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What is a Hollywood Juniper?

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  • Written By: Anna Harrison
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2016
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A Hollywood juniper, or Juniperus chinensis, is a hardy conifer with unique, twisted branches. Though it has a natural tapered cone shape, it can be grown into many different forms. It is often kept at a smaller size and used as a hedge or landscape accent; when allowed to grow to its full height, it will reach 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 m), making it an effective windbreak. Like other junipers, it produces blue berries that turn red when ripe, which may take several years. Hollywood juniper is native to Japan, but gets its name from its popularity in southern California, where it is among the most common yard and garden trees.

Hollywood junipers are easily identified not only by their unusual branches, but also by their short, sharp needles, which grow in tight clusters. The color of the Hollywood juniper needles varies, depending on the cultivar, and ranges from grayish green to blue-green. They are often pruned into topiaries and bonsais and kept as potted plants.

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These garden trees are known for their toughness and durability and will grow nearly everywhere. They will survive the coldest winters as well as extremely hot summers. Junipers do not tolerate very wet soil, however, and the needles will tend to turn brown and drop off if left in standing water. Consistent bright sunlight will provide the best growth and needle color, but the Hollywood juniper will tolerate partial shade, particularly in hotter climates. The addition of fertilizer that is high in nitrogen will help to ensure healthy needle growth.

While Hollywood juniper is often touted as a deer-resistant plant, deer do often eat them when food is scarce, and may cause severe damage to these conifers. In addition, male deer will frequently rub their antlers on the bark of these trees. Both types of damage can be prevented by wrapping the juniper with chicken wire or other fence material during fall and winter, when deer are most likely to cause harm.

Junipers are susceptible to Gymnosporangium rust disease, which is a fungus common in apple trees. To help prevent the Hollywood juniper from contracting this disease, this tree should never be planted near apple trees. Worms and caterpillars can do harm as well, particularly the juniper web worm, which makes webs among the branches mixed with dead needles and leaves. The worms feed heavily in late spring, before turning into copper colored moths.

The wood of the Hollywood juniper is very hard, and may become difficult to cut as the tree ages. Pruning can be done on young trees with a good pair of loppers, but a chain saw may be required to prune larger trees. Junipers do not recover easily from heavy pruning, so it should be done in moderation. Furthermore, they do not appreciate transplanting and may suffer from transplant shock. To avoid this problem, young trees should be planted where they are to remain.

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