Vertical accents, in beds or as lawn specimens, are essential garden features, adding interest and variety to your planting. Tough hedges and screens, that bring privacy and protection from strong winds are also essential – they turn your garden space into a haven for you and your plants. The Blue Point Juniper is a plant that can bring you both these things, and this tough and reliable evergreen is also very handsome, with its strong silver-blue foliage that doesn’t burn or turn green. It makes a bold statement, or a colorful screen, depending on how you plant and grow it.
Blue Point Juniper
The Juniper variety called ‘Blue Point’ is an upright evergreen conifer, reaching 5 to 10 feet tall in 10 years, depending on the growing conditions. Like all conifers it continues to grow indefinitely, and it will ultimately grow considerably taller. When young it is slender, no more than a foot or so wide, but as it grows the width after 10 years will be about 3 to 6 feet, and the width stays about two-thirds of the height, as it continues to grow. It has a single central trunk low down, with many branches rising from ground level, creating a pointed conical or tear-drop shape.
The Blue Point Juniper in time develops a thick trunk, but this remains hidden by the lower branches for many years. The thick bark is broken into long ridges by deep furrows, and the outer layers naturally peel off. The color is deep reddish brown. Younger stems are greenish-brown, gradually darkening with thicker bark as they age.
The leaves of the Blue Point Juniper are of two kinds, as is seen in most junipers. Some leaves, called ‘juvenile leaves’ are short, triangular and pointed. They cluster around the young stems in pairs or groups of three, with the broad base of the triangle attached closely to the stem. The tips are sharp and pointed, and the leaf is about one-third of an inch long, pointing out at a sharp angle from the stem. Young plants are mostly or entirely covered in juvenile leaves. As the tree ages more branches develop ‘adult leaves’ on them. These are flat and scale-like, only one-tenth of an inch long, and entirely attached to the stem. They give the stems a rope-like appearance.
The stems cluster in feathery groups, and this plant has exceptionally dense and thick foliage. The foliage of this variety is an outstanding silver-blue color, which is retained on the leaves throughout their life. This strong color is the main reason to choose this variety over another upright juniper.
Junipers usually have separate male and female trees, and the Blue Point Juniper is almost certainly a male tree, although it rarely flowers at all. Male flowers are tiny cones, bright yellow green, and they form at the ends of young branches in spring. It is possible that a mature specimen of this tree may produce flowers, but they are rarely seen.
Junipers produce a berry, usually blue-black in color, which is actually a highly modified cone. Being a male tree, the Blue Point Juniper could never produce berries. The berries of the parent species, Juniperus chinensis, are not edible, and they are not the juniper berry used for seasoning and to make gin.
Uses in the Garden
The Blue Point Juniper can be used in several ways in the garden. It makes a very attractive small specimen tree on a lawn, in an opening on a paved area, or in beds. It can be clipped to emphasize its conical shape, and to keep it slender, or it can be left to grow naturally, where it will become broader, but still remain conical. The style of garden it is in should determine whether to clip it, or not. These specimens can be used singly, or in small groups of 3 or 5. In groups they should be given enough room to remain as separate specimens, as if they are planted too close they will grow together into a large mass. Allow 3 to 5 feet between them, depending on the effect desired. In larger groupings, varying the distances a little will create a more natural look.
This juniper can also be used as an accent specimen, alone, in rows, or at the corners of a paved area. A pair can be used to frame a door or entrance. They can be planted in the ground, or in containers, for this purpose. To create an avenue along a driveway or path, space them well apart, between 5 and 15 feet, depending on the scale of the space. If planted too close they will become a hedge or screen, rather than an avenue of trees.
The Blue Point Juniper is a valuable addition to a collection of decorative conifers grown in their own part of the garden, as a feature. These beds are especially useful in sunny areas, and in rocky gardens. They look best mixed with large boulders and rocks, and with gravel as a mulch over the soil. By choosing a wide range of mature sizes, shapes and colors, a very attractive and low-maintenance garden feature is easy to create, and as the plants mature the appearance of the area becomes better and better. Allow plenty of room for development of each plant as an individual specimen. ‘Blue Point’ is excellent for a taller, vertical accent of silver-blue, in an area like this.
