Alright, I lied. Last time I said I would give you more smaller shade trees. That will have to wait a week. Instead of continuing with my theme from my last post, I am going to talk about spring Mugo pine care tasks to keep it looking nice and staying compact. I am changing subjects, because now is the time to do this in a lot of areas.
First step in Mugo pine care
The first thing you should do is to assess your mugo pine’s current condition. There are three areas your should consider. They are:
- Common pests
- Shape & Desnsity
Common Pests– Is there any scale or sawfly on it? Pine sawfly is a green and black caterpillar like insect that chews pines needles. It’s favorite food is Mugo pine. They are easiest to spot by looking for spots where the needles have appeared to be striped away. Your #1 spring mugo pine care priority should be to remove these little turds. Pine scale is another common insect that affect mugo pines. It appears as small whitish specs that cover the needles. It is less common but can make your pine’s needles turn brown and just look like heck.
Density & Shape – How dense is the pine. Is it foliage sparse, overly dense, or just about right.
The ideal shape that most people want for there mugo pine is that of a rounded mound.
How does your mugo pine compare to ideal shape? Are there gaps of foliage missing anywhere. If there are you will want to let the pine grow into that area and fill the space.
Size – In an ideal world, how big would you like this pine to be? How does its current size compare? Is it way overgrown or would you like it to be larger?
Next mugo pine care job, treat (a nice way of saying kill) any pests
If you have sawfly or scale you should get rid of it or they quickly will make your mugo look like a sick puppy.
My favorite mugo pine care job is picking off and squishing pine sawfly. If you are a wus, whimp, or sissy you can spray them with insecticidal soap or any number of other nasty insecticides like Sevin.
If you see just a little bit of pine scale you can rip off the needles that have it. Then dispose of them away from the pine to keep them from spreading. If you have more than a few, I would apply a little imidacloprid (such as Bayer Tree and shrub care) to your pine. This insecticide is absorbed into the plant and moves throughout it.
Candle your mugo pine
Candles on a mugo pine are tender shoots that appear in Spring. The entire season of growth of the branch and needles are compressed into these candle shaped growths. They are typically in bunches with one main candle surrounded by smaller candles. This main candle becomes the long straight branch and the smaller candles become side branches.
Reducing candle length
Reducing the pine’s candle length, reduces the eventual size the shoot will grow to this year.
You will want to cut candles with a pruner or snap off with your fingers to reduce their eventual length. You have to do this before the candles become hard and woody in mid summer. Otherwise they will not form buds for next years growth at their ends and they will just die in a few years.
You want to do this usually by the middle to end of June in my Chicago zone 5 area. If you are south of me, you will want to do this earlier (like now).
The percentage of the existing candle you remove, will reduce the eventual length of the candle by that amount. So if you remove 50% of the candle, it will only grow to roughly 50% of what it’s eventual size would have been.
Reduce the candles that are growing outside the profile of the shrub the most. Leave more of the ones that are well within the profile and they will fill a space.
Removing individual candles
If you just reduce the length of your candles every year, your pine will grow increasingly thick. Eventually, you will want to thin the candles by removing some of them to keep it from getting even thicker.
If your pine is sparse – You will want to leave all leave all inner candles and completely remove the main candle at the end of each branches, leaving the secondary candles. These secondary candles will usually not even need to be shorten, unless you REALLY want to keep your Mugo from growing much at all, then you can reduce them a bit.
If your pine is already too dense – Remove most candles at the end of branches, leaving only 1 candle. For candles inside the bush only leave 1 or 2 candles.
What candles not to shorten or remove
In spots where you want your pine to grow to conform to the ideal shape, you have to let it grow in that direction by leaving candles that will grow into that area longer. If there are gaps find branches that could grow to fill the gap from the inside of the pine outward or upward to fill a space.
Here is a quick demonstration of candling.
John Roxby says
Great column, Jim! Mugo question: I would like to move a small mugo from my garden (planted about 2 years ago) to a large container. I am in zone 5b, Concord NH. Do you think this will work? I plan to do this move in early fall here. Should I use potting soil or a mix of potting and garden soil? Thanks, John
Claude Caruana says
This is one of the most informative pages on Mugos that I have found. Thank you.
I have purchased a 45 year old Bonsai Mugo which has been formed into pads. I planted it on my front lawn (it’s around 2 meters high). South facing, full sun. I live in Luxembourg – so zone 6/7
This was back in March of the current year, so I am still going through my first cycle, and I am not sure I am doing things right.
