Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo)
Also called the "Swiss Mountain Pine" or the "Mountain Pine," this species is recognizable by its tendency to branch freely near the ground and form a low, irregular, spreading bush or small tree. It has a round or broad pyramidal form growing from 4 to 10 feet tall. It has become an important low-growing pine for landscape use.
The needles are rigid 1 to 2 inches long colored medium to dark green. They may become yellow green in the winter. Needles of this two-needle Pine are held on the tree for more than four years making this one of the more dense Pines suitable for a screen planting. Most other Pines are not suited for screens since they lose their inner needles and lower branches as they grow older. The cones are 1 to 2 inches long and stand erect. They mature to a gray black color and often there will be clusters of 3 to 4 cones at time.
Mugo pines grow best in sun or partial shade in moist loam. It performs remarkably well on soils with a high pH (but prefers acidic soil) and is fairly well adapted to urban sites. The Mugo Pine is native to the mountain areas of central and southern Europe from Spain to the Balkans.
When selecting a Mugo Pine to grow into a tree, choose one with a central leader; if looking for a more dwarf type Mugo Pine choose among the many compact selections. This is an excellent rock garden or foundation plant because of its compact and low growing form. Plant size and density can be controlled by pinching the elongating candles just before or as the needles begin emerging but this is usually not needed on Mugo Pine since growth is very dense
Mugo Pine Choices
The cultivars of this tree offer a tremendous variation in size so be sure to get the size information from the nursery selling the tree. Compacta has a rounded form growing only three feet tall. Gnome will grow to about 12 feet tall. Hesse is a dwarf growing only to 2 1/2 to six feet tall but the spread is very broad. Pumilo has a prostrate form.