The Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), also known as the Jerusalem pine, is an attractive, drought-tolerant evergreen conifer that has adapted well to growing in hot, dry conditions. It is sometimes grown as a living Christmas tree, and is related to fir trees, spruce trees, cedars, hemlocks, and the larches, which are deciduous conifers. It's often grown as an ornamental specimen or for screening purposes. The young, conical form becomes more open-crowned and irregular as it matures.
Able to grow about 1 foot a year, this medium-sized tree with orange-red bark and cones reaches a full size of anywhere from 20 to 50 feet or taller with a similar spread. The ultimate size depends on the growing conditions. It's best planted during the late summer months of August and September.
The tree's ability to produce many long-viable seeds that disperse easily in winds means it has invasive qualities that are worth bearing in mind.
|Common Name||Aleppo pine, Jerusalem pine|
|Botanical Name||Pinus halepensis|
|Plant Type||Evergreen, Tree|
|Mature Size||20 to 50 ft. tall, 20 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Loamy, Sandy|
|Soil pH||Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline|
|Hardiness Zones||8-11, USDA|
Aleppo Pine Care
Aleppo pine trees don't require much maintenance—if they get direct sunlight, they will most likely continue to grow. They are drought-resistant, cope with salt spray and high winds, and grow in most soil types.
When the Aleppo pine is purchased as a living Christmas tree, choose a location and dig the hole ahead of time so it is ready when the season is over. The tree grows rapidly and requires a lot of space. Move the tree in and out of the house over a period of time to harden it off and prevent shock before planting it outdoors. If you don't have enough room in your yard, arrange ahead of time to donate it to a local park.
The prolific, resilient seeds that disperse easily on a breeze mean the species is classed as highly invasive in parts of South Africa and Australia. These tendencies are worth being aware of, even when growing in a garden in the U.S.
Choose a planting site where the tree receives full sun throughout the day. Because it grows into a tall tree, it shades the areas below it. Select plants for the surrounding area that tolerate some shade. Aleppo pine trees can't grow in shady spots.
This tree can handle a wide range of soil pH levels, from acidic to alkaline. It can also grow in a wide range of soil conditions (including nutritionally poor types) as long as it drains well. However, loamy or sandy soils best mimic its native areas