By: Liz Baessler
The mighty Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris), also sometimes called the scots pine, is a rugged evergreen tree native to Europe. It grows across a large portion of North America, where it’s popular in site reclamation. It has an attractive and distinctive look, but it’s not always a good choice for the home landscape in some areas. Keep reading for more Scotch pine information, including tips for caring for a Scotch pine.
What is a Scotch pine? Scotch pine trees usually reach a height of 40 to 50 feet (12.2 – 15.2 m) and a spread of 30 feet (9.1 m) . Their needles are blue green in the summer and usually 1 to 2 inches long. The needles will often change color in the winter, turning more of a yellow green. The bark is orange and peels away from the trunk and branches in an attractive pattern.
Scotch pine trees are hardy in USDA zones 3a through 8a, an area that covers most of the U.S. and Canada. They are very durable and adaptable. They will tolerate alkaline soil up to a pH of 7.5 and will grow in most types of soil. They prefer moist, well-drained soil, however, and do best in full sun.
Because they’re so tough, Scotch pines are popular in spots that can’t support a lot of other life, and they’re especially good at reclaiming undesirable areas. Planting Scotch pines isn’t ideal everywhere, however, because the trees are very susceptible to pine wilt nematodes. It’s especially a problem in the Midwest, where trees will often grow normally for 10 years, then become infected and die quickly. If you live outside the Midwest, it’s not likely to be a problem.
Choosing the best scotch pines for gardens depends on large an area you have for its overall growth. There are, however, dwarf options available for those having little space but wish to enjoy this interesting pine trees.
If grown in suitable conditions, caring for a Scotch pine tree in the home landscape requires little, if any, maintenance.
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An ornamental variation of scotch pine with interesting clumped needle growth this tree must be kept pruned to maintain the pom pom puff effect but is well worth it for the exotic element it will add to your garden
Scotch Pine (pom pom) has attractive bluish-green foliage. The needles are highly ornamental and remain bluish-green throughout the winter. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.
Scotch Pine (pom pom) is an open multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with an upright spreading habit of growth. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other landscape plants with less refined foliage.
This is a relatively low maintenance shrub. When pruning is necessary, it is recommended to only trim back the new growth of the current season, other than to remove any dieback. Deer don't particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics.
Scotch Pine (pom pom) is recommended for the following landscape applications
Scotch Pine (pom pom) will grow to be about 15 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 10 feet. It tends to be a little leggy, with a typical clearance of 3 feet from the ground, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 50 years or more.
This shrub should only be grown in full sunlight. It prefers dry to average moisture levels with very well-drained soil, and will often die in standing water. It is considered to be drought-tolerant, and thus makes an ideal choice for xeriscaping or the moisture-conserving landscape. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.
Landscaping under pine trees can seem like a challenge, but that is far from the truth. The key to successful planting under pine trees is to know what conditions you are dealing with so you can plant the appropriate plants that will thrive. One obstacle is that the area is fairly shady. The second obstacle is the soil will be acidic from the persistent falling pine needles. Rather than trying to continually amend the soil to make it less acidic, you should plant acidic-loving plants that tolerate shade.
Remove all the pine needles from under the pine tree. Rake them up into a pile and move them aside so you can plant your shade-loving plants.
Take a pruning saw and remove all the limbs of the pine tree to a height of at least 4 to 6 feet off the ground. This will let in enough light for your plants to grow and allow you to work beneath the tree.
Pick out a selection of plants to plant under the pine tree. Some examples of shade-tolerant plants that love acidic soils are hostas, strawberries, azaleas and hydrangeas. Those are just a few examples. When shopping at your local nursery, look on the tag to identify which plants tolerate shade and acidic soils.
Plant under the pine tree. Dig a hole for each plant with your shovel. Set in one plant per hole and fill in the remaining spaces with soil. Water the area thoroughly after planting to settle the soil and remove any air pockets.
Take the pine needles that you raked up and spread them around your plants at a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Pine needles make an attractive mulch and will keep weeds at bay.
You can finish off the landscaping with stone pavers or stone edging. Install them to encircle the planting area on the border between your lawn and the pine needle mulch. An edging can really make the landscape bed "pop."
Check the mulch yearly to ensure it's not exceeding a depth of 2 to 3 inches. If it is, remove some accordingly. Too much mulch can prevent water from adequately penetrating the soil. It may also slowly suffocate your plants.
Resist the temptation to use hardwood mulch under your pine trees. The endlessly falling pine needles will make for a tiresome cleanup chore to keep the hardwood mulch looking great.
Scientific Name: Pinus sylvestris
The Scotch Pine is a lovely pine widely used throughout North America as a landscape pine and as a commercially grown Christmas tree. It is notable for its beautiful bluish-green or yellowish-green foliage. It can be successfully grown in even poor soils.
Height: 40-50 feet (12-15 meters)
Spread: 25-30 feet (7.6-9 meters)
Leaf blade: 2-4 inches (5-10 cm)
Range: Not native to North America (USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 8A- throughout North America with the exception of the extreme southern and west coastal areas of the United States.)
General Care Tips
The Scotch Pine grows on a wide variety of even poor soils but does best on well-drained clays and loams. It prefers full sun.
Things to Watch For
Pests include, significantly, the pine wilt nematode which is becoming an increasing problem. It is also susceptible to sawfly caterpillars, Zimmerman pine moths, pine weevils and pine shoot beetles.
Among disease problems, scotch pines can suffer from canker diseases and needle cast.