Brave cuts on groundcover junipers

Green Thumbs Up

To being brave when pruning groundcover evergreens.

Many gardeners have groundcover junipers (such as the rug junipers, Juniperus horizontalis, and the low spreading varieties of J. chinensis). A single groundcover juniper can spread to cover a circular area eight feet in diameter. That's just the beginning. Rooting as it goes, the plant's spread is infinite.

Right: Here is the edge of such a plant, in need of pruning. The plant is not juniper but Siberian carpet cypress (Microbiota decussata), which grows and is pruned just the same way.

You can do it! Grab that leading edge (a) and trace it back. You'll find it's leafy at the tip but mostly bare along the limb that connects it to the rest of the plant. Reach in and clip out that branch 'way back at its origin (b). Afterward, the tips that had been mounding up into a new layer (c) will settle down to gracefully fill that space.

Below, left: Here is such an edge we saw needed clipping one summer. At the right, you see it after we clipped it, early the next spring. (We could have clipped it at any time.)

Note: In the right-hand photo, the straw-like material at the arrow is not part of the carpet cypress. If it had been leafless bits of our targeted shrub we would have cut it out. In another vein, if we'd been thinking about immediate looks, we would've cut it out. However, it's only the stalks left behind in fall by the cypress' co-groundcover, plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides). Those stems will soon disintegrate and be covered by the plumbago's new growth.  In the left hand summer photo you can see the plumbago in its more attractive incarnation.

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