Back in Late May/Early June, it was very vigorous, and I proceeded to pinch around half the height of each candle. In hindsight I think it was too early and I should have left them grow a little more, or not pinch them at all and then work through the tree in August.
Now (Late August/Early September) The pine has shed a LOT of needs (To the extent that if I plunge my hand into one of the pads I can bring out a fistful of brown needles). This weekend I cleared it all out, but it’s looking much sparser than when I initially purchased it. The outer “shell” still looks healthy and green.
My questions: While clearing, I found an intricate networks of dead branches (still flexible, around 2-3 mm thick). I figured these were causing the needles to stay in place and not allowing them to fall to the grown, so i pruned them back to the branches. Was this the right thing to do / should I have waited until December / not done this at all ?
So far I did not fertilize it (I did put down around 300L of pre-fertilized compost around and underneath when I planted it – says it last 100 days on the package). Should I fertilize now or wait until Spring?
Is there anything more I can do to encourage it to grow thick and lush like it originally was? I wish I could attach a photo but the comments section doesn’t allow that!
I think what you have done was correct and your timing was fine. It will take a year or two to see results but they should be coming. Pines are slower to respond but will.
Thank you! Would you have any suggestions on drip irrigation: I currently have a drip line, but I am not sure whether to water frequently and slowly, or increase the flow and water it, say, once a week. Generally speaking the location it is in dries up very quickly. The compost/dirt that came with the root ball is very sandy and always seems to give a “dry” reading on regular soil moisture meters.
My husband and I just landscaped our front yard(Chicago suburb) after 5 years of being in our home(that’s what happens when you have 2 babies:), and got rid of masses of 50 year old yews.
We found 2 dwarf Mugo pine topiaries we love. We are wondering if we can put them in pots opposite our front door? Wondering if you have any experience with this?
I found a garden chat from Toronto saying as long as the container is two times the size of the rootball, not on concrete, and not full sun, it should survive the winter.
We just spent a fair amount and I don’t want to lose them.
Thanks so much for your advice!
Assuming the container is large enough and the plants watered when needed most trees and shrubs can survive winter in a container if the plant is two zones hardier than your climate, which I believe mugo pines are.
March 20, 2020. Buffalo NY area. Your post has been very helpful and greatly appreciated.
The mugo pines I have are close to 80 years old. They were very special to my father but he has been deceased since 2000. And while the pines need a bunch more TLC, I wondered if I should add an inch or 2 of new topsoil under them. The trees are about 4 feet high and the base area reminds me of a bonsai plant. The ground seems very dry and hard but I don’t want to introduce anything new if just giving it a little soaking during very dry times would be enough along with all the care you suggested.
I have a mug online in the corner of my yard, which faces North. On the other side of the fence I have a large bush that is about 8 feet high. The mugo pine leans away from the fence northward and leaves a huge space behind it. It looks bad. How can I get the mugo to grow filling in the corner of the fence? Love this mugo…started it from a small seedling. It looks healthy but just has a bad shape. Thanks in advance for your response.
Caroline B. says
We only started candling our huge 25 year old mugo a few years ago. I noticed this year that there is new growth on the bare stems. Is it possible this shrub will become reasonably full again from this new growth? (It’s about 10 feet high and 15 feet wide with about 50% of the height being bare wood and open in the center.)
Yes, if you are patient and start reducing some of the long spindly branches. It will take several years.
Informative site! I have a mugo pine that was sickly when I moved to the property 10 years ago and finally now is too diseased to save. It clearly is full of fungal disease. I want to pull it out and move another ornamental bush into that spot. I would like to know if/how I should treat the area to reduce the risk of disease spreading to the next plant I put in that location. I was thinking of an azalea since it is crowded in its current spot and they like the acidic soil that evergreens foster. Thank you for your expertise.
Thanks. No I would not trear the soil as the disease is probably pine specific (although you could solarize it). Don’t expect the soil to be much more acidic then the rest of your yards just because it was under a pine. It might be alittle lower pH but it won’t be drastically different. It might not be a bad idea to mix/till in a couple of inches of good compost into the soil before planting.
