Pruning or trimming Juniper Shrub – 【How and when to prune】


The juniper shurb is a conifer belonging to the Cupressaceae family, which in optimal conditions reaches 2 meters in height. It is characterized by slow growth, very spiny needle-like leaves, and cone-shaped fruits that turn purple when ripe. These very particular characteristics make this shrub a very good option to decorate any garden.


But like any plant, it needs certain care to grow healthy, strong and beautiful. And as you can imagine, both from the name of our website and from the title of the publication, here we will dedicate ourselves to analyzing 100% everything related to pruning Juniper shrub. Benefits of pruning, when it should be done, how to do it, with what tools and more.

Pruning or trimming juniper shrub
Curious fact: although we will not delve into other uses of juniper than mere decoration in the garden, the truth is that this conifer has many applications. A very curious one, and that you may not have known, is that gin comes from the distillation of various cereals, which is flavored with juniper berries. So if you have had gin you know the taste of juniper fruits. 😉

1. Tools needed for pruning


The tools that you may need to prune Juniper Shrub will vary, above all, depending on the size of the plant. As we said, it is not a shrub that will grow a lot, but its size can vary from half a meter at an early age to two meters. In general, I can recommend that you have the following tools on hand:

  • Pruning Shears: Pruning shears have one sharp blade and one opposing blade. Pruning shears are used to cut small and medium branches.
  • Pruning Saws: Pruning saws are tools used to cut larger branches. Pruning saws have a serrated blade and an ergonomic handle for a comfortable grip. Pruning saws are used to cut larger branches larger than 2.5 cm in diameter.
  • Hand Shears: Hand shears are tools used to cut small shoots and smaller branches. Hand shears have sharp blades and are used to cut shoots up to 1.3 cm in diameter.
  • Gardening Gloves: Gardening gloves are necessary to protect the gardener’s hands. More than key point when pruning plants with thorns as in the case of rose bushes.
  • Safety glasses: Safety glasses are necessary to protect the gardener’s eyes from shavings, dust and twigs.
  • Ladder: Depending on the size of your juniper you may or may not need a ladder.

Keep in mind that you should disinfect all cutting tools before starting pruning. This will reduce the risk of spreading diseases between plants in your garden. Next we will see some methods to do it quickly and easily.

1.1 How to care for and disinfect your tools

Taking care of your tools will allow you to extend their life. While disinfecting them will help you avoid a possible spread of diseases from one plant to another.

Let’s start by quickly reviewing the care:

  • Use the right tool for a job and avoid twisting or straining it.
  • Clean and oil tools regularly by wiping an oily cloth on blades and other surfaces.
  • Keep cutting edges sharp by regularly using an oilstone.
  • Wooden handles should be varnished or regularly treated with linseed oil to keep them from cracking or splintering.

I personally know three simple methods to disinfect your tools, and they are the following:

  • Method 1: rub the scissors blades with a cloth dipped in alcohol (ethanol). After cleaning, allow the tool to sit for a couple of minutes for maximum disinfection efficiency.
  • Method 2: prepare a mixture 1/9 of chlorine and water (one part of chlorine and 9 of water). Then soak the scissors for half an hour in that mixture. After those 30 minutes you can start pruning.
  • Method 3: this third method is effective but from my point of view not so recommended. Here what you should do is pass the blade for a few seconds through a flame. This will disinfect but also burn the blade.

2. Why to prune Juniper shrub


The reason why pruning should be done on a juniper tree is that this task brings many benefits. As with all shrubs, these benefits are for their health and good growth. Let’s go over the most impressive benefits:

  • Stimulates growth: When you cut old or diseased branches, you allow the nutrients that the plant is spending on those branches to be redirected to other healthy branches. This results in a very healthy growth stimulation.
  • Increases density: an intelligent cut of certain branches allows the generation of new shoots. A greater number of new shoots will increase the density of the foliage, very useful if what you are looking for, for example, is to create a “green wall” with your juniper bushes.
  • Improves aesthetics: removing dead, diseased, broken or disorderly growing branches will undoubtedly improve the aesthetics of the plant. If you also dare and give the bush a more specific shape, you will undoubtedly have a great impact on the beauty of the plant.
  • Size control: depending on where you have in your garden, you may want this shrub to reach 2m in height or you may need it to be no more than 1.50m. The only way to control this is to do regular pruning.

If you give other uses to your juniper, for example the collection of its fruits, pruning can also help you improve the quality and quantity of fruits. In any case, since it is not the most common use that we give it, I have not put it on the list.

You may also be interested in knowing about pruning this bush:

3. When to trim Juniper shrub


Choosing the best time to prune a juniper tree can sometimes be tricky, as it depends on many factors. Among the most prominent factors are the geographic region, the climate, the health of the bush, the age and the objectives of the pruning. In any case, as a general recommendation, I can assure you that if you do the pruning when winter is ending or in the first days of spring (before sprouting begins) you will not be wrong.

