Plant Spotlight: Mugo Pine
July 29, 2020
Mugo pine (Pinus mugo) or Swiss Mountain Pine is a beauty in the home landscape. While attractive all four seasons, mugo pines are the darlings of the winter season because of their consistent, attractive evergreen needles. They are particularly good shrubs for city or industrialized areas because they tolerate pollution well and grow in a wide variety of soils including sandy and clay conditions. Mugo pines prefer cooler summers and like moisture, but cannot tolerate wet soil. Purchasing this shrub can sometimes be frustrating because seed-produced plants do not always grow true to the parent’s size. Be sure to purchase plants that are hybridized and ask questions about the plant’s lineage at the nursery in order to have more consistent and expected growth. It has a lovely pine scent and can be used as a bonsai plant.
When, Where, and How to Plant
Plant mugo pine in spring or fall in a location that has full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Amend the soil with organic matter and a couple buckets of gravel if it needs increased drainage. Balled and burlapped plants should have as much of the burlap and wire basket removed as possible. Water the root ball and backfill well. Place the rest of the soil around the root ball, forming a “well” at the base of the plant to help hold moisture.
Mulch the soil with a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost or organic matter, being cautious not to smother the shrub’s trunk. Water regularly the first season to help establish the shrub. Once it is established, it will handle drought well. Cautiously apply fertilizer because mugo pine can suffer fertilizer burn. Prune mugo pine to remove dieback or to shape the plant and keep it within bounds. Mugos are often used as bonsai plants and are relatively easy to train into shapes.
Mugo pine can be used as a wonderful low maintenance design solution in city settings, xeric landscapes, and Japanese gardens. Plant as a feature plant or en masse, and be sure to consider the winter snow when planting; mugo pines look beautiful in a winter garden.
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