Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tips For Planting Ground Cover Junipers

Junipers are very popular ground cover plants for hot, sunny areas. Most tolerate poor soils. They do not do well in shade.

There are many varieties available. Obviously, the best ground cover junipers have a spreading habit. Some grow only a couple of inches high; others grow much taller.

Container-grown junipers can be planted almost any time of the year as long as the ground is not frozen. Because they have been growing in a nursery pot for a period of time, little damage is done to the roots as the plant is transferred to the soil.

Proper soil preparation begins with removing weeds. Provided that the soil is not badly compacted, I do not recommend tilling the planting site because it brings many dormant weed seeds to the surface to germinate later. I prefer to spray the area with glyphosate to kill the weeds. When using horticultural chemicals, always follow label instructions.

The planting hole should be twice as wide as, and slightly shallower than, the root ball. If the soil at the bottom of the hole seems compacted, a garden fork can be used to cultivate it deeply.
After the planting hole is dug, carefully remove the juniper from the container. Root tips die quickly when exposed to air, so plant promptly.

Place the root ball in the hole. Leave the top of the root ball about 1/2 to 1 inch above the surrounding soil. Don't cover it unless roots are exposed. When adding soil around the shrub, lightly tamp the soil to remove air pockets, or add water to help settle the soil. Form a basin around the base of the shrub to encourage water penetration, and water thoroughly after planting. A 3" layer of mulch around the plant can be beneficial in retaining moisture and suppressing weeds.

For the first year until plants become established, monitor moisture levels in the soil. Though many junipers are drought-tolerant, young junipers do not tolerate drying out. If the plant shows signs of stress, its already too late to save it. Water the shrubs deeply and slowly enough to allow the water to soak in. Keep the area under the shrubs mulched.

Fertilization is usually not necessary for newly planted junipers. Depending on conditions, fertilizer may be added at a later time.

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