Thank you so much for your prompt and again knowledgeable information. I had to research what solarizing soil is and I like that idea. We have had an extremely wet year and I lost another different species of bush to fungus also but it is not in a prominent place and no other plants are near it, so that issue will wait. The time frame for solarizing the soil also puts transplant time at early fall which probably also gives the new bush a better chance of survival. It is currently under an eastern pine that is crowding it out. It’s actually quite hardy now, loving the shade from the tree, but soon the honeymoon will be over. While I hate to pull the mugo pine, I had to admit it is dead like the parrot in the Monty Python skit . I will go get some clear plastic and something to place in front of it to make the area more aesthetically pleasing while “under construction”. Thank you again, so grateful for your generosity in sharing your expertise.
The fungus was probably specific to pines or at least conifers, so if you plant something else there probably is not a need to solarize, but it would not hurt.
Is it okay to remove the entire candle if I want the plant to stay about the size it is now? And do I understand that cutting into the actual wood of a branch will kill it? Meaning that I can only shape by controlling new growth, not by cutting anything back? Thanks.
We have two mugos on our front lawn. Both have a few branches that are completely dead. Should I cut them off? We just moved into our place two summers ago. Doesn’t appear candeling has occured. I will start next year. Is it ok to remove some branches that are over grown. Specifically near the bottom which are covering our grass. I don’t care if those branches don’t come back, just domt want the tree to die.
Thanks in advance!
Yes and yes.
I have a dwarf mugo pine that really isn’t happy in the area I planted it when I bought my house 8 years ago. I’d like to move it, but am not sure when would be a good time and if if would survive the move. Any recommendations on when and how to make a successful transplant?
Your best bet is to move it in early spring, which is April for me.
Thank you! April is also early spring for me, so I’ll wait until then.
Thanks this was really helpful mine was not doing so good but with your tips I think I can bring it back
I planted mugo pines last spring. They wintered real well…..very healthy. I was reading that you should prune the candles back, so I pruned them back 3/4 off last week. Should I have done this? Is there a reason why you should?
Yes Bev, the reason is to keep them from growing too much. This helps keep them from outgrowing there spot as well as causing them to grow denser. If you dont like how they grow this year take off a bit less of then candle say 1/2.
I do want them to grow, it’s only their second year, but I also want them to be dense, so thank you for the advise. Depending on the sizes of the candles next year I will take less off accordingly. I think I am starting to understand the reasoning and method of pruning mugo pines.
Thank you so much Jim.
Denise Mirto says
regular store bought insecticidal soap shouldn’t hurt the wildlife-but this is also a LOT cheaper
Linda Ahlgren says
Many thanks, always looking for things that don’t hurt the bird and the bees!!
Denise Mirto says
I’ve been so happy of late-no worms on my mugos——-until TODAY. I’m running out to get some Dr Bronner organic peppermint soap to make a mix in my 2 gallon sprayer to knock off the little masses of squirmy worms down—Thought I was off the hook this year
Linda Ahlgren says
I have googled and can’t find a recipe using the Dr. Bronner organic peppermint soap for insecticidal soap. Hope you can share with me. Thank You!
Sorry, I just buy my insecticidal soap. I don’t make it.
Linda-5 tablespoons to each gallon of water-all worms are now DEAD-doesn’t hurt the birds or bees and much cheaper than buying and smells great
Very busy season on the too-big & tall mugo pines in our Kenosha patio area… Sawflies and bees! I want to get rid of the flies, but not the bees. What are the bees doing? Doesn’t seem they are eating the flies (drat!)..
Smash the sawfies with you fingers or drown them in soapy water.
We live in Gardnerville, Nevada – Northwestern part of the state near Lake Tahoe. 2 years ago spring we planted a row of 5 Monrovia dwarf mugos 6-8 ft apart based on their tag info stating growth 5′ ft h x 5′ w hoping to create a medium height privacy hedge in our front yard. The plants were maybe 12″ x 12″ when we put them in, they candled last spring beautifully but I sware they grew maybe 4″ at most. At this rate we will be 80 before there is a privacy hedge. Will the growth rate pick up this year being that it’s their second spring? Is there anything that will safely speed their growth? Or is 4″ a year just the way it’s gonna be?
Second question. I loved Daconil for my Manhattans and was going to also use it for the mugos but can’t find it anywhere anymore. Has it been removed from the market? And if yes, what would you recommend as a replacement?
