Your yard needs something a little extra to stand out. Something taller than the flowers or shrubs you already have. Something different. Maybe it needs a tree? But your yard isn’t quite large enough for a full-sized tree. In a couple of years, a regular-sized tree would dominate the space. A short tree would look just right, though! Based on their generally compact shapes, dwarf or miniature conifers are low-maintenance, requiring little in the way of pruning or watering. Once they’re established, they won’t need to be babied at all.
When first planting a short pine tree, it might be best to check out where you want to plant it and add some compost or fertilizer to the soil. After that, just make sure to water it occasionally (a little more if it’s in a container or if it gets lots of direct sun in hot weather), and watch it thrive. Consider also the fact that evergreens are ever green year-round, requiring less from you when you’re working on your landscaping projects.
The hard part is figuring out what kind of tree will work best for your yard. If you plant the wrong kind and it grows exponentially, it could be costly to remove in just a few short years (we can help you if it comes to that). Don’t sweat it too much, though: do your homework and be sure about what you’re getting when you start planning your new short tree. Here are four short pine trees that will fit the bill (literally) and look great in your yard.
These are dwarf pine trees and generally grow to be 3 to 5 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Their roots go deep, except in places where the soil is poorly drained. If the mugo pines have a complaint, soil that doesn’t drain well would be the only one. If you plant them in a container, just make sure that the soil is easily drained.
Often, compared against junipers, this evergreen has a dark green color and a much more piney scent. Gardeners and landscapers like to use mugo pines for low-maintenance ground cover, since they spread so wide, and as a tool for soil erosion. The best thing about them? They enjoy full sun and almost never need watering, so you can be hands-off and they’ll still thrive. There are a few different kinds of mugo pines—make sure you choose the right one for your space:
- Compacta—5 feet tall, 8 feet wide (or more)
- Enci—3 feet tall with a flat top, very dense; slow growing
- Mops—3 feet tall with a round shape
- Pumilio—10 feet wide (more of a shrub than a tree; be warned—without pruning, they can grow very tall!)
- Gnome—1.5 feet tall, 3 feet wide, the smallest of the family
Dwarf Alberta Spruce
These hardy plants can be found everywhere—you might walk past one every day and not know it. Since they grow so slowly and remain small for so long, they’re popular container plants for porches and often paired for front entrances. The term “dwarf” is often relative, though—dwarf Alberta spruce can reach up to 12 or 13 feet in height. (In this case, it’s called a dwarf because other pine species are known to grow over 100 feet tall!) Dwarf Albertas will grow 2 to 4 inches a year. However, if you prune it to keep it small, it can live a good long life in a container or in your yard. Just be sure to trim it annually.
They like partial to full sun—unlike the mugo pines, though, make sure to water your dwarf Alberta spruce weekly, or more in hot weather. Albertas in containers will need to be watered more often as well. Here’s an idea for the holidays—Albertas make great live miniature Christmas trees, with dense, soft needles and that perfect cone-like appearance.
Japanese White Pines
In the world of pine trees, white pines have a reputation: larger specimens are messy and their limbs tend to break. However, Japanese white pines (also known as the Arnold Arboretum dwarf), the dwarf version of white pines, typically don’t have these problems. Plus, they grow so slowly that even a 10-year-old tree will only stand about 3 feet tall, with a spread of about 2 feet wide.
If a short pine tree had a motto, this one would be “less is more.” This is a beautiful showcase plant, with blue-green needles that would be set off nicely against a paler background, like a white fence or light-colored flowers. It has the conical Christmas-tree shape as well, very pleasing in a small garden or yard setting.
Since its growth is so slow, a Japanese white pine doesn’t need much pruning. If it does, just look for the new growth (called “candles”) in the springtime and prune them off. You can also trim any dead or diseased limbs when you see them.
Another popular Christmas tree, balsams are known for being good as screens or windbreaks, and they have that beautiful symmetrical cone-like shape that makes you want to hang a star on top. They may grow around 12 inches a year, and the mature height is between 3.5 and 6 feet tall, with a spread of 20 to 25 inches. Balsam firs also prefer full sun and partial shade—try to give it a space where it can have a minimum of four hours of unfiltered sun a day.
It gives off a spicier scent than the other pines mentioned here, and for that reason, they’re popular in holiday wreaths and other greenery. The needles are a deep, shining dark green. The trees yield cones between two and four inches long that start out dark purple then turn grey. This happens every two to four years. These seeds and the buds are food for birds, squirrels, mice, and voles.
Do you have any questions about short pine trees (or any other trees)? Let Mr. Tree Service lay your fears to rest. We can prune or advise or shape your trees for you. Contact us today—we’d love to hear from you!