They require plenty of sunlight; otherwise growth is affected and they become spindly. They also need well-drained soils such as sandy soils but will also thrive in coarse soils provided drainage is good. Both acidic and alkaline soils can support healthy growing junipers, with soil acidity ideally ranging from 5.0 to 8.5. Following are some care guidelines for your juniper.
Watering Juniper Trees
Water your junipers frequently to encourage healthy growth and abundant foliage. When you first plant and during the early growth period, it is important to give the tree water regularly. Apply about 2 inches of water to the soil twice a week. Avoid watering the leaves as the moist conditions may encourage development of fungal infections. Once the trees are established you can cut back on watering. However, it is vital that you give mature trees supplemental water in the late fall before the ground freezes for winter. Periods of prolonged hot weather or drought also necessitate supplemental watering.
This is beneficial for young trees and will boost healthy growth. Chopped leaves, dried grass or wood chips are ideal to use as organic compost. They will boost the soil nutrient content and encourage healthy growth of the trees. Spread about 3 inches of organic compost on the soil around the trees. Be sure to allow adequate space around the stems to enable good air circulation.
Feeding juniper trees can be done occasionally as they do not require much fertilizer. You can give younger trees fertilizer once a year during the fall to encourage healthy growth. Mature trees may require fertilizer once every 2 to 3 years. It is best to apply a slow-release granular fertilizer into the soil. Avoid sprinkling fertilizer onto the tree trunk as it may encourage fungal infections.
It is a good idea to apply mulch to the young trees. You can do this in the summer and winter. Mulch will help conserve the soil moisture so that less water is lost through evaporation. It helps keep soil temperatures more balanced during extreme weather fluctuations. Fewer weeds will sprout when mulch is consistently applied. Apply about 4 inches of mulch onto the ground and be careful not to pack it close to the stems as it may encourage rodents which will feed on the tender stems. During the winter it is best to apply mulch after the ground has frozen so that rodents do not find a nesting spot.
It is best to prune your juniper in late winter or early spring. Cut back new growth about half-way. This will facilitate healthy growth. It also helps in shaping the tree so that it is compact and looks attractive. Be sure to wear a long-sleeved garment and gloves when pruning to protect yourself from the prickly leaves.