Last question. Happy you recommend Bayer tree and shrub for mugos, we already buy several gallons a year to protect our other pines from the pine bark beetles that are destroying so much of the forests in the Sierras. Do pine bark beetles go after mugos too?
Thank you in advance for your time!
This summer I tried Miracle Grow Singles made for watering cans, 24-8-16, at 1/2 strength for my garden orchids which are next to a Mugo pine. After some weeks, the lowest needles turned brown and fell off. This browning seems to have stopped now, but I am wondering if I burned the roots with the 50% strength fertilizer.? We’ve had a rainy summer but it didn’t seem bothered by that until after the fertilizer was applied to the adjacent plants. There’s no bugs or white stuff on the Mugo, so it looks healthy otherwise. Your thoughts?
It’s possible. They could also have just gotten shaded out or been the year’s needles that were to fall off that year. Even evergreens loose needles every year, they are just ones from several years ago.
I live near you,. I’ve got what I assume is a Mugo pine, maybe 30-40 years old. 15 years ago it came under my “care.” I The only “rules” I’ve been following are:
1) Remove anything dead, and thin foliage when too dense.
2) Remove any candles when they get to my height.
3) The plant is near the corner where the driveway and sidewalk meet. I remove anything that grows past that corner.
I think I hoped it would spread and spread until it covered the yard, and I wouldn’t have to cut the grass anymore. (Yes, I’m half serious about that. It would definitely be a cool effect.) I thought maybe the branches would spread out radially and root in the grass periodically, sort of like melon vines do. Turns out that pines aren’t very much like melons; it didn’t work, and the result is that the foliage has formed a foot or so deep “shell” all around It’s not exactly ugly, but as the branches get longer and spreadier, it’s clear that without support, they’re just going to flop over at some point. Another possibility, I thought, was that I might help it to form a “see-through” tree like I’ve seen at some other houses. Maybe that might have been possible if I’d started long ago, but, well, I didn’t. In its heart, this plant pines (sorry for that) for horizontality.
Do you have any ideas, aside from removing the whole thing and starting anew?
There actually is a lot of variety in the ultimate size mugo pines can grow to. My neighbor at my old house had a gorgeous old huge one on the middle of his front yard that a new owner proceeded to rip up and plant a bunch of ornamental grasses in place of. My wife loved that huge pine bush and almost cried. Most don’t grow that large as they are selected to grow smaller.
It sounds to me like it might be time to reimagine your front yard.
Thanks, Jim. You’re probably right. The needles are already starting to shed. I always get some shedding, but this seems excessive, especially since the weather this season has been good.
By the way, I’m endlessly amused by lightly shaking the branches during pollination season, and watching the huge pollen cloud that emerge. So many pollen grains, almost all of which will fail.
My 5′ scrawny Mugo was completely stripped by sawfly larvae this year. Will the tree survive without needles?
Valerie Simpson says
I have 4 mugo pines in my front yard. They have been beautiful. 2 are newer & doing fine. However, my 2 older ones are looking pretty bad. They are all brown underneath. ( that’s why I guess I haven’t noticed ). What should I do?? I feel they must be diseased . I found a few bag worms on one,but I don’t think that is the main problem. I didn’t find any on the other one.
Clean out the dead needles and cut out any completely dead branches to improve air flow. It sounds like they might have some blight. Next Spring as the candles are beginning to open you can start spraying a preventative fungicide on the newly opening needles. This will prevent it from infecting the new needles. Google “pine blight on Mugo pines” and you can see if it looks like that may be your problem.
There are other things like over watering, deicing salt, etc. that can cause similar symptoms so really look at the needles that are dead to see if there are patterns that make those of blight.
Jane Carter says
I have Mugo pine shrubs. All planted 3-4 years ago. One of them has not grown at all. And the other two (all are in a row). Are tripled in size. This spring and summer about 4 weeks ago. Some of the tops,middle are turning brown. On all three shrubs Do you think pine needle blight? Should I get some Bayer Tree and Shrub care?
They are on the west facing with some shelter, so sun exposure could be a bit different for the stunted shrub
Please advise. Thanks.
I COULD be pine needle blight and if it is Bayer Tree and shrub care will NOT help. It could also be a moisture issue (probably too much) as well as a severe case of spider mites. Preventative fungicide could help prevent issues if used next spring but they will not help current infected needles.