Because it is tough and resistant to cold and wind, the Blue Point Juniper is also invaluable as a screening or hedge plant. Here the plants should be spaced no more than 3 feet apart, so that they grow together in a reasonable time to create a solid effect. They can be trimmed or left to grow naturally, again depending on the style of garden and the desired effect. As the growth-rate is only moderate, between 6 to 12 inches a year, it would take too long to achieve a hedge very much over 8 feet tall, so it is best used for hedges and barriers under 6 feet tall. For a trimmed, formal look, begin trimming as soon as the plants are established. Removing a small amount of foliage regularly as the trees grow will give the best and densest structure to your hedge.
The Blue Point Juniper is a tough and reliable plant, and it is very easy to grow in almost any garden. It needs no special care or conditions, and it grows well in a wide range of soils and climates.
For the best color development, and dense growth, the Blue Point Juniper should be grown in full sun. It will tolerate an hour or two of shade each day, but too much sun will weaken the growth, making it loose and open, and fade the color to more greenish tones.
The Blue Point Juniper should always be planted in well-drained soil, as wet soil easily causes the development of serious and potentially fatal root diseases. It will grow in a wide range of soils, including limestone-based soils, sands and gravels, and clay soils too, if they are on slopes so that they drain well. It grows well on shallow soil over rock. This plant has some resistance to salt in the soil, and good resistance to salt spray, making it a valuable plant for coastal gardens.
Young plants should be watered weekly when first planted, and during dry spells for the first few years. After that this plant is very drought resistant, and it will survive long dry periods without harm. It is a good choice for xeric gardening, where water restrictions are in place, or in areas where there is no access to water. Be aware that during drought plants do not grow, so if you are trying to develop a larger plant, for a specimen or a screen, watering during dry periods will speed that growth.
The Blue Point Juniper is very winter hardy, and it grows easily in zone 4, where winter low temperatures can reach minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it ideal for gardening in colder zones, and for use as screening to protect from winter weather.
Unlike many other cold-hardy plants, the Blue Point Juniper is also heat-resistant, doing well even in zone 9, and tolerating both dry hot conditions, and more humid heat, such as in the south-east. In the American Horticultural Society Heat Zone maps, it is hardy to heat-zone 9, which only excludes it from Florida, southern Arizona and southern Texas.
Pest and Diseases
Although junipers can suffer from pests and diseases, the Blue Point Juniper is usually hardy and resistant. Occasional pests such as aphids, bagworms, scale and mites can occur, but they are rarely serious. The biggest threat is Juniper Blight, caused by the Phomopsis fungus. This can easily develop when plants are grown in wet and/or shady conditions. It shows as the death of young growing shoots scattered across the plant, and it can be mild or severe. Plants that are seriously infected usually die. Since it is often seen in wet springs, it may be mistaken for winter injury, or salt damage.
For maximum growth, evergreen fertilizers can be used in spring. In cold areas avoid feeding after early fall, as new growth may be damaged by frost. For general garden use fertilizers are not necessary for plants growing in ordinary garden soils.
Trimming and pruning
The Blue Point Juniper is easily trimmed to control its width and maintain a more formal conical shape, or to develop it as a hedge. Trim as frequently as needed, between late spring and early fall, using sharp tools. Remove small amounts when young, to develop the best and densest form. Never cut back into branches that have no foliage, as they cannot re-sprout, and the plant will be unable to recover.
Origins of Blue Point Junipers
The Blue Point Juniper is a selected variety of the Chinese Juniper, Juniperus chinensis. There are between 50 and 70 species of junipers around the world, but only about 7 species are commonly seen in gardens, usually as selected varieties.
This plant is found growing wild in north-eastern Asia, in China, Mongolia, parts of eastern Russia, Japan, and Korea. Wild plants are often large trees, up to 60 feet tall, but in very exposed places much smaller old plants could once be found, and in Japan these were often dug up and turned into bonsai. This plant has been grown in Europe, usually in selected garden forms, since the 18th century. Many forms have been selected, usually from unique, unusual seedlings.
The variety called ‘Blue Point’ was found and chosen from among a batch of seedlings at Monrovia Nursery in Visalia, California in the early 1970s. It has an unusually dense and compact form, and a natural conical shape. It also has outstanding silver-blue foliage, and it has become a proven and tested variety, still very popular, since its discovery.