Dwarf white pine shrub

Dwarf Pine Growing Conditions – Care Of Dwarf Pine Trees

Conifer trees add color and texture to a backyard or garden, especially in winter when deciduous trees have lost their leaves. Most conifers grow slowly, but that young pine you plant today will, in time, tower over your home. One way of keeping your conifers small is to start growing dwarf pines instead of standard pine trees. Dwarf pine trees look as attractive as standard pines, yet they never get so big that they become a problem. Read on for information on planting dwarf pines and tips on dwarf pine varieties that might work well in your yard.

Dwarf Pine Trees

Planting dwarf pines is a great idea when you want the green color and the conifer texture but your space is too tall for a forest. There are a large number of dwarf pie varieties that make growing dwarf pines easy.

Your best bet is to review the different dwarf pine varieties. Pick dwarf pine trees based on their mature size, hue of needles, hardiness zone and other particulars.

Dwarf Pine Varieties

If want very low pines, conifer ground cover rather than a tree, consider Pinus strobus ‘Minuta.’ This low, mounding cultivar looks like white pine (found in the northeast of the country). However, given its dwarf status, this conifer won’t fall over and crush your car or house in high winds or storms.

If you are thinking of growing dwarf pines that are slightly larger, consider Pinus parviflora ‘Adcock’s Dwarf’ that gets 3 or 4 feet in both directions. This is a type of Japanese white pine with twisted blue-green needles and a rounded growth habit.

To start growing dwarf pines that are slightly larger, plant Pinus strobus ‘Nana.’ It grows to 7 feet tall and can grow wider than its height. This is one of the taller dwarf pine varieties with a mounded, spreading growth habit, and is a low-maintenance selection.

Dwarf Pine Growing Conditions

Optimal dwarf pine growing conditions vary among species, so be sure to ask at the garden store when you buy. Obviously, you want to pick a site with adequate space for the tree’s mature shape. Since “dwarf” is a relative term, pin down the potential height and width of your selection before planting.

You’ll also have to tailor site selection to whatever dwarf pine varieties you decide to plant. While many conifers prefer shady areas, some specialty conifers require full sun.

All conifers like cool, moist soil. When you are growing dwarf pines, apply a layer of wood chips around the base of the trees to achieve this end. In addition, water the pines during dry weather.

Evergreen Trees

Evergreen trees offer year around color in your landscape. Most evergreens appear about the same color in deep winter or in summer heat. Evergreen trees provide wonderful color in landscapes that are devoid of color due to cold weather, dry weather, or barren ground. Evergreen trees are versatile and can be used as specimens, hedges, and privacy screens. They are also utilized as a windbreak planted on the north or in the path of prevailing winds to deflect or intercept winds. Northern locations often plant these trees on the north side of homesteads to catch snow and decrease wind speeds.
Narrowleaf evergreens are also known as conifers. Evergreen trees retain the majority of their needles through the winter. Evergreen trees, such as the arborvitae, are used in countless locations as screening plants. Spruce trees also belong in the evergreen family. Firs and spruces are used as the consummate Christmas decoration for millions of homes. The pine family of evergreens includes the Ponderosa, White, and Austrian Pine. This is not an inclusive list of evergreen trees, but it is a sampling of some of the trees in the evergreen classification.

Pruning Pine Trees

Pine Needles Make Great Mulch

Water Your Evergreens This Fall

10 Types of Pine Trees Everyone Should Know

What is a Pine Tree?

Many of us have a tendency to refer to all conifers as pine trees, which is not illogical considering that the pine family (Pinaceae) is the largest family of conifers and accounts for approximately ¼ of all cone-bearing trees (the definition of a conifer is a tree that bears cones). However, those roughly 200 species in Pinaceae include not just pines, but firs, spruces, cedars, hemlocks and larches. Most Christmas trees sold in this country are firs or spruces, despite the fact that they are often referred to as pine trees. To truly be a pine tree, a conifer must belong to the genus Pinus.