Sounds like you might want to take a branch sample to a Plant clinic at a Botanic Garden or University to get a better ID of what is causing the problem.
denise mirto says
I got rid of the yucky caterpillars a few weeks ago with my homemade insecticidal soap (Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap & water )and now I’m noticing something that we as kids called “snake spit” on the branches. I just read about the Spittlebug nymph-will they do damage?
I have never found them in quantities to cause serious damage however you can manually crush the nymphs in spittle. If you have a heavy infestations it can harm the plant.
I have a mugo pine that is 6 feet tall and almost 30 years old planted on the northwest exposure. It doesn’t get much sun. It’s branches are very bare except for needles at the top one-fourth of the bush. The birds LOVE this bush. I want to replace it but wonder if a mugo pine is the best choice. (It did last almost 30 years, even in mostly shade and we never trimmed it.) Are ther other shrubs that would be a better choice?
The birds love the cover of the evergreen foliage. Depending upon where you are there are tons of different plants that can do that. Some of these may provide other benefits to the birds such as berries or at least may be better adapted to your shady conditions. Just as two examples, a Dwarf Canadian hemlock or a yew such as a capitata Japanese yew will tolerate the shade better.
Hi! I live in Utah. We had heavy snow in are area this year. I also have 2 dwarf mugo pines. The snow smashed them. I read an earlier post from someone that this happened to. The inside of the pine has either broken limbs , or they are smashed so flat the middle of the plant looks like it’s missing. The plants are 14 years old. I have never really trimmed them and they need it. I’m not sure how to proceed. Do I wait and see what will happen this growing season? Or do I candle the it? I have removed the limbs that were broken, by the weight of the snow. The plant is thick , around the outside and either bare or smashed in the middle. Not sure how to proceed. One more thing. Should I tie the mugo pines up in the fall, just incase we have heavy snow fall again? Thanks a bunch! 🙂
They probably will be bare for quite a while. Sun hitting the bare branches may induce them to put buds on the old wood, but this is more likely with a younger plant. You probably wont see any new growth on the bare spots till NEXT year. If you don’t have any by the end of next Summer don’t expect to ever get any. You can prune the none broken branches a bit. This can help to induce regrowth further back on the branch.
Have ten mugs down my drive way are 20years old I have never cleaned the dead needles from base should I?
It’s not a bad idea if your pines have any needle blight, as the spores will reinfect new growth. If you don’t have blight in your area, it does not matter but won’t hurt.
They’re definitely mine, but I don’t want to kill them. If I cut carefully, do you think they will survive?
Yes as long as you leave on most of the foliage and remove say 25% at most a year.
Can I trim the lower branches of my mugo pines to create a rather large (mine are about 6′ tall) bonsai looking plant?
I give you permission as long as it is actually YOUR mugo.
We have a very mature mugo in our front yard that has suffered damage from a few heavy snowfalls in Montana over the years. The branches are all flattened over toward the ground on one side. Can we tie it up to reshape it or is it just going to be this way forever now?
You can try. If the wood inside is cracked, you
might be able to tie is up and have it grow new wood to secure the branch in the new position.
It really depends on the extent of the damage.
You might as well give it a try.
We have two mugs pines. One is doing ok but the other is approx four feet high and only has greenry on the top. So there is all this naked branches . My husband says that trimming them down one will bring back the lower growth. Any suggestions?
It will probably kill them if I am understanding how they look.
Pines don’t usually grow buds on branches without needles. That being said, with some pruning on top, you can induce buds to form on older wood lower down the branch.
This is usually the case when you suddenly open sunlight to previously shaded branches and remove the apical dominance of the leading shoot on the branch.
I would suggest trying to lighten the top growth to allow the most sun to get into the middle of the shrub, but leave at least 50% of it or else you will probably kill it.
Sorry-should have been a little clearer. This is a mugo pine and the only greenery is like the top two feet and the bottom first two to three feet is bare (which probably supports the top) Any suggestions as I’d like to take it out and plant some color.
Thanks for your help.
Connie Subbert says
We have recently moved to a new home where there are Mugo pine shrubs they looked very good when we moved in June and now being September we noticed 1 of the shrubs has a white powdery look to part of the shrub and the bottom seems to be browning. I have never had these tyoes of shrub. What can I do now this late in the season?
It sounds like pine needle scale. There are numerous pesticides to treat them. You could use Bayer Tree and shrub care.
