Juvenile growth on junipers…Cut? Leave alone?
I’ve received several emails about how to handle juvenile foliage on junipers, and felt like this was one of those discussions that could be useful to a larger group of people.
- Juvenile growth in junipers is when the shoots display needle-like growth on a typically scale growth variety (a few of those are listed below).
Spiky juvenile growth is a response to either too much foliage loss from pinching (don’t do that), overly hard pruning, or sometimes too much fertilizer. Naturally, since mature scale foliage is nicer to look at, and is what the tree grows when it’s content, we might have the impulse to cut the juvenile off.
- Don’t do that. Leave the juvenile foliage alone.
- The problem is, if we cut off the juvenile growth, we’ve likely cut off everything that is new growth on the juniper. And that would be deeply, seriously, and really quite intensely bad. A juniper needs its newer foliage to stay healthy and strong.
When the tree is ready, it will grow scale foliage on the new tips, replacing the juvenile. The needles of the juvenile foliage will over time yellow, brown, and eventually will be shed. But, it can be a year or two impatient wait for this to happen. You might want to stock up on gloves so you don’t nibble your fingernails off.
Of the clearly scale-type junipers, Itoigawa is one of the most guilty in how it so easily reverts to juvenile foliage after an over-strong pruning. Rocky Mountain can revert to juvenile. So can Sierra. Shimpaku is one of the least susceptible.
In short: Leave your juvenile foliage to its own devices, concentrate on other trees to dilute impatience, and try not to repeat past juniper offences.
For more about how to maintain junipers, please see the post Never Pinch Junipers!