Description & Overview

Iowa Juniper is a slow-growing, narrow, and pyramidal evergreen that grows 10 to 15 feet tall and 5 to 6 feet wide. Dense when young, the blue-green foliage becomes loose and open as it matures giving it a more informal and natural look. Silver-blue berries mature, they take on an ornamental violet-brown color. Iowa Juniper is a great nice mid-height option for screening or part of a mixed evergreen display.

Core Characteristics

Category: Conifer

Wisconsin Native: No - Introduced

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 4

Mature Height: 10-15 feet

Mature Spread: 5-6 feet

Growth Rate: Slow

Growth Form: Pyramidal

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Site Requirements: Average, well-drained

Flower: N/A

Bloom Period: N/A

Foliage: Blue/green

Fall Color: Blue/green

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Silvery-blue berries (cones) that turn violet-brown when mature.

Suggested Uses

Like any Juniper, Iowa must be planted in full sun in well-drained soil to thrive. Junipers will not grow well in shade or wet feet and will quickly succumb to root rot if planted in poorly drained soils. If decorative fruits are desired, note that a male Juniper must be planted for fruit to set.

Juniper is an excellent choice for a screen located on a berm as the elevation will help keep the roots drier as they prefer. A berm also provides a taller screen faster. Iowa Juniper is a good screening choice as it is taller than the average fence, yet short enough not to get in the way of power lines.

Do you have a big property that has little to no trees? Are there ambiguous property lines between your property and your neighbors? Iowa Juniper can serve as a medium-sized wind break as well as delineate property boundaries between you and your neighbors.

Does your backyard abut to a noisy, messy road? Iowa Junipers can tolerate pollution and road salt all while dampening noise and making your backyard a private sanctuary.

Use Iowa Juniper as a focal point in a mixed evergreen bed with low-growing conifers such as Nest Spruce, Sea Urchin White Pine, or Buffalo Juniper placed in the front. Add in perennials such as Prairie Smoke, Hairy Wild Petunia, or Montrose White Catmint to add color and texture.

Wildlife Value

Juniper berries are relished by many birds, especially during the winter months when food may be scarce. Look for Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, Brown Thrashers, Gray Catbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, and Northern Cardinals at the tops of the trees.

The prickly foliage and dense habit shelter songbirds from the elements and predators such as Cooper’s Hawks or Red-tailed Hawks, as well as nesting habitat.

Iowa Juniper is the host plant for the Cockerell’s moth (Diedra cockerellana), Many-lined Angle (Macaria multilineata), Juniper Seed Moth (Argyresthia alternatella), Juniper Geometer (Patalene olyzonaria), and the Juniper Tip moth (Glyphidocera juniperella).

Maintenance Tips

Iowa Juniper is slow-growing, making it a low-maintenance plant. Any pruning should be done when the plant is actively growing and new growth is visible. Sheer only the new growth and not the older growth. If branches need to be removed, cut at the base of the branch.

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: Yes
Rabbit Resistant: Yes

With its spiky foliage, deer generally leave this plant alone; however, during times of food scarcity, they will browse this species.

Junipers are generally free of pests and diseases. When sited properly there are rarely issues with Mountbatten Juniper. Usually, any issues are the result of poor drainage, mechanical damage from people and animals, and/or lack of sunlight.

Rusts (Gymnosporangium) are the most significant fungal disease of Juniper. Juniper is an alternate host for the fungus, which completes the other half of its cycle on plants in the Rosaceae family such as Serviceberry, Apples, Hawthorns, and Pears. The damage on Junipers is a few weird-looking galls and some twig dieback that can be pruned out. The damage is more significant on the alternate hosts previously mentioned and can cause ugly foliage damage or weird growths.

Don’t write off Juniper though! Most references to rust management recommend avoiding the planting of Junipers near hosts within one to three miles. This is sensible to a point-if the fungus needs two plants to grow on, take out the common denominator of Juniper. That said, unless you live on a huge lot (think 500+ acres) AND you’re planting apple/hawthorn/pear in the center of that lot AND you’re positive that there are no Junipers nearby, rust will likely occur at some point. Thankfully, the damage on both host plants is usually minor. Should you plant a Juniper right next to your susceptible plant? Probably not. If you’re planting them on opposite sides of the house or one in the backyard and one by the driveway, you’re likely not going to have an issue.

Leaf Lore

The genus Juniperus comes from the Latin name for “Juniper.” The specific epithet chinensis means “of China.”

Ancient Greeks and Egyptians used Juniper incense as a protective service. A Seneca involves junipers and other evergreens standing up to old man winter so spring may return.

Companion Plants

Add a variety of textures to your green screen-biodiversity is important! Combine Iowa Juniper with Star Power Juniper, Techny Arborvitae, Burkii Juniper, Taylor Juniper, Wintergreen Arborvitae, Green Giant Arborvitae, Norway Spruce, Cypress Spruce, Mountbatten Juniper, White Spruce, Emerald Arborvitae, Western Arborvitae, Holmstrup Arborvitae, or Serbian Spruce.

If attracting birds is your goal, combine them with shrubs and grasses that our feathery friends enjoy. Options include Switchgrass, Little Bluestem, Prairie Dropseed, Sumac, Ninebark, St. John’s Wort, Western Sand Cherry, Bladdernut, or Serviceberry.

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Written by Beth DeLain