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Common juniper

Close up of the needles of common juniper.

The common juniper may be a shrub or small tree. This is one of the most commonly  found junipers throughout the world. It's typically found in dry, rocky, wooded hillsides or exposed slopes. The oil from the fleshy cones is used as flavoring and to make gin. 

This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.   

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Juniperus communis

All common names:

Common juniper

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub,
  • Tree

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Utility,
  • Windbreak

Size Range:

  • Small tree (15-25 feet),
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet),
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 2,
  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Alkaline soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Road salt

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • late winter,
  • early spring,
  • mid spring,
  • late spring,
  • early summer,
  • midsummer,
  • late summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Irregular,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

More Information:

Size & Form

Low spreading shrub or tree. Size varies by cultivar, typically 5 to 10 feet high and 8 to 12 feet wide with ascending branches.

Tree & Plant Care

Prefers open, sunny locations in light, sandy to well-drained soils, pH adaptable.
Good tolerance to windy sites.
Do not prune into center dead zone.

Disease, pests, and problems

Susceptible to juniper blight, twig blight, cedar-apple-rust, scale mites, aphids, bagworms and many other insect and disease problems.

Disease, pests, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 10
Found throughout North America into northern Mexico, Europe and Asia

Attracts birds & Butterflies

Birds eat the fleshy cones and disperse seeds

Bark color and texture 

Reddish brown peeling off in strips.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Awl-shaped leaves are sharply pointed and spreading at a wide angle from the base, in whorls of three. Needles last on plant for three years before shedding.
Gray-green to blue green in summer turning yellow-green in winter.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flowers are dioecious, with male and female on separate plants.
Flowers are wind pollinated.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Female cone is a purple-black berry-like cone with a bloomy, blue waxy coating.
The seeds are dispersed by birds.  
Fruit is a diuretic and used to flavor gin.

Cultivars and their differences

This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits."

'Aurea' (Juniperus communis 'Aurea'): low-growing, 10 inches high by 5 to 6 feet wide; new needles emerge bright yellow fading to gold in winter.

Blueberry Delight™ (Juniperus communis 'AmiDak'): dense, low-growing, spreading juniper reaching 1 to 1 1/2 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide. Dark green needles have a silver-blue band; female plants produce bloomy black fruit.

'Compressa' (Juiperus communis 'Compressa'): upright, narrow form 2 to 3  feet high and 4-6 feet wide.





Location of Juniperus communis (Common juniper) at the Arboretum