Pinus lambertiana (sugar pine) growing in the southern California mountains

Wild-growing pines quickly become too large for all but the grandest gardens, as the photo of the sugar pine demonstrates, although amongst the approximately 100 recognized species in the genus Pinus there are many trees with attractive features. The key for gardening successfully with pines is to choose among the thousands of dwarf pine cultivars. A cultivar, short for ‘cultivated variety’, represents a selection that was chosen due to its slower growth rate, dwarf form, unusual color, weeping habit, etc. It’s in the world of cultivars that you can find attractive, tough, interesting, structural choices to enhance your garden’s year-round beauty.

10 of the best pines for gardens and one to avoid

1. Pinus densiflora ‘Low Glow’

Close up showing branching and trunk

Low Glow Japanese red pine (USDA zone 5) has a spreading habit, lush green needles and when mature, reddish textured bark. It is slow-growing and well-behaved, requiring little pruning or special care. The specimen above is pruned regularly to open the crown and expose some of the trunk and branching, but it is not necessary, as the photo as the link demonstrates.

2. Pinus mugo (mountain pine or mugo pine) cultivars

Pinus mugo ‘Jakobsen’ is attractive in the landscape or in containers

The ACS recognizes almost 80 cultivars of this species, commonly called mugo (pronounced ‘moo-go’, not ‘mew-go’) pine or mountain pine (USDA zone 3). Mugo pines are probably the pines most often seen at mainstream nurseries and big box stores, and are often deemed unexciting by amateurs and aficionados alike. Mugos are some of the toughest conifers out there, native to the windy mountains of central Europe they are accustomed to eking out an existence in a tough environment. But there is also beauty and drama lurking in this widely variable and misunderstood species! Take the ‘Jakobsen’ mugo pine above: it naturally develops an open and interesting architecture, requiring no pruning to provide a structural garden focal point. Its deep green needles lend richness and depth to the landscape. It is a wonderful choice for a container, as well, and works beautifully in a rock garden.

Pinus mugo ‘Schweitzer Tourist’

There are quite a few golden mugo pines, in addition to ‘Schweitzer Tourist’, ‘Carstens’ is an excellent low-growing selection, as is ‘Sunshine’. Others, such as ‘Ambergold’ or ‘Winter Sun’ grow to become quite vertical in habit.

Pinus mugo ‘Winter Sun’. Photo by Janice LeCocq

3. Pinus parviflora (Japanese white pine) cultivars

Pinus parviflora ‘Fukuzumi’

The Japanese white pines (USDA zone 5) are well-formed, elegant plants, with soft, delicate needles that are often streaked with white, blue or gold. These cultivars also have some of the most stunning pollen cones in the conifer world. They are not as tough as the mugos but with good drainage and a bit of afternoon shade in hot areas, they perform well in garden settings. ‘Fukuzumi’, pictured above, has a naturally windswept habit and rich blue-green needles. This specimen has never been pruned.

‘Tenysu kazu’, also known as ‘Goldylocks’, is a stunning selection, with creamy-golden new growth.

As if the soft, fluffy needles and elegant habit were not enough, Japanese white pines sport some of the most dramatic and eye-catching male (pollen) cones in coniferdom. Check out those on Pinus parviflora ‘Cleary’:

Pinus parviflora ‘Cleary’ pollen cones – a pine with attitude! Photo by Janice LeCocq

Or ‘Bergman’:

Pinus parviflora ‘Bergman’ pollen cones

4. Pinus banksiana ‘Uncle Fogy’

If the Pinus parviflora cultivars are some of the most elegant pines, ‘Uncle Fogy’ clearly has to be one of the most ridiculous. This cultivar of Pinus banksiana (USDA zone 2) is twisted, alternately weeping and upright and no two look the same.

Pinus banksiana ‘Uncle Fogy’. Photo by Janice LeCocq

Pinus banksiana, or jack pines, grow more irregularly in nature than many other pine species. ‘Uncle Fogy’ just happens to be one of the most wildly irregular of all, growing sometimes upright for a while and then flopping to the ground and then often continuing upwards again. One of the best cultivars for pruning and shaping, you can make your ‘Uncle Fogy’ unique to your family! Jack pines are tough plants and once established require low water and little care. There are other attractive cultivars in this species, such as ‘Manomet’ and ‘Angell’.