Shane Solow says
Last month I bought a “Jacobson” Mugo Pine and it looked healthy but it was a rainy week and I suppose that and transplanting it stressed it out. Within only ten days it had turned completely brown and died. I think it was fungus from overwatering and replanting into a porch container. Anyhow, I tried Neem oil when it was half brown to no avail. The nursery was kind enough to send a replacement and It also looks green and healthy – it arrived two days ago and I’ve transplanted it and given it water but I don’t think I should water it again for at least a week and if it rains perhaps should put an umbrella over it. I’ve also sprayed it with Neem oil to be on the safe side. However I noticed this morning some yellowing and I’m very worried the same thing will happen. Any advice is welcome – thanks
Neem oil can burn plants if used during hot weather. I would not use it or any other horticultural oil during the Summer months at all.
I have not used it myself, but typically only use oil’s as dormant sprays during Spring or Fall although on evergreens they risky to use any time.
we just planted new mugo pines in the fall. This spring there are areas where they turned brown and appear dead to me. My landscaper said it was due to winter frost burn and it should recover. So far, it hasn’t. He said he’d come back later this summer and remove all the brown stuff and trim the rest of the mugo pine in the process. After reading your post- I’m a little concerned that he has no idea what he’s doing. Am I correct in saying that if we prune the candles now, the plant will just die?
The individual stems and candles will not form buds, but it could cause some dormant buds to break. Your landscaper can also selectively remove side branches or cut back to them and what’s left (as long as there are candles left unpruned to grow,) could recover just fine. He very well may know how to selectively prune it.
Hi, I have a dwarf Mugo that looks very good. In April I watered with aquarium water thinking it would act like a fertilizer. The candles have come in really tall and I’m wondering if that is why. After reading your comments I’ll probably prune them 50% in June. What do you think. Thanks.
Who knows, it It may have helped. I would candle them sooner rather than later as candles can get hard quick in June.
Raya Kovensky says
We have two mugo pines that have grown so big and wondered if they can be trimmed at this time of the year (May 2015). . . At the moment they have little pine cones that are on the bush. We need to know if the mugo pine can be trimmed now. They are taking over the entire “territory”.
Thank you in advance of your answer. . .
They can be candled now but that won’t reduce their size, it will just keep them from growing too much this year.They can be pruned at any time, but make sure they have bus that will be growing. They will not grow from branches that don’t have new growth. They are definitely not prunable in the same way as normal bushes.
Hi. Our mugos are growing cones this year and we also noticed a brighter yellow growth on the main branches but it looks softer and powdery? What is it?
Flowers with pollen.
Ed Dukle says
Hi Jim, My mugo pine is about 4 foot high and is growing cones and also has the yellow growth. You have mentioned that the yellow growth are flowers with pollen. My question is: Can I reduce the over-all height by cutting 4 to 6 inches off the top of the mugo without harm to the pine? This cut would be below the cones and the flowers and may be as much as 8 inches because of the uneven heighth. It is now the last week in March and we live in Northern Minnesota. Thank You for your assistance.
My neighbor has a twelve foot tall pine, I think Mugo, about twelve inches from our property line. I would like to do some sculpting of the ground near there: dig lower some areas and mound up others. Would either of those actions hurt the pine? Thanks.
Probably will. If you can avoid cutting the larger roots you can minimize the damage you cause. You could kill the tree or it might not even notice what you are doing. It depends what percentage of it’s roots you are disturbing.
Mary Ann Blindt says
I have a very large mugo pine near my front entrance and I want to remove and replace it with something else like korean spice viburnum. Is this something the average gardener can do or should I pay someone to remove it? Does is have deep thick roots? It is about 7 years old. Can I replant over it without removing all or most of the roots? I live in the suburban Chicago area. Thanks!
You should remove it and you should try to dig out most of it’s roots. It will be some work, so you might want to pay someone to do it for you.
I wouldn’t plant over it without digging it out.
Mary Ann Blindt says
Thanks for your help – I think we will get someone to take it out.
We have mugo pines in are back yard ,they are very sparse at the bottoms ,Can u please tell me if there is any way of filling them back in they are about 8 feet high,they are also 20 feet long
they serve as a privacy wall for our pit area ,but because they are getting so sparse we can now see the back of our house and not so private any more ,Any suggestion would be helpful,THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME MARIAN HAYES
There is not any real way of doing what you are asking for with any certainty, especially if they are older plants.
