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A Floridata Plant Profile #625 Juniperus davurica 'Parsonii'
Common Names: Parson's juniper, Dahurian juniper
Family: Cupressaceae (cypress Family)
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Shrub  Drought Tolerant Has evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage

parson's juniper used as groundcover
This is one of Jack's favorite groundcovers, seen here in his garden suppressing weeds beneath a European fan palm and a Jerusalem thorn tree.
Parson's juniper is a ground hugging evergreen conifer with flat, feathery branches and both scaly and needlelike leaves. Young leaves are like tiny scales that are held closely against the twigs. Older leaves are prickly needles a 0.5 in (1.3 cm) or so long. The foliage is bluish-green and has a soft texture. Single specimens grow in a domelike mound up 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) tall with a spread of 4-10 ft (1.2-3.1 m).

Two other cultivars of J. davurica are 'Expansa Aureospicata', which is mottled with golden splashes, and 'Expansa Variegata' which has creamy white variegated foliage.

Native to central Asia, Siberia and possibly Japan.

Tolerates acidic to slightly alkaline soils. Has a very high salt tolerance.
Light: Full sun for densest specimens. Partial shade will result in a thinner groundcover.
Moisture: Drought tolerant.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4-11.
Propagation: Best propagated by tip cuttings or stem layering. Cuttings of ripe wood taken in fall and winter can be started without mist or bottom heat. Parson's juniper also can be propagated by layering: Girdle (scrape away the bark from) a young, fast growing stem about 10 in (25.4 cm) back from the tip, bend it up, and bury the girdled part in the ground. It may take several months for roots to develop before you can sever the new plant from the parent. Leave it in place for a few more weeks, then prune off the growing tip to encourage the new roots even more. Eventually, you should be able to dig up the new plant and replant it where you need it.

parson's juniper foliage
In this close up you can see the rich bluish-green of the Parson's juniper foliage.
Parson's juniper makes a great ground cover in seaside areas because it is very tolerant of salt spray. It will cover an area 2 or 3 ft (0.5-1 m) in diameter in two growing seasons. This is one of the more popular evergreens for bonsai.

The taxonomy of this popular ground cover is very confused, as indicated by the large number of botanical names that have been used. Most authorities regard parson's juniper as a cultivar of Juniperus davurica, but you will see it in some books as J. chinensis or J. squamata.

It's especially attractive to mix and match juniper groundcovers in the landscape. Widely available juniper groundcovers include:

  • J. chinensis, the Chinese juniper has more than a dozen ground hugging varieties and cultivars including 'San Jose'.
  • J. procumbens includes the cultivars Japanese garden juniper and dwarf Japanese garden juniper.
  • J. communis, the common juniper has several creeping cultivars.
  • J. conferta, the shore juniper has several cultivars of which 'Blue Pacifica' is the most common.
  • J. horizontalis, the creeping juniper has more than 60 cultivars including the ever popular Blue Rug ('Wiltonii'), 'Bar Harbor' (silvery blue foliage) and 'Prince of Wales' (rich green).
  • J. sabina, the savin juniper has a dozen or more cultivars including tamarisk juniper and 'Broadmoor'.
  • J. squamata, the single-seed juniper has several cultivars including fish-tail juniper and 'Blue Star'.

In all, there probably are more than 200 different varieties and cultivars of groundcover junipers! All have subtly different textures, hues and shapes, and most are easy to grow. Think of the possibilities!

Steve Christman 1/2/00; updated 11/13/02, 3/4/04, 1/30/05

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