Best upright junipers in the Midwest
When you hear the name Juniper you might immediately think, UGH, I hate that plant. Sure, for a long time in the 1950’s and 60’s junipers (mostly spreading) were probably a bit overused, but who can argue that a low maintenance shrub with year round color isn’t nice to have. Upright junipers lost favor as well because the faster growing and cheaper arborvitae came into the picture. As gardeners we’ve evolved quite a bit over the years. We have access to more information, growers are producing so many more varieties of plants, we’ve turned our yards into outdoor living spaces and we basically are demanding more. But, does that mean junipers are a “has been” or should be thrown to the curb? I say, NO! Junipiers, just like any other plant, serve a purpose and have their place in everyone’s landscape. Since there are several types of junipers, uprights, spreaders, groundcover, let’s focus on the upright junipers and talk about three of the top selling varieties in the Midwest.
Juniperus chinensis ‘Hetzii Columnaris’-was introduced by Fairview Evergreen Nursery’s founder, Frank C. Hetz back in the 1930’s. It is fast growing ,upright, pyramidal evergreen reaching 10-15’ tall and about 5-8’ wide. Average growth per year can be between 6”-18”. Foliage is bright green year round with a tinge of bronze during the winter months and to get the best color plant in full sun although it will tolerate some shade. Like most junipers, Hetz Columnaris prefers a slightly acidic and sandy soil for good drainage. It is a great plant for withstanding a variety of conditions, including tough winters and drought. This plant is a great choice to use as a screen, wind break or border plant. It is a very avid producer of juniper berries that are a dark blue/gray color each year providing seasonal interest and fragrance. Deer are not a fan of this juniper and it is relatively disease free. Hetzi Columnaris is an extremely hardy plant and suitable for zones 3-9.
Juniperus chinensis ‘Perfecta’-Growing to a height of 15-18’ tall and 6-8’ wide makes this plant an appropriate choice for smaller spaces in the landscape. The only requirements this juniper needs are full sun and a well-drained soil. It is a very adaptable plant to many types of conditions including, rocky soil, drought and air pollution. Although this juniper is a slow grower it is about as low maintenance as they come and like most other junipers the deer don’t like it, but the birds do. This dark green evergreen plant with blue-gray berries provides food and shelter for many birds in the winter. It is hardy in zones 4-9.
Juniperus viginiana ‘Canaertii’-This bright green evergreen is a compact, pyramidal growing plant in its early years. Giving it plenty of room to grow will be important as it opens up to a broader form as it matures. Growing 25-35’ tall and 8-15’ wide this upright juniper makes a great addition to any landscape when used as a large screen. It is a relatively fast growing juniper that is native to Missouri and can be found growing freely on the bluffs and in fields in many parts of the state. It grows best in full sun with a moist and slightly acidic soil, but like its juniper brethren, Canaertii requires little maintenance once it gets established and tolerates a variety of environmental conditions. An attractive feature of this juniper is the large, beautiful whitish-blue berries it produces. Birds enjoy the buffet while the deer do not particularly find this plant very tasty and tend to leave it alone. Juniper ‘Canaertii’ holds its bright green color year round giving the landscape some seasonal interest. It is hardy in zones 4-9.
Whether you like them or not, junipers add value to the landscape just like any other plant and definitely need to be considered when designing the landscape. Upright junipers help add a level of dimension and provide year round interest for the homeowner as well as wildlife. They withstand many environmental conditions like wind, pollution and drought which makes it an easy plant to grow and maintain. Say, YES to junipers, they won’t let you down.