Characteristics of Chinese Juniper Tree (Juniperus chinensis) in the Wild

Juniperus chinensis 'Shimpaku'
Chinese Juniper is an evergreen tree that grows in the form of a shrub or tree with a variety of shapes. Generally, this tree has a height of 5-10 meters if planted in the yard, but actually, it can reach 18-20 meters in the wild. It is a plant native to China, Mongolia, Japan, Korea, and southeastern Russia.

The Chinese Juniper tree is a popular ornamental tree and is often grown in gardens, parks, and bonsai subjects. The tree grows easily in dry, sandy soil and is exposed to full sun all day long.

There are currently more than 100 recorded Chinese Juniper cultivars. Each cultivar has different characteristics such as the color and shape of the leaves. An example of a yellowish-leaved Chinese Juniper is Juniperus chinensis ‘Aurea’.

Juniperus chinensis 'Aurea' Leaf
Source :

First popular in the United States, it is often seen in Los Angeles area parks and Mediterranean-style homes. Now Chinese Juniper is easily found in various regions around the world.

One of the Chinese Juniper cultivars named Shimpaku is a very famous bonsai subject. Juniperus chinensis ‘Shimpaku’ is widely used to make bonsai, whether planted individually or in groups.

Six of the hundreds of Chinese Juniper cultivars have received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, namely:

  • Juniperus chinensis ‘Aurea’
  • Juniperus chinensis ‘Blaauw’
  • Juniperus chinensis ‘Gray Owl’
  • Juniperus chinensis ‘Kaizuka’
  • Juniperus chinensis ‘Plumosa Aurea’
  • Juniperus chinensis ‘Pyramidalis’

Not only known for its many cultivars, but Chinese Juniper also has a hybrid from a cross between Juniperus chinensis and Juniperus sabina which is now known as Juniperus × pfitzeriana (Pfitzer Juniper).

The Chinese Juniper hybrid grows to form a shrub and is never a large or tall tree. So, this hybrid is very suitable to be used as an ornamental tree in the yard or garden. Two widely grown hybrid names are Juniperus × pfitzeriana ‘Old Gold’ and Juniperus × pfitzeriana ‘Sulfur Spray’.


Characteristics of Chinese Juniper Leaf

Juniperus chinensis 'Shimpaku' Leaf
Source : D. Richards

The leaves are like needles, young leaves 5-10 mm long, and old leaves 1.5-3 mm.


Characteristics of Chinese Juniper Fruit

Juniperus chinensis 'Shimpaku' Fruit
Source :

Females are berry-shaped, 7-12 mm in diameter, blue when young and black when ripe. While the male fruit is 2-4 mm in diameter and contains about 2-4 seeds. Chinese Juniper fruit ripens in about 18 months.


Characteristics of Chinese Juniper Tree

Juniperus chinensis 'Shimpaku' Tree
Source : Hollow Nursery and Garden Center

Chinese Juniper trees are classified as coniferous trees as are Japanese Juniper and Himalayan Juniper. This species is often confused, between male and female plants, because they both produce fruit.


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