Junipers, with their many shapes, colors and sizes, are prized in the landscape for a variety of purposes including privacy screens, accents and ground covers with heights upwards of 30 feet and colors ranging from blues to grays and greens to yellows, it's no wonder you can find a juniper in almost any landscape design. Because of their dense foliage, junipers require little pruning to maintain their shape. However, if you feel you must prune, there are a few delicate rules to follow. Not pruning a juniper the correct way can lead to bare spots, uneven shape and disease. Additional, it's very important to sharpen shears and cutters as needed to keep cuts clean and less stressful to the tree.
- Look at your juniper for pruning needs in early spring just before the new growth begins; early spring is the best time to prune junipers. Start pruning and shaping while the tree is young and do a small amount each year.
- Identify areas you would like to prune back and mark with ribbon individual branches to be cut.
- Identify the "dead zone" of your juniper -- the inside of the plant that is full of bare branches and wood. Never cut back to this dead zone or wood that has no needles on it, as junipers will not produce new growth on this type of wood.
- Cut individual branches back to a side shoot or leaf of an upward-growing branch, using pruning shears. Cutting to this type of shoot will make the tree look younger and healthier while maintaining a pleasant shape.
- Cut any completely dead or broken branches back to the main trunk using loppers, as the juniper is wasting energy on these branches that could be better used to promote new growth and keep the remaining branches healthy.
- Avoid cutting your bottom branches shorter than those above them, as tapering in towards the bottom creates too much shade and thus will kill off the bottom. Make sure the base of the juniper is wider than the top.
Please feel free to let your trees grow naturally. I prefer to practice a craft where I get to decide what the tree looks like. Just letting a tree grow naturally is not and will never be bonsai. If you spend time looking at natural trees there is certainly much beauty but very little perfection in terms of bonsai.