Best Juniper For Ground Cover

May 17, 2019 | Gardens

Name: Juniperus procumbens nana aka green mound juniper 

Type of Plant: A ground cover juniper…truthfully, the only one I commonly recommend. Hardy zone 4 to 9.

Why I Love/Hate this plant: In general, junipers are really great plants that are misused and abused by people who plant them. But some are better than others, and green mound, Juniperus procumbens nana, is the pick of the litter when it comes to groundcover. In my opinion and experience, of course. Why this one instead of ‘Blue Rug’ (which I HATE, btw) or ‘Blue Star’ (nice enough when located and treated well)? I prefer green mound because it grows thickly enough to out-compete weeds. A ground cover, in my opinion, is a plant that is weed smothering, attractive and not so aggressive that it takes over the entire landscape and makes a play for your house later on. Green mound meets this criteria and has the added advantage of being drought tolerant and thriving in full, hot sun.

A Word to the Wise: Don’t plant any juniper where it gets hit by automatic irrigation more than once a week. Less often is better. Place junipers in full sun and initially mulch around the new plants so that they can start to get established without weeds in their early days. Green mound isn’t really fast, but it’s not a poky plant either. Plant it and be patient.

Green mound junipers are light in color which makes them perfect with other conifers that have darker green or bluish tones.

Unlike other ground cover junipers such as Blue Rug (I hate that plant), green mound grow so thickly that weeds don’t grow into and through their branches. Yay!

 

40 Comments

  1. G. Brockelbank

    Hi Garden Lady,

    Why do you hate the Blue Rug juniper (I assume you mean J. horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’), and does your disdain extend to other varieties of J. horizontalis? I’m a Canadian gardener living in Japan and I’d like to plant a row of low junipers along the top of a retaining wall. I’ve already got three ‘Blue Pacific’ junipers growing on a steep slope, where they are doing very well, but for the new spot I’d like something that spreads less vigorously. J. procumbens ‘Nana’ is one candidate, but a very yellow or very blue juniper would be nice for contrast.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Thanks for asking Greg! I had this one in particular because it isn’t tight as it ages – very quickly it gets bare centers, and open spaces where the weeds flourish. Blue Star and Blue Pacific are better, but when I’m going for a ground cover I want something that is weed smothering. And the last thing I want to do is pull weeds that are in prickly juniper foliage. So if I’m looking for contrast with the light procumbens ‘Nana’ I’ll choose a grey/green wooly thyme, or the dark green bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), both of which like the same growing conditions as a juniper.

      Reply
      • Sue Miller

        Will it establish through mulch?

        Reply
        • CL Fornari

          Not sure what you mean – you have to plant the root system in soil, not mulch. If the mulch is only an inch or two (best for all plants) it will spread over that mulch well.

          Reply
  2. Douglas Caunt

    How does one kill off a a ground covering Juniper. The ones I have taken over large parts of the garden and I’m finding it difficult to cut them back or control them. I tried clipping but being matted together it is most difficult to cut them back. I’m well into my 80s and have health constraints so hard graft is out of the question.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      You should dig them out if you want to get rid of them.

      Reply
  3. G.N. Lee

    How deep do Green Mound roots go? We have a problem with a poor foundation, perhaps 2, 2 1/2 feet below grade that allows roots to penetrate into the crawl space. We’re having to take out a yew hedge because the roots are getting under the block foundation. Would Green Mound roots also present this problem?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Although it can vary from location to location, in general, the roots of these Junipers grow to about 16″ deep.

      Reply
  4. Pat Lucas

    Need to decide between blue rug and nana Jupiter’s for my hillsides.
    Nana is about $10 more a 3 gal
    Plant. I can handle that if it’s the nicer and better choice. Please help! Thanks

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Blue rugs get thin, show bare stems, and allow assorted weeds to flourish in and among them. For my money, if I am getting a ground cover, I want it to totally COVER the ground and be weed smothering. The J. procumbens Nana do that. Blue rug does not.

      Reply
  5. Melanie Malone

    Truly appreciate your post regarding Blue Rug Juniper ! I planted a row of about 8 over a 40 foot rock wall -10 years ago. Filled in very nearly , looked great until 4 years ago when I had some paver walkway work done on the top of the wall. A slow death ever since . The contractor ( who is not a landscaper) told me later – They do not like to be touched – Well , some were transplanted ( instant death , some were trimmed , roots cut ..none of them like this treatment. I truly liked the look- Thank you for alternative to Blue Rug.

    Reply
  6. Margaret

    I have the ground cover juniper,can I use the berries for cooking?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      I have only used the upright juniper berries from J. virginiana, so I’m afraid I can’t answer this for you.

      Reply
  7. Jerome L Adrian

    Hi CL, I have a 10′ x 60′ stretch that I would like to plant Green Mound Juniper. I have 2 questions, How many plants should I purchase and can I Plant some accent plants every 10′ or so within it that will survive? I am in all day sun with good soil and drainage.
    Thanks for the great Blog.
    Jerry in East Bridgewater

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      You can plant these 5 to 6 feet apart center to center for faster fill in. Or future apart if you’re willing to mulch and weed in between for 5 or 8 years. Yes, you can plant taller, accent plants there and the junipers will grow around them.

