Here’s How Much Water Junipers Really Need (Watering Guide)

Juniper in the desert among the flowering grasses

Have you ever seen those tiny little blueberry-looking things on evergreens? If so, you’ve seen junipers! I’m sure you have wondered at some point how much water they need, especially since they’re usually found in areas that lack rainfall. Whether you’re a new or experienced outdoor lover, you’ve probably seen junipers somewhere!

Established junipers require little water at all, and they don’t like soggy or wet soil. Even if you just planted some junipers, your watering habits will be infrequent. Junipers are extremely drought tolerant and only need watering if you notice the foliage is fading.

Junipers don’t need a lot of water, and even less so during the dormant season. Keep reading to learn just how much water they need!

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Do Junipers Need A Lot Of Water?

You will typically find junipers along rocky slopes and mountainous, semi-arid areas. These locations are actually what junipers prefer. Places with lots of sun, little water, and fairly warm conditions.

Junipers are drought tolerant and have adapted to harsh conditions. They do not do well in soggy or wet soils but will adapt to most soil types. Being native to semi-arid areas, these trees do best in well-draining soils.

They develop a substantial root system with a taproot that penetrates down deep into the soil and a vast lateral root system.

Junipers are grown as shrubs, ground cover, and trees and actually can live for hundreds of years. However, as landscape plants, most live for 30-70 years.

These trees require little care at all, especially water. Although they are drought-tolerant, there are a few things to follow when planting to ensure you give your juniper what it needs.

Juniper with large buds in the garden, close-up. Caring for ornamental garden plants.

Watering A Newly Planted Juniper

Juniper trees need water when they are first planted to establish roots.

Considering junipers are extremely drought tolerant, they need to establish their root system. The only way they can do this is with proper care after they are first planted!

Since it’s a newly planted tree, you’ll want to water it frequently, but you probably won’t need to water it every day. Newly planted junipers can be watered roughly twice a week. After the first few months, you can lessen your watering.

You’ll want to be careful with over-watering your juniper. Over-watering is easy to do, especially if you mulched the area around your juniper. Over-watering will breed root rot, pathogens, and pests, and your juniper will not be happy.

If you’re unsure about how much water your juniper needs, you can always feel the surrounding soil. You can do this by using a yardstick and sticking it down a few inches to a foot.

Now, this will not be a telltale sign every time, but if you watered it yesterday, and the soil is still moist or damp, then you won’t need to water it for at least another day.

As with a lot of drought-tolerant plants, it’s best to let the soil dry out between watering instead of watering it just a little each day.

Watering Juniper Trees During The First Year

The first year is considered the establishment period. During this time, your juniper is establishing roots and adapting to the new environment.

You can water your juniper roughly once a week during the first year. When you water, you’ll want to deep soak the area. 

If you want to fill in your landscape, this columnar version is a great way to add interest and privacy to your yard. This Blue Arrow Juniper – 10 Live Tree grows easily in a wide range of soils and grows upright into tall, narrow trees.

Junipers offer year-round interest to give you some color in the dreary winter months! During the first year, you’ll want to water it regularly so it can establish a root system, and after that, you’ll barely have to worry about it. 

The blue arrow juniper is perfect for lots of different spaces reaching a height of only 12-15 feet tall. Each tree will only be 2 feet wide, which is what makes them great for a privacy screen. 

Watering Juniper Trees After The First Year

Once your juniper has been in the ground for 12 months, you’ll have your established juniper. At this point, you won’t need to water your juniper unless you notice any drought stress, like browning or yellowing of leaves or wilting.

Over-watering is a sure way to destroy your juniper. So unless you notice signs of the tree browning, you won’t need to water your plant, and regional rainfall should be sufficient. 

If you notice signs of stress, you can water your juniper every day until you notice its color coming back to a deep green.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if junipers need water, especially since they aren’t houseplants. You can use this SONKIR Soil pH Meter to test the soil moisture, soil pH, and sunlight.

It’s easy to use and takes the guesswork out of trying to figure out how moist your soil is!

Do Junipers Need Water In The Winter?

Beautiful branches of a juniper with frost.

During the winter months, junipers go into a dormant state. This dormancy state lasts for roughly three months.

During this time, they aren’t actively growing and don’t need to be watered as much, if at all. During this dormancy, junipers rest and slow down, or stop their growth to get ready for the cold temperatures of winter. You can think of it as hibernation.

Dormant trees will still be alive, and their branches won’t easily snap. Because the tree is still alive and just resting, so to speak, the branches will still be flexible and not gray or brown underneath the bark. 

Since junipers are evergreens, they won’t drop their leaves like deciduous trees like oaks or maples.

This dormancy period is necessary for trees to preserve energy to put into new growth for the springtime.

Preparing Your Juniper For The Winter Months

Although junipers are dormant during the winter months, you can help prepare your juniper for the cold, short winter days. To prepare your juniper for wintertime, you can water it frequently in the fall to give them the extra hydrating boost for winter.

You can keep watering during fall until the ground freezes. 

If you are lucky enough to have snow in the winter, it will provide protection from the wind, water, and insulation to the juniper. If you don’t get any snowfall or precipitation, it might be a problem for your juniper. 

No one wants to water their trees during the winter. But watering your juniper and other evergreens during dry spells throughout winter will help keep your tree healthy and alive (especially if you just spent lots of money on them). 

If you don’t feel like getting out a big, bulky hose, you can opt for the Flexi Hose. Honestly, after using one of these hoses, you’ll probably never want to go back to a normal hose.

It comes in multiple lengths and even has a nozzle attachment. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and easy to store, making watering in the winter way easier than you could imagine!

Why Don’t Junipers Need A Lot Of Water?

Juniper shrub up close

As we mentioned, junipers are extremely drought resistant. Even as landscape plants, they need little water. The million-dollar question here is, why?