If you prune them heavy on the top portions of the plant to open up sunlight to reach the inside of the bushes you may get some growth to re-sprout on lower branches.
Also cut the main leader of each stem back a little bit to a side branch as this can help to stimulate interior regrowth by removing apical dominance of the main leading candle.
Betty Vogelaar says
Like Lori (?), I too have had some deer come and devastate my mugo pine. It is about 12 years old and has been transplanted in a rock covered area along with some other plants.
This winter was a tough one and the deer came and practically stripped it which makes it look very sad and damaged. I am ready to cut it back but will it survive or should I be selective in trimming it? Only a few tops have candles on it and even they look spindly. Please, help me! Thank you, Betty
I am not sure what it looks like, but you probably would be best to be very selective about what you remove. Buds can occasionally develop on old wood as long as they are still alive, but it is not a sure thing. Leave as much as you can that has live candles on it. Remove branches that don’t have any. hopefully dormant buds will break back further on damaged branches and fill in eventually. Prune as little as you can for now.
“The deer had a feast on our mugo pines this past winter. Any tips to fertilize them to give them a boost? They are looking sparse, sad and brown in parts. Any tips or advice is greatly appreciated.”
I would apply a balanced slow release fertilizer like Osmocote 14-14-14 now. It won’t make a big difference but will help promote growth a little.
You may also want to candle any sections of the pine that were not in the area that was damaged, while leaving the damaged area candles alone. This will help to balance the look of it.
joe bonn says
I have two mungos and one of them has spread out and looks spare in the center. Is this a sign of deficient soil or the fact that I never pruned them. Also, do we need to feed these in the spring?
It’s probably not the soil although I would not rule it out.
How much sun does it receive. What you are describing sounds like it could be caused by the plant not getting enough sun.
Pine sawfly eating old needles in spring could also cause it look sparse. Look for them as the candles are expanding. In my area, if you have a mugo pine you will most likely get some pine sawfly larvae feeding on it every year. Them eating the old needles and a lack of candling to keep the length of the shoots from extending too long can certainly produce a mugo with a sparse center.
I have a question can you cut these back
Yes Marianne you can cut them back, but they will not grow where they do not have buds. So if you cut them back to a branch with no needles and buds, they will not grow and that branch will die. If you do a reduction cut back to another sub branch, the subbranch will continue to grow. See my post here for more info on reduction cuts: http://www.jimanderson.net/pruning-to-reduce-regrowth/
Wanted to read this, as I have 6, 9-10 year old mugos and have left them be. Would like to reduce some of the branching. The link is not working.
Thanks, Janet from upstate NY
Stephen Knapp says
Jim – we’ve just moved to this property and this is the first summer talking care of it – Central Massachusetts. The two Mugo Pines here have started to brown out very quickly – one more than the other. We are in a sustained drought here and just learning to take care of the different plants. Will check for blight. Would good ground soakings help?
Once a needle is brown it is dead. Hopefully the buds for next years growth have not died from lack of water. Long and deep watering is always a good idea, jut be sure to let the plant dry out between waterings.
Will do, Jim. Thank you!
Hello, Jim. I’m very glad I found this post!
There is a mugo pine in my front yard that was planted by previous owners. It is huge–at least 6′ high and 8′ across. I doubt that it’s ever been pruned. The front yard is sloped and the mugo is bordered by a sidewalk and a driveway on two sides, and it has grown over the edge of the driveway by about a foot. It’s difficult to water due to its placement and the slope of the yard. I think it is probably original to the house which is 18 years old.
It’s rangy to the point that I can see through it and I’ve been thinking of removing it. My neighbor has a much smaller one that they have up-limbed, but I think this one needs a little more than that to make it attractive.
Is there a way to improve its looks and reduce it in size by maybe a third?
I am sure it can be improved, whether it will look great or not for a few years I couldn’t say without seeing it. How exactly to do what you are asking is a bit longer than I could explain in a single post or a response to your comment. I will definitely put this topic on my to do list and will cover this, so keep on eye out for something in a while.
I am also interested in learning about this because we have an overgrown Mugo that I’d like to learn how to reduce in size if possible, even if it takes a few years and looks ugly in the process. It’s a pretty, healthy pine… but overlarge!
It can be done. It’s kind of hard to put into words but I will put this on my topic idea list and see if I can help you.
