Mugo pine trees (Pinus mugo) are evergreen shrubs that are especially hardy and easy to grow, except when mugo pine tips are turning brown. Described as tough and rugged by some experts, they can grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 2 to 7. The branches of these plants have been compared to candles, as they grow upward with very fragrant needles. Like other trees and shrubs, it's important to know how to help them thrive.
About Mugo Pines
These mounded pine shrubs can grow up to 10 feet high and 15 feet wide, and they make for lovely hedges. They also aid with erosion control and have little brown cones that attract birds and other wildlife. Mugos should be planted in a place with full sun (some afternoon shade is fine), and they should be given enough room to grow up and out.
There are several varieties of mugo pines, including 'Gnome.' This is the smallest type, and it only grows up to 1.5 feet and out to 3 feet. 'Enci' are flat-topped mugo pines that can become very round and dense; they grow up to 3 feet. The pumilio pines (Pinus mugo var. pumilio) are a taller variety that can spread out to about 10 feet wide.
Mugo pines are an excellent choice for creating privacy barriers, and they also work well for dividing sections in a garden. They are native to European mountain regions, like the Alps, and they love high elevations and cool temperatures. They don't thrive in hotter environments.
Mugo Pine Health Problems
If a mugo pine's branches are starting to turn brown at the ends, it could be due to edema, which can occur if there is a lot of standing water in the soil. This can kill the tree's roots. An irrigation system may help with this if it is properly installed.
Mugo pines can also contract fungal diseases that cause the branches and needle tips to turn a reddish-brown, making them look rusted. Two of these fungal disease are sphaeropsis tip blight and dothistroma needle blight. Sphaeropsis makes the branches brown at the ends, and it can also cause cankers to grow on the branches. Dothistroma usually starts at the lower parts of the tree.
Mugo pines can also be infested by the pine sawfly, pine needle scale, spruce mites and pine spittle bugs. Bark beetles also like mugo pines, and they leave small boring holes up and down the trunks. Other signs of insect infestation include white or brown scales on the needles, yellowed needles and even tree death.
Treating Fungal Diseases
Fungicide sprays can be used to help prevent and control sphaeropsis tip blight and dothistroma needle blight. They can first be applied between May and June, when the new needles are about half grown. A second coat can be applied approximately three weeks after that.
You can use an insecticidal soap to treat insects, as this is less invasive and better for the environment. If this more conservative method does not solve the problem, a chemical pesticide may be needed. Mugo pines are usually low maintenance, though, so these diseases and infestations are less common than with other outdoor trees.
Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing (www.wordsmythcontent.com), and she enjoys writing home and DIY articles and blogs for clients in a variety of related industries. She also runs her own lifestyle blog, Sweet Frivolity (www.sweetfrivolity.com).