According to Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, junipers are the most drought-resistant group of plants that have been studied

A study from researchers at Duke University found junipers have a genetic and evolutionary reason to explain their extreme drought tolerance. Drought significantly affects pinyon pine populations, completely destroying them. 

They also found that at the same time, the serious drought conditions did not affect junipers. As you might know about extreme drought conditions in the southwestern states, it makes you wonder if junipers will be the ones to survive. 

The scientists of this study found junipers have resistance to cavitation. Cavitation is mainly used in physics to describe centrifuges, water turbines, and propellers. 

However, in the sense of junipers, it means they can maintain transpiration during dry periods and prevent bubbles that form in the xylem. Which explains why they are incredibly drought tolerant. 

Junipers Control How Much Water Evaporates Through Their Leaves

Transpiration is when water evaporates through openings in the leaves of plants and trees. So, junipers can control the amount of water that gets released through their leaves during these extreme drought conditions. 

Junipers also have extra woody material in their xylem, which prevents bubbles from forming. The xylem transports water from the roots to the rest of the plant.

And, if bubbles get into the xylem, it interrupts the water that flows to the top of the plant. So, the extra woody tissue prevents disruption of water transportation within the xylem. 

So, you may wonder why this is an issue. If air bubbles get into the xylem vessels, they can stop them from functioning, resulting in little to no water getting to the top of the tree. This causes wear and tear in the tree, and can even cause death to the tree. 

Junipers Are Cavatation-Resistant

Junipers are considered cavitation-resistant. Cavitation typically occurs during extreme drought conditions, which explains one reason junipers can survive, and increase in numbers, even during periods of limited to no water.

Juniper species that are more resistant to drought also have leaves that are thick but narrow to limit the amount of water that is released.

Junipers are evergreens with needles and scalelike leaves. Junipers are also conifers, meaning they have cones. Their cones, however, resemble blue-colored berries. 

Characteristics Of Juniper Trees

Although we mentioned why junipers don’t need a lot of water to survive — let’s dive into the characteristics that make up juniper trees! We’ll explain the physiological traits that allow them to grow in some of the harshest conditions.

Junipers Can Survive In Many Soil Conditions

Junipers have substantial adaptations to allow them to survive in locations with harsh conditions, poor soil, and little rainfall. Their most notable being their large, wide root system. 

They Have A Long Taproot

Some junipers develop both a taproot that goes straight down and a lateral root system, while others mainly have a root system that spreads out laterally.

The taproot allows them to search for water deep beneath the surface, and can even reach 40 feet downward in search of water. Talk about adapting.

The environment where junipers grow has extreme wind from time to time, with fast gusts that can easily knock trees down. This root system helps the juniper to withstand gusts of wind and grip the sides of mountains. 

According to the National Park Service, their root systems make up two-thirds of the tree’s overall mass. This widely spread root system helps them survive the extreme drought conditions they tolerate.

Junipers Are Self-Pruning

Another adaptation is self-pruning. Junipers will phase out branches that are dead and will cut off all nutrients to those branches, directing nutrients and water to the rest of the tree. 

Enough about junipers in the wild. You can grow your own juniper as a ground cover, a bush, or a tree. This Andorra Compacta Juniper is a great option to fill in areas of your yard. 

These compact juniper plants are low-growing, providing just enough ground cover. This juniper species boasts of being evergreen, tolerates urban environments, is deer resistant, and even salt tolerant. 

That’s A Wrap!

There you have it! We hope you learned how much water junipers need. Let’s recap!

Junipers are extremely drought-tolerant plants that require little water at all. Newly planted junipers will need to be watered every few days for the first year to become established. 

If your junipers have been planted for over a year, your watering habits will be infrequent, if at all. Because junipers are extremely drought tolerant, they only need watering if you notice that the foliage is fading. 

Junipers are found along rocky slopes, mountains, and semi-arid areas. This is their native habitat, and these locations are what they prefer. They need lots of sun, little water, and fairly warm conditions. 

Junipers do not do well in soggy or wet soils but will adapt to most soil types. Because of their native habitats, they do best in well-draining soils. 

Junipers develop a unique root system. They have a taproot that penetrates down deep into the soil, and a lateral root system that spreads wide, allowing them to soak up as much water and nutrients as possible. 

It’s better to underwater than to over-water your juniper. Although over-watering is easy to do, especially if you mulched the area around your juniper, it will wreak havoc on your plant.

Junipers go dormant during the winter months, but they still need moisture. Before winter sets in, you can water them frequently in the fall to give them the boost they need for winter. 

Juniper trees have developed genetic adaptations that allow them to thrive in dry conditions without a problem. This is probably one reason they live so long!

Well, now that you know how much water junipers need (or don’t), you can plant some junipers of your own! 

Thanks for sticking around and reading with us!

Until next time!

References 

Baker, William L., and Douglas J. Shinneman. “Fire and restoration of pinon–juniper woodlands in the western United States: a review.” Forest Ecology and Management 189, no. 1-3 (2004): 1-21.

Burkhardt, J. Wayne, and E. W. Tisdale. “Causes of juniper invasion in southwestern Idaho.” Ecology 57, no. 3 (1976): 472-484.

Miller, Richard F. “Biology, ecology, and management of western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis).” (2005).

Miller, Richard F., and Jeffrey A. Rose. “Fire history and western juniper encroachment in sagebrush steppe.” Rangeland Ecology & Management/Journal of Range Management Archives 52, no. 6 (1999): 550-559.

Miller, R. F., Svejcar, T. J., & Rose, J. A. (2000). Impacts of western juniper on plant community composition and structure. Rangeland Ecology & Management/Journal of Range Management Archives, 53(6), 574-585.

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