It’s time to prune the pine trees

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

If you are inclined to prune your pine trees, now is the perfect time to do so. Most people don’t prune mature pine trees, but many prune mugho pines, which are more of a shrub. Pruning these keeps them more compact.

I have a Vanderwood pine tree (Pinus flexilis) that I like to keep pruned so that I can keep it bushy and more compact. Large pines such as white and Scotch are not usually pruned once planted in the landscape.

When pines are in production, they are pruned to keep them nice and compact, and full and bushy. However, once planted in the landscape, if not pruned, they tend to thin out and grow normally.

Pines that are grown for Christmas trees, with the most common being Scotch pine, are sheared (pruned) yearly to keep them full and bushy for ornaments. Those that haven’t been pruned are more open.

Look at a younger white pine tree after it’s been in the ground for several years. You can see where the tree had been pruned (needles and branches fuller) while in the nursery and where it hasn’t been pruned in the landscape.

You don’t have to prune pine trees in the landscape, especially since they get tall and become difficult to prune. You can easily keep mugho pines pruned throughout many years. I will be able to keep my Vanderwood pine pruned for many years as it is a slow grower.

Remember, pines develop their buds for the next season on the tips of the branches. Pruning them from August through early May eliminates growth on that branch. There are no lateral buds to take over. Growth stops on that branch.

Look at a pine today. Notice the buds have elongated and the new growth is beginning. Right now, we call this new growth the candle stage. When they are in the candle stage and up until about the end of June is a good time to prune them.

They begin to develop buds for the next season in late July and August. Don’t prune them when these buds are on the tips of the branches.

You can simply cut or pinch the candles about halfway back. The further back you pinch, the less growth occurs between last year and this year. I tend to cut my half-way back each year to keep growth even.

Use sharp pruners if you are going to cut them. Pinching will result in sticky fingers! However, they are easy to pinch in half.

After doing this, watch the pine and the new growth and new needles fill out. And then, keep watching during the season for the bud development.

All other evergreens can be pruned in the spring, before new growth or after, depending on your preferences. They can also be pruned in the winter and cuttings used for holiday decorations.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

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