5. Pinus jeffreyi ‘Joppi’ (Joppi Jeffrey pine)

California has more native conifers than any other state, but many of them have no, or few, cultivars. Luckily for coneheads, one of the best-loved natives, Pinus jeffreyi, (USDA zone 8)has a lovely, compact cultivar called ‘Joppi’.

Pinus jeffreyi ‘Joppi’ after some interior pruning

While the wild species can reach 80-120′ at maturity, ‘Joppi’ is very well-behaved in a garden setting. The specimen above has been in the ground for six years, after being planted from a 20-gallon container, and is approximately five feet tall. The long, stiff needles are a wonderful contrast to lighter foliage and its strong structure adds an architectural element.

6. Pinus strobus cultivars

Like Pinus parviflora, Pinus strobus, or eastern white pine (USDA zone 3), is a soft, five-needled pine, and also has elegant attributes. Like Pinus mugo, there are many choices of cultivars, with a wide range of habit, color and shape. The ACS recognizes well over 100 P. strobus cultivars, making this species one of the most garden-friendly of all conifers. We’ll recognize two cultivars here, wildly different in size, habit and color.

Pinus strobus ‘Blue Shag’, a name that needs no explanation

‘Blue Shag’, pictured above, is true to its name with its glowing blue-green needles and shaggy demeanor. If left alone, like this one, it is attractive if somewhat unruly. Those wishing a more sedate look can prune at will as the plant, which does not develop a central leader, tolerates pruning well.

And for a completely different look, Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’

However, my favorite Pinus strobus cultivar is ‘Pendula’, which is sort of like a big, bad cousin to ‘Uncle Fogy’, albeit more graceful. This cultivar is not for small gardens and not for those wishing an orderly, regimented look. LIke ‘Blue Shag’, it takes well to pruning and can be tamed (or made wilder!) if so desired.

7. Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine) cultivars

If I had to pick my favorite species of pine it would have to be Scots pine, or Pinus sylvestris (USDA zone 3). I just love the flat, blue-green needles on the majority of the cultivars and their neat, compact habit.

Pinus sylvestris ‘Watereri’ is a lovely, slow-growing selection with rich blue-green needlesClose up of ‘Watereri’ needles, buds and cones

However, if you prefer golden foliage, Pinus sylvestris does that, beautifully, too! ‘Nisbet’s Gold’ is one of the best gold conifer cultivars of any species, and, like many of the other sylvestris cultivars, has a tidy habit and is relatively slow-growing. With sufficient irrigation, this golden conifer does not burn in full sun, even in my zone 9b location.

Pinus sylvestris ‘Nisbet’s Gold’ lighting up the winter garden

There are dozens more Scots pine cultivars to choose from. Take a look and maybe like me, you’ll fall in love!

8. Pinus nigra ‘Oregon Green’ (Oregon green Austrian pine)

Like mugos, Austrian pines (USDA zone 4) are one of the classsic old-world, ‘hard’ pines, so termed due to their relatively hard wood (although to keep things confusing, all conifers are known in the timber industry as ‘softwoods’). They have very deep green, stiff needles and often a graceful natural form. When pruned they make marvelous focal points. My favorite is one of the larger cultivars, ‘Oregon Green’.

Pinus nigra ‘Oregon Green’ branches on the left. Photo by Janice LeCocq

9. Pinus koraiensis (Korean pine) ‘Dragon’s Eye’ or ‘Oculus Draconis’

Korean pines are hardy (USDA zone 3), durable and very pretty. Most have curling needles, often with variegation. ‘Dragon’s Eye’ is an upright cultivar, occupying a small footprint that makes it suitable for small gardens.

Close up of variegated foliage on ‘Dragon’s Eye’

10. PInus wallichiana ‘Zebrina’

Although last on the list, Zebrina Himalayan pine is one of the very best! All Himalayan pines have long, graceful needles, but Zebrina does it one better by striping them with pale yellow. The landscape effect is breathtaking, especially in winter’s soft light.