I would like to read what you had to say about how to reduce my mugo size, too. I see you were going to put this on your topic list, but I don’t know where to find that info.
Also, I tried this link, http://www.jimanderson.net/pruning-to-reduce-regrowth/, and it did not work.
Appreciate your help!!
Like Liz, I have brown needles, mainly on the tips of the branch. Some branches are all brown. Could it be brown blight and if it is, can we do anything but wait? It looks kind of scary- we would hate to lose these beauties…
Thanks, Charlie in Detroit
Yes is could be a pine blight. I am guessing that Detroit has had a fairly humid spring and summer (like us in Chicago) and it seems that the fungal diseases are pretty bad this year. They could also have been stressed from last years drought and that could be impacting them also. Herbicide damage or dog pee can also cause similar symptoms, but it sounds like blight to me.
Liz Jamison says
I have a beautiful mugo pine that has browning inner needles which are dying and falling off. Is it a fungus and how can I treat it?
It may be needle blight, such as Brown spot needle blight. You can’t do anything now as it is a spring time infection that is only showing symptoms now. You can spray the new needles next year as they expand in the spring. You will want to spray with a fungicide that treats pine needle blight. The usual one is Daconil. You will need to spray a few times according to the directions for pine needle blight. This is a preventative spray that keeps needles from getting infected. Once you see symptoms it is too late to bother spraying.
Belita Gordon says
Can Mugo pine be grown in the Springfield Illinois climate?
I just planted a Mugo Pine today June 27 [Pinus Mugo var Mughus]. Its going to be in the 80s all week. Did I make a mistake or will the plant be ok with regular watering?
It will be fine.
Ada Higgins says
Our mugo pines have a growth on many of the bottom end of the secondary candles. It resembles a grouping of tiny fruit around the candle. I can’t recall ever seeing it before, but there are many this year. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Ada those sure sound like they are the flowers. If you leave them you will see them become pine cones. Like most trees and shrubs, it takes a plant a while before it begins flowering, it sounds like yours is now old enough.
I appreciate this post! We don’t have a mugo pine, but all of the ones along my morning walk route have gotten the speculative eye this week. So far I have managed to resist helping out my neighbors!
Does the same method work for other pines (snapping off the candles according to how much/little you want them to grow?)
Yep this works with all pines (Pinus). Spruces, firs and other evergreens that are sometimes called “pines” require different techniques.
Glad you enjoyed the post.
Perfect timing for this discussion. I walked outside Monday to find a very sad looking Mugo pine. The pesty sawfly almost ate 1/2 the plant. Now that we elimiated the bugs, will it eventually return to its beautiful state?
Yes, they don’t feed on the new growth so it will fill in a bit this year as the candles expand. It won’t look conpletely like it did before, till next years growth expands.
I was a landscaper for over thirty years. I did a lot of garden makeovers. I also yanked a lot of Mugo Pines out of the ground with my truck. In almost all cases they were planted too close to the driveway or sidewalk. Nobody gives them enough room! Same with Junipers. Oh, and Weeping Cherries. By the time catchup measures are taken, it’s too late.
Most Mugo Pines sold on the market are seed grown. They have a LOT of variability in growth rates. Very few people buy the grafted variety called ‘Pumila’, which is slow growing and more expensive than seed grown plants.
I understand candle pruning, but very few people do it, and if they do, it’s too late.
Another mistake people make is when the Mugo starts to crowd the lawn, they whack back the Mugo instead of changing the lawn line to accommodate the Mugo.
I’m pretty good at pruning, but Mugos are very difficult to prune and come up with satisfactory results. Have you done it?
I believe I have Mike. I agree that an old overgrown Mugo is difficult to prune into an immediately attractive plant. However, in most cases it is possible to cut them back and renovate them into a nice MUCH smaller plant over a period of a few years.
The 1st year year they can look a tad rough, but it really depends on the plant. The younger the plant is, usually the easier this is to accomplish, but even old plants can often be made surprisingly attractive, if your patient enough.
Although I have to say this is much easier to accomplish when it is your own yard and not a client that expects it to look perfect the second you are done.
John Roxby says
Great column, Jim! Mugo question: I would like to move a small mugo from my garden (planted about 2 years ago) to a large container. I am in zone 5b, Concord NH. Do you think this will work? I plan to do this move in early fall here. Should I use potting soil or a mix of potting and garden soil? Thanks, John