Renovating Mugo Pine?

northspruce(z3a MB CDA)May 31, 2011

I have a mugo pine at the corner of my house which I like and don't want to kill, but it's gotten way too big. Does anyone know if you can head them back pretty severely and will they recover? The size I'd want it would remove almost all the needles.

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Funny I was just telling my daughter if she remembered when I tried to reshape a big Mugo at the corner of the house. Well I got totally carried away and it ended up so ugly that took the whole thing out. Uptil then there was really nothing wrong with it. Of course it can be done but just not by me.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 11:54AM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

northspruce - not so much. My understanding of conifers is that if you cut into old wood, which a major renovation would do, nothing will grow back. For instace, if you cut some branches back to the main trunk of the mugo, which would certainly be old wood, that spot would always remain branchless.

If you are cutting the tree back to be shorter, and it removes most of the needles you will probably kill it anyway, and it would be very unsightly after that if it did survive. Conifers hate severe pruning.

The key to growing a nice, moderate-sized mugo is to pinch the new growth(candles) back in half or more each spring before they turn into needles. This will keep the growth dense and slow the growth down. On a mugo that is already "out of control," I'm not sure if you have any option other than start over or leave it. Sorry. :(

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 3:34PM
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Gillian, I think Weeper's right.

I saw a program last year and they showed and explained it pretty much as she says.

I just snipped off the candles on mine this afternoon.

I love Mugo Pines, and it was pretty sad when we removed the overgrown one that the previous owners had. It was completely blocking a window, so I reluctantly dug it up. It was huge ! I planted two small ones to replace it.

Is yours really big ?


    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 6:40PM
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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

It's about 8' tall x 10' wide now, maybe a tad less. I happen to know it was planted in 1982 because the original owners gave me their landscaping blueprints. It's long past trimming candles so I'm deciding if I'll just let it be or remove it. I love mugo pines too, and it really doesn't look bad where it is (the south pointing corner of my house) but it's hogging a lot of prime real estate and I'd like to completely redo the garden around it.

Thanks for the advice. :)

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 10:30PM
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Hey Northspruce........

We happened to drive by a place yesterday that had "butchered" a large Mugo Pine.

It came to me that ( don't laugh until you think about it) if someone had carefully pruned it sort of like a bonsai shaped tree, that it would have probably looked really nice, at least nicer that just hacking the bottom branches off.

Is that maybe something that would work for you? Obviously if you tried and didn't do a good job, it would end up having to be removed.

BTW This suggestion is coming from someone who's not very creative at all, LOL !

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 3:20PM
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I like nut's idea, if you could raise the bottom (cut low branches back to the main stem) if possible you may end up with some area to put acid and sun loving plants. Possibly azalea , blueberry....

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 8:54AM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

Yeahp, you'll kill it. My dad did that years ago to one that was out of control and it perished.

Rip it out and go shopping. Who doesn't like to go plant shopping and you will have a good reason to justify it!

I am curious as to why wayne is suggesting acid loving plants, is your soil acidic?


    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 1:22PM
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I had assumed that it being there since '82 the soil would become more acidic from pine needles, it may not be.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 1:46PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

Years ago I thought the exact same thing. I was planting a lawn on what used to be a pine forest so thinking that my soil would naturally be very acidic (no I didn't test it) I thought I would be smart and lime it before planting. Grass would germinate then barely grow and eventually die, I thought still to acidic and added more lime. Repeat but with faster death. Fast forward a few years and I took my soil in to get ph tested. When I got the results the fellow asked where the heck I lived because he had never seen soil in this area so alkaline. I told him what I had been doing and he laughed and said our soil is alkaline to begin with and the pine needles do nothing to the ph. I banged my head on the counter several times and purchased sulphur to counteract the lime....amazing how the grass grows now. LOL

That was my first major gardening mistake!!


    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 2:07PM
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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

My soil is fairly acidic. It's loam rather than clay, and I have 5 very large mature colorado blue spruce. I haven't tested the pH but the plants that do best are acid lovers so I know what I've got.

By the way, further to the Mugo, I cut off one side of it and it doesn't look too terrible.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 7:38PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

What we did years ago,..cut most stems off and left only one, looks more like a regular pine now.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 12:35AM
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