Pinus wallichiana ‘Zebrina’, strutting its stuff in the landscape. Photo by Janice LeCocq

Those are, in my opinion, 10 of the very best pines for a garden landscape. But I promised at the start that I would give you one to avoid: Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’ (USDA zone 5). Why do I feel so strongly about its negative characteristics that I feel the need to note it here? Because ‘Thunderhead’ has just about the deepest, richest green needles of any conifer, and in spring it produces copious, white candles (new shoots) that contrast dramatically with the foliage. It’s almost impossible to resist. So desirable is this cultivar that it is now turning up everywhere, even at nurseries that have very few conifers to offer.

Springtime candles on Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’. Photo by Janice LeCocq

So if it is so lovely and dramatic, what’s the problem? It’s a thug! Most cultivars grow more slowly than the species. This one actually outpaces it! If you do nothing, this lovely little plant very rapidly becomes an enormous woolly bear. Of the original three that I planted, I am down to one and it gets pruned vigorously twice a year by an expert. If you are aware of Thunderhead’s shortcomings, plant with impunity, but I have seen more disappointment (and disgust) associated with this cultivar than any other, partly due to the display that it receives in the retail trade.

Those are my favorite pines. What are yours! We’d love to hear!

Choosing evergreens for your landscape

Growing conditions

  • Cold hardiness zones 3 and 4, and some zone 5 in Minnesota.
  • Avoid extreme exposure to northwest winter winds and southern exposures.
    • See Protecting trees and shrubs in winter
  • Moist, fertile, well-drained soil.
  • Soil pH of neutral (7.0) to slightly acidic pH (6.0-7.0).

Some evergreens are tolerant of less than ideal growing conditions. Always choose plants with growing requirements that match the conditions of your landscape.


Large evergreens provide an excellent backdrop to artwork.

  • Spruce, fir and arborvitae are pyramid-shaped evergreens that may cover a circle 30 feet in diameter when they reach full maturity.
  • Pines are also pyramid-shaped as young trees, but as they mature they often lose lower branches, resulting in open space beneath.
    • Depending on the species, pines can reach 50 feet or more in height.
    • Pine roots fill a large circle of soil under their foliage, making it difficult to grow turf and other plants underneath these trees.
  • Boxwoods can be sheared to maintain a globe or hedge form. If left unsheared, they have a spreading upright form.
  • Rhododendrons are upright, spring-blooming shrubs. They have dark green leaves that stay attached to the plant through winter when they turn a darker green to bronze color.
  • Smaller upright junipers or columnar arborvitae are often more in scale with residential sites. These evergreens will mature at 20 to 30 feet, with a spread of 5 to 10 feet, depending on the variety.
  • Juniper shrubs with horizontal shapes can spread to 5 or 6 feet in a few years.
    • Heights vary considerably according to the variety.
    • An 18-inch high skandia juniper is far more useful under a ground level window than its 5-foot relative, savin juniper.
  • Japanese yews are often pruned tightly to keep them at a desired height or width, but some selections will grow into 20-foot trees or very wide shrubs over time.

Form, color and texture

Evergreens come in many different forms: pyramid shape, spreading, open, prostrate or creeping, mounded, rounded, upright, weeping.

Evergreens also provide year-round color and texture in a landscape making them excellent accent plants. This is an important plant characteristics in Minnesota and other areas with long winters.

When choosing evergreens consider:

  • Foliage, bark, cones, berries.
  • Sunlight is important to maintaining foliage color.
  • Age of the growth may affect color.
  • Some options:
    • Silvery blue juniper varieties
    • Dark green Japanese yew; the female plants bear red berries
    • Scotch pines’ cinnamon orange bark and bluish green needles
    • Purplish brown eastern red cedars
    • Deep green spruce or balsam fir
  • For good visual appeal, avoid combining evergreens with the same or very similar colors, textures and forms.