      Reply
  8. Gina Rubright

    Hi, I’m thinking of planting a couple of Nanas on a shallow slope below where I have a couple of rose bushes, and some other plants. How far away from rose bushes or perennials should they be planted? I’m hoping my space is large enough to accommodate all as the nanas mature and spread. Or that a little trimming wouldn’t hurt them if necessary. Suggestions? Thanks.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      This Juniper will spread out 4 to 5 feet from the center of the plant over time. If you don’t want it to get so large, plant something else such as creeping phlox or wooly thyme.

      Reply
  9. Walter Ferguson

    A question on Bermuda grass control: We have a 20×60 foot bank planted in what appears to be the Blue Rug variety (looks like photo). How do we control the Bermuda grass that grows through it? We have tried simply pulling out the Bermuda grass, but it simply grows back every year. What herbicide would control the Bermuda grass. There are no other weeds involved. Also, would applying mulch help? Any other potential solutions? Thank you!!!

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Walter – that’s why I hate Blue Rug junipers – they let the grass and other weeds flourish. Green Mound are more weed-smothering. I know of no herbicide that will kill the grass and not the junipers…sorry. You can try mulch but since the issue is that grass can poke up in the center of the plant, where you can’t mulch, I’m afraid it’s not a great solution.

      Reply
      • Liz

        Hi, I have a very steep eroding parea all clay in full sun. I would love to plant nana but I need a fast growing evergreen. It’s about 150′ to 200′ what do you recommend

        Reply
        • CL Fornari

          Sorry, Liz, but I don’t know of a fast growing evergreen that’s weed smothering for full sun. If this was my slope, I’d plant the junipers and maybe some Zagreb Coreopsis (fast growing but not evergreen) in between to fill in as the J. p. ‘Nana’s grow in.

          Reply
  10. Debbie

    Hello. All i can seem to find in my searches for the ‘green mound’. Is Dwarf Japanese Garden Juniper. Is this the one? If it is ‘dwarf’, what would the spread be?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana.” That’s the name to look for.

      Reply
      • Debbie

        Ok. So i found a bunch of these. I bought them all and put them at 7 ft apart. I’ve seen lots of places where it says the spread is 5 – 6 ft. But, do they actually spread more than that? I hope so. I stretched it.

        Reply
        • CL Fornari

          They spread 5-6 feet over time.

          Reply
      • Anthony

        What is a good fertilizer to use on the green mound junipers

        Reply
        • CL Fornari

          IF a soil test shows you need to fertilize (never assume you do) a light application of Hollytone in the spring is fine. Only one, and only in the spring.

          Reply
  11. mollie duvall

    So glad I ran across your article. I am literally going tomorrow to purchase 5 junipers. I have a perfect location for them: in full sun, cascading over boulders , with excellent drainage. I really, really, need the color the Blue Rug would add to my landscape. After reading this I prefer to avoid, obviously. How does Blue Star differ? Why is it the better choice? Thank you.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      I have found that in hot, dry locations Green Mound is best. But if you must have blue, try Blue Pacific or Blue Star – just avoid Blue Rug.

      Reply
      • Kevin Kwiatkowski

        I’m having challenges identifying what appears to be a Juniper ground cover.
        Any way to send photos to see if you can help?

        Reply
        • CL Fornari

          I think you sent them already, right? Bar Harbor?

          Reply
  12. KB

    I hate blue rug. Thank you for this post that I easily found when looking for best green juniper groundcover. I debated Prince of Wales or Emerald Spreader but going with this pick definitely. Thank you for your help

    Reply
  13. Jason

    Are you familiar with “Buffalo” Juniper? If so how does it compare to Nana and Blue Rug?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      I have not grown ‘Buffalo’ juniper myself, so I can’t say how it performs over time.

      Reply
  14. T. Smith

    Hello. I have an embankment from our newly dug pond that needs covered. the hill is about 12 feet tall and 200 feet long. It is almost too steep to even walk up. It is currently just bare clay, but I need to get something planted before the erosion starts to get bad. I’ve tried planting dutch clover, English Ivy and tall fescue, but nothing germinates or when planted alive, nothing survives. Do you have a suggestion for me? Could you lead me to a place that I could order small junipers in bulk? Thank You

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      I can’t point you to a place for the junipers, but I do know that some people plant annual rye seed on such slopes since it germinates quickly and holds soil until you get other things planted. I don’t know where you live, but you could ask at your local garden center about ANNUAL RYE seed, and if there is time now to sow it in your area. Good luck!

      Reply
  15. Kevin Kwiatkowski

    How do horizonatalis compare to green mound, e.g. Bar Harbor or Prince of Wales?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Bar Harbor is a pretty good cultivar but grows to about 12″ high – so taller than Green Mound. One problem with the taller ones, such as Bar Harbor, is that leaves get stuck in them and if not removed quickly they can kill off some of the juniper foliage. So they require a bit more maintenance in that regard. I can’t speak to Prince of Wales since I haven’t grown it or seen it used much.

      Reply
  16. Kevin Kwiatkowski

    Also, a nursery here mentioned that ” ‘Green Mound’ is an older cultivar of Pro-Nana.”
    so is ‘Pro-Nana’ the same as ‘Nana’, i.e. equal to Green Mound then?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Pro-Nana is just another common name like Green Mound. These are Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’ – so you can see where the Pro-Nana came from. Same plant.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Don`t copy text!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This