What we are looking for when pruning early, before sprouting, is to give the juniper the opportunity to recover and properly heal the wounds. If you prune in the dead of winter, when the plant is dormant it will take a long time for it to recover.

But with this I am not saying that pruning should always be done at the end of winter. Sometimes it can be beneficial to prune during the spring or summer. For example, in neglected juniper shrubs, it is good to perform light pruning during the growing season. In this way, when the time comes, we will not have to perform such hard pruning, and we will reduce the stress of the plant.

If you do incorrect pruning at the wrong times, you can greatly harm the bush. For example, if you do a hard pruning in spring or summer, the plant will lose large amounts of sap. It will enter a stress process, leaving it very susceptible to attack by various pests and diseases. On the other hand, if you prune in mid-autumn/winter, sprouting can be stimulated, which can be damaged by frost.

4. How to trim juniper bushes


Let’s first look at 4 general steps you should take when trimming a juniper bush. Then we will analyze some types of pruning in special cases.

4.1 Pruning step by step

Step 1: Identify the Branches to Remove

As a first step I always recommend this, since it is never good to start cutting without first analyzing the bush. It is essential that you take a moment to observe your juniper and identify if there are any diseased, dead, damaged or untidy growing branches.

Once all these branches have been identified, they are the first ones you should delete. Select the most appropriate tool for each branch, something that will depend on its size, and cut them all.

Step 2: Decide on the shape and size

Once the most annoying branches have been cut in the previous step, you must be clear about the shape you want to give the juniper. If it already has a defined shape, it’s easy, since you only have to cut off the branches that come out and spoil the shape.

If you need to reduce the size, trim any branches that grow too long and remove some of the top growth. However, be sure not to cut the woody part of the branch, as this can damage the plant.

Step 3: Make sure you make the correct cut

Whenever you cut a branch you should make sure you cut at an angle and not straight, as this can prevent water from draining and lead to rot.

If it is a large branch, it is best to cut the branch in sections if it is too thick to cut at once.

Step 4: Cleaning and Removal

Once the pruning tasks are finished, you should make sure to properly dispose of the pruning remains. If it is diseased branches, be careful when you dispose of pruning waste. Do not leave these diseased branches in your garden as you will be spreading the pest or disease in question

If what you have cut are not diseased branches, you can take advantage of this organic waste to make compost. It is always good to have a natural fertilizer for your garden plants.

4.2 Overgrown juniper tree

A Overgrown juniper tree is one that has reached a size that we cannot control and that represents a nuisance to us. The main recommendation before starting to work on this class of plants is that if you do not want to kill it, do not cut all the branches you need in the same pruning. In my years of experience I have seen many plant “kills” when trying to solve problems like these.

The bush has not become a nuisance overnight. It has been several years without periodic pruning that have led to it being like this. Therefore, if it takes a couple of months to get the result, nothing happens, do not rush or you can cause irreparable damage to the plant.

As a first point, start by cutting all the diseased, damaged or dead branches. Do not doubt that it has to have many of these branches, you will see how with this initial pruning, at least the aesthetics will improve. This pruning can be done at any time of the year.

If it has occurred to you to prune during the spring or summer, do not worry. You can cut some branches in this season. But try to trim only the most annoying branches. Those that grow disorderly, or that extend much more than desired. Performing this pruning at this time will allow us to reduce the number of branches to be cut in the next pruning.

When the best time for pruning comes (late winter early spring) is when you should do the hardest pruning. Define the size you want the juniper to have and start cutting. Try not to cut more than 30% of the total branches. If you must cut back the shrub too much, it may be a good idea to schedule it to finish pruning the following season. This will give it the entire growing season to recover.

4.3 Pruning upright junipers

It is quite common to find doubts about how vertical junipers should be pruned, the truth is that there are no great secrets other than those seen here. The most important thing in these junipers occurs with the initial or training pruning, in the first years a main trunk must be selected so that it can guide the plant vertically.

Once you have your brain with a well-defined and vertical shape, you will only require these maintenance tasks. You will see that they are practically the same as those detailed in previous sections:

  • Trim dead and diseased branches: it is best to start at the bottom and work your way up. Remove dead or diseased branches, as well as branches that cross or rub against each other. This will improve air circulation and allow light to reach the lower branches.
  • Trim the top: Once you have trimmed the lower branches, move on to the top of the plant. Trim the leading branch (the central, upright branch) to control the overall height of the juniper. This will encourage lateral branching and create a denser, more compact plant.

If you need your juniper to grow even more in height, obviously you should not cut the leading central branch. It must cut when it has reached the height limit that we are looking for.

5. How to prune juniper bushes video


As is customary in this blog we like to close the articles with a video material (in this case the Summit Lawns channel). In this video titled “How to properly trim a Juniper Bush”, you can more graphically review many concepts seen in this post. I hope it’s useful to you! 🙂

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