Evergreens for difficult sites

  • Clay soil — arborvitae, Austrian pine, ponderosa pine, white fir
  • Sandy soil — Scotch pine, mugo pine, junipers
  • Wet soil — American arborvitae, balsam fir, black spruce
  • High pH — arborvitae, black hills spruce, mugo pine, ponderosa pine, junipers
  • Windy, exposed — Black Hills spruce, jack pine, mugo pine, red pine, ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain juniper, savin juniper, eastern red cedar, douglas fir
  • Partial sun — arborvitae, balsam fir, douglas fir
  • Shade — Canada hemlock, Canada yew, Japanese yew

Concolor or white fir is good alternative to Colorado blue spruce.

Colorado blue spruce – Not recommended

Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens) is no longer recommended for Minnesota landscapes due to its susceptibility to several debilitating spruce diseases, most specifically Rhizosphaera needle cast and Cytospora canker.

Concolor fir (Abies concolor) and some white spruce are good large tree alternatives with blue-green foliage to Colorado spruce. There are also some blue spruce dwarf cultivars that are on the market as well, such as ‘Fat Albert’ (15 feet tall by 3 feet wide).

Question: What’s the best way to care for a potted Christmas tree both during the festive season and beyond?

Answer: Essentially, a potted Christmas tree will have been grown for at least a year in its container and so really what you’re buying is a temporary houseplant. When buying one, find out if your potted Christmas tree is actually container-grown or has been recently dug up and potted, as there is often confusion between the two.

To put it simply, the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) secretary, Harry Brightwell, explains to us: ‘A container-grown tree has been grown in the pot. A potted tree may be container-grown, but is often dug from the plantation and replanted in a pot prior to sale.’

With container-grown trees, roots are developed in the container, so is said to be stronger and more healthy (as it hasn’t been dug up). ‘It is often possible to lift the whole root system out of the pot and see the closely woven root that has grown in the pot,’ BCTGA told Horticulture Week.

Here’s some key advice to follow for potted Christmas trees:

• You should bring your potted tree indoors as late as possible, advises the RHS. The weekend before Christmas is ideal, and it’s advised not to keep living trees in the house any longer than 12 days.

• As with most houseplants, it’s the watering that’s the thing. Too much and your potted tree will die of ‘trench foot’, too little and the leaves will turn brown and fall. Always check that the container has good drainage and some sort of saucer underneath to catch any excess water.

• Avoid placing your tree close to a fire or radiator – this will cause excessive moisture loss and needle drop.

Shop potted Christmas trees at Dobbies Dobbies

• It’s best to check the soil every day to make sure it’s not drying out; even small trees will have an awful lot of roots and if you knock the container off you’ll see just how full of roots and how little soil there is in there.

• That is the main downside of container trees, the roots of all trees are pretty ferocious and the taller the tree the more roots are needed to keep the water supply going. So to work in containers, these trees tend to be pretty small, around 3-5 feet. Anything larger just isn’t going to be happy in a pot and is going to be very difficult to manoeuvre.

• And that’s the issue about planting it in the garden and bringing it in again next year. Planting out will probably be fine, put it in a sunny spot and it’ll grow well and put on a season of growth both in its branches and its roots. Once a tree gets to about six feet the roots needed to sustain it are going to be more spread than can be put into a container. If you have to chop off a lot of the roots to bring it indoors next year it may also be unstable once planted back out, so it might be a good idea to stake it in place firmly.

• Once planted in the garden, it’s important to place your potted Christmas tree in the right spot. Put fir trees in a sheltered spot as they like cool, moist conditions, and think about its position during hot summers, as it shouldn’t be in direct sunlight. Also, ensure it’s well watered during dry spells.

• One way to slow the growth during the year (of both the top and the roots) would be to keep it in its container but it will need an awful lot of looking after especially through the summer to stop it drying out.

So, depending on the height of the tree, you may be able to plant it in the garden and then bring it in for one more season but it’s unlikely to be feasible after that.

From: House Beautiful magazine (with thanks to gardening expert Caroline Tilston).

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25 of the best Christmas baubles and tree decorations

Garden Retreat Ladybird Tree Decoration, Red johnlewis.com £8.00

Wildlife lovers are sure to love this ladybird bauble – it will be a quirky touch to the Christmas tree.

Giraffe with Crown Decoration grahamandgreen.co.uk £5.10

This festive giraffe with a crown is decorated with glitter and jewels for seasonal sparkle.

Christmas cheer decorations Sass & Belle asos.com £10.00

Celebrate Christmas in style with these mini novelty bottle designs of your favourite alcohol beverages.

Personalised Christmas Jumper Bauble Set Create Gift Love notonthehighstreet.com £33.00

These kitsch wooden Christmas jumper decorations – available in four different festive designs and printed in vintage reds, greens and pink – can be personalised for every member of the family.

Artichoke Tassel Tree Decoration – Green, £25 amara.com

Fruit and vegetable-inspired baubles continue to soar in popularity, and this artichoke tree decoration ticks all the boxes.

Garden Retreat Hummingbird Tree Decoration, Green johnlewis.com £3.50

How beautiful is this hummingbird tree decoration? In a striking, rich green colour, it’s at the very top of our wish list.

Sequin pear bauble selfridges.com £6.00

There’s no such thing as OTT at Christmas. This sparkling pear-shaped bauble is extravagantly festive and we love it.

Gold Metal Beaded Crown Christmas Tree Bauble asda.com £3.00

Bring a regal touch to your Christmas tree decorations with this stylish crown bauble covered in beads.

Four Hanging Alpacas coxandcox.co.uk £20.00

Have you seen a cuter tree decoration? These charming alpacas will delight all ages and will look great on the Christmas tree. Better still, it’s available in a pack of four.

Silver Glitter Astronaut Christmas Tree Bauble asda.com £1.50

Effortlessly cool, this astronaut bauble in silver glitter rings stands out from the crowd.

ABC Ice Cream Cone Bauble, Multi John Lewis & Partners johnlewis.com £7.00

If you’re going to buy yourself one quirky bauble this year, make it this fabulous ice cream cone.

3 Piece Pre-Lit Christmas Houses Holiday Shaped Ornament Set wayfair.co.uk £25.99

Light up your tree with these super cute Christmas houses for an extra dose of festive magic.

Four Golden String Stars coxandcox.co.uk £12.50

Modern, striking and stylish, these shimmering gold string stars look simply beautiful.

Gingerbread men wreath bauble selfridges.com £10.00

Deck out your tree with sweet treats! Unfortunately, this gingerbread wreath isn’t edible, but it sure does look good.

Exotic Orchids Bauble libertylondon.com £14.95

Orchids are one of our favourite plants and we love the delicate detailing on this bauble.

Marble pattern Christmas baubles set of three 8cm selfridges.com £14.00

If you love marble on your kitchen worktops then you’ll love it just as much on your Christmas tree!

Hot Air Balloon Decoration grahamandgreen.co.uk £3.95

This stylish hot air balloon will look beautiful placed amongst the branches of your tree.

Garden Retreat Wellie Boots Bauble, Green johnlewis.com £5.00

These wellington boots are just perfect for the garden lover.

Stud Bauble marksandspencer.com £2.80

Looking for something less traditional? This studded bauble certainly has the ‘wow factor’.

Typewriter Tree Decoration – Black/Gold amara.com

This ornately detailed black and gold typewriter is one of our favourites.

2 Pack Glass Striped Gold Tree Decorations marksandspencer.com £3.00

The simplicity of these striped tree-shaped baubles really make for a wonderful addition to the Christmas tree.

Exotic Sunflower Decoration libertylondon.com £15.96

Sunflower Christmas trees are one of Pinterest’s biggest trends this year. The next best thing? This bright sunflower tree decoration.

Traditions Street Lamp Bauble, Multi johnlewis.com £8.00

This traditional street lamp decoration is a must-have for a classic red and green Christmas tree theme.

White Glass Open Front Snowy Tree Christmas Bauble debenhams.com £5.00

Create a dreamy winter wonderland setting with this open front snowy tree bauble.

Golf clubs glass Christmas decoration 13cm selfridges.com £1.00

Nowadays you can find a bauble for pretty much everything. Golf lover? You’ll absolutely love this.

The House Beautiful team From the team at House Beautiful

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