Pine trees are distinguished by their bundles of needles that, instead of emerging singly along the branch, occur in clusters of two, three or five needles. Most pine trees grow extremely large, making them unsuitable for landscaping except in large yards or when for a screen of large trees. A handful of pine species remain relatively small and suitable for landscaping purposes.
The mugo pine is among the pine trees recommended as landscape trees by the University of Minnesota Extension. Its tiny size distinguishes the mugo from its pine-family brethren; some trees only reach 4 feet in height. The tree assumes either a round or pyramidal shape, depending on the cultivar, and grows a dense network of branches that make it excellent for screening purposes. The mugo pine tolerates a variety of soil types and conditions, exhibits moderate drought tolerance and needs little pruning, making it a good choice for the homeowner who wants a tree that requires little attention and care. The downsides to the mugo pine include the mess caused by falling needles and cones and a high susceptibility to some insect pests.
Reaching 50 feet in maximum height, the Scotch pine is one of the smallest of its pine-family brethren, and dwarf varieties make even more suitable small landscaping trees. The Scotch pine presents bluish-green foliage in the summer that turns yellowish in the winter, and through the branches, the flaky, orange-colored bark that distinguishes it from other pine trees is visible. Although recommended for landscaping by the University of Minnesota Extension, the University of Michigan Extension cautions homeowners that the Scotch pine shows high susceptibility to pathogenic nematodes in some areas. Check with your extension office about local incidences of these pests before taking a chance with the Scotch pine.
In explaining its uses as a landscaping tree, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension describes the bristlecone pine as "more interesting than beautiful." This small, twisted tree reaches only about 25 feet in height, although the Extension cautions that it might grow taller with age -- with some species living as long as 7,000 years, landscape experts aren't sure yet how bristlecone pines used in landscaping will fare a few hundred or thousand years from now. One theory about the extraordinary longevity of bristlecone pines suggests that they live so long because they prefer environments so inhospitable that the bugs and diseases that afflict pines don't bother with them. For this reason, trees planted in landscapes might not live as long as their relatives in nature.
- "Eastern Trees"; George A. Petrides and Janet Wehr; 1998
- University of Minnesota Extension: Choosing Landscape Evergreens
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Pinus mugo--Mugo Pine
- Michigan State University Extension: Pinus sylvestris--Scotch Pine
- University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service: Plant of the Week--Bristlecone Pine
- Photo Credit pine cone on a pine tree image by MAXFX from Fotolia.com Bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva), oldest tree in the world image by Lars Lachmann from Fotolia.com
Small Evergreen Trees for Landscaping
Any tree under a mature height of 25 to 30 feet can be considered small for landscaping purposes. Small trees can be...