Thuja or juniper - what to choose?
Thuja or juniper - which is better? Such a question can sometimes be heard in garden centers and in the market where these plants are sold. He, of course, is not entirely correct and correct. Well, anyway, what to ask is better - night or day? Coffee or tea? Woman or man? Surely, everyone will have their own answer and opinion. It seems to me that each plant is good in its own way. And everyone needs to find the right place on their site so that it shows all its best qualities. And yet ... But what if you do not bias and try to compare juniper and thaw on certain objective parameters? Let's try.
Why thuja and juniper? These are, perhaps, the most popular and bought conifers in the "green" market, and their functions are often the same. And when you consider that they belong to the Cypress family and have much in common, their inexperienced gardeners even often confuse and do not distinguish.
Comparison of the form of thuja and juniper
Here's the look and start. Today, breeders have bred many varieties of thuja and juniper, and this range is increasing every year. Both the shape of the crown and the color of the needles vary. Moreover, similar forms can be found in both plants.
Say, if you need a clear column-shaped silhouette on the plot, then you can use Juniper "Blue Arrow", or you can use the varieties "Columna". Or, say, Stricta juniper with the silhouette of a candle, it is quite possible to replace the most popular thuja “Smaragd” for today.
If you need a ball from a coniferous plant, then you can choose between the thuja “Globosa”, “Danica” or the miniature “Teddy” and junipers ... Stop! You’ll probably not find spherical shapes in junipers, although breeders are probably working on this.
But junipers have a large assortment of creeping shapes, such as BIue Carpet and Blue Chip. There are also sprawling crowns of the “fountain” type, for example, “Blue Alps”, which the thuja cannot yet boast of. Yes, in principle, with a skillful haircut, you can also make a ball out of juniper or make something creeping out of thuja. But the natural, inherent in the variety, the form will require you all the same minimal efforts to preserve it.
Comparison of the color of the needles of thuja and juniper
Now about the color. In addition to the main, natural green color, many varieties of these plants with a peculiar color of needles are bred. There are blue, yellow, green and even speckled.
At the same time, the following picture is observed here: arborvitae tend to change the color of needles depending on the season. As a rule, by winter they acquire a bronze hue, and not all gardeners like it. And for junipers, the color is more stable.
Among these conifers there are plants with green-yellow needles, say, thuja “Mirjam” or juniper “Gold Coast”. There is - with green: the Smaragd thuja has a saturated green color all year round (perhaps the only one among the thuja), as well as the Juniper Emerald Sea. By the way, now it’s not easy to find pure green juniper in garden centers.
And, perhaps, what you definitely won’t find is thawing with blue needles, and there are a lot of junipers, say, “Blue Star” juniper silver-blue. As well as you will not find thuja with colorful needles, and junipers are, for example, “Blue and Gold” with an interesting crown, which consists of shoots of different colors - blue and yellow. The given examples are just a drop in the sea of the modern assortment of these plants.
The use of thuja and juniper in garden design
But how to skillfully apply all this variety of shapes and colors on your site? Both thuja and juniper are very decorative and versatile, they can be used both singly and in groups. But junipers are usually planted in “loose” groups, that is, several plants near the gap between them. You can also create a dense hedge from them, but they grow slowly, and seedlings are expensive.
Here the thuja is ideally suited for this task. With the relatively low price of seedlings and good care, your living wall will rise quickly enough. For these purposes, it is good to use the thuja “Columna” or “Brabant”, which perfectly tolerate a haircut.
Read more about the most interesting types and varieties of arborvitae in the material The most winter-hardy arborvitae - planting, care, haircut.
But the variety of creeping, stunted and dwarf forms of juniper makes it easy to solve the problems of strengthening and landscaping slopes, decorating rocky slides and rock gardens. Here, slow growth is an advantage.
When choosing between thuja and juniper, it is worth considering the features of the root system of these plants. In juniper, it forms deep, and this makes the plant indispensable in windy areas. The thuja root system is shallow and not narrow, as they say, "dish-shaped", and often with strong winds the thuja easily turns out of the ground.
For details on the use of junipers in garden design, read the material Junipers in the garden - types and uses.
Conditions for growing thuja and juniper
Why can thuja be found on the streets of large cities more often than juniper? The fact is that thuja is not demanding on air cleanliness and tolerates dust and exhaust gases quite normally. Junipers suffer from these factors. And therefore they are used in landscaping to a limited extent.
But what are cities for us? We are in our own garden, here the air is cleaner and, therefore, is excellent for growing both crops. I have already mentioned the peculiarities of the root system of the thuja, it is shallow and not wide, respectively, in dry periods it will require regular watering. But in areas with high groundwater the thuja has good chances to survive.
In addition to watering, thuja will also need fertile soil, and if it is poor in your area, then you can not do without fertilizing.
I will make a small digression about feeding coniferous plants. Despite the fact that there are special fertilizers for coniferous plants both under the root and on the crown, you still should not get carried away with this business. The best option, in my opinion, is to pour good compost into the trunk circle once a year.
Well, what about junipers? They form a powerful root system, extending inland and in breadth from the plant. Juniper is a self-sufficient plant, which means that it does not need your watering and top dressing (in an adult state). After all, they grow in the wild and on rocky mountain slopes, and even on saline soils.
Both thuja and juniper, with the right choice of species and variety, tolerate the low temperatures of winter well. But what they love equally, is the sunshine. It is in an open, well-lit place that these plants can show all their best qualities: a dense crown of saturated color characteristic of this variety. Yes, and they will survive in the shade, but, most likely, the crown will become loose and the color may become ordinary green or fade.
Although the plants tolerate our winters well, some specimens may need a little shelter. No, not from the frost, but from the bright sun in late winter and early spring. The fact is that during this period the sun is already shining well, and the earth (and, accordingly, the root system) is still in a frozen state and is not able to make up for moisture loss from solar activity. As a result, the needles can burn, become red and dry from the southern side. Therefore, cover, or rather, shade your coniferous plants.
Reproduction of thuja and juniper
Here, probably, it is worth giving the palm of a thuja. Both plants propagate well by seeds (without preserving varietal characteristics) and cuttings (with preserving varietal properties). But thuja this makes it easier and simpler. Thuja seeds do not even need stratification, and cuttings take root twice as fast as junipers and with a high percentage of yield.
Read more about propagation of thuja and juniper by cuttings in the article Reproduction of coniferous plants by cuttings in winter is simple.
Useful properties of thuja and juniper
Surely, many people know about the benefits of conifers. They emit special substances - volatile, which literally disinfect the air around. Both thuja and juniper are well suited for this, but nevertheless, juniper has no equal in this!
Known fact: North American Indians placed sick tribesmen in the thickets of this plant and they recovered. Juniper has one more bonus - cones of some species are widely used for medicinal purposes as a diuretic and disinfectant.
Tip: with an outbreak of influenza, for prevention, chew, slowly, 1 berry per day.
Juniper cones are used in cooking, as a spice in the manufacture of kvass, beer, pickles, marinades. They smoked meat (about 6-8 juniper berries per 1 kg of meat), make gin and tinctures.
Be careful! Not all junipers give cones suitable for use inside, moreover, there are dangerous, poisonous ones!
And there’s also juniper bath brooms ...
If you approach this issue philosophically, then no matter which of these plants you choose, you will not be mistaken, they will outlive you. But if you are planting with an eye on future generations, for your descendants, then you should know the maximum that I have met in literature. For thuja, this is 200 years (usually up to 100). But junipers in places of their natural growth quite live up to 1000 (!) And even 2000 (!!!) years. Here, as they say, no comment.
Subjectivity versus Objectivity
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that I was only trying to compare thuja and juniper by quite objective criteria and “technical parameters”. However, there is such a criterion as subjective perception. In other words, often we make a choice in favor of this or that plant simply because we like it.
I like juniper more, it’s thoroughly some. Yes, the first years you need to be patient, but then he will delight. But I don’t at all share the tendency adopted recently by landscape designers to ridicule and ironic about gardening solutions using thuja, they say, yesterday.
Thuja is just a plant, and, like any plant, you need to use it correctly. If you need to quickly close a neighboring toilet or shed, then thuja as a plant for such a technical hedge is great. And this will be, perhaps, the best dense and rich background for interesting foreground plants. Or, say, large balls ...
In general, look for your solution and application to these conifers. And look for your trends, not paying attention to strangers. In each case, everything should determine your taste and your preferences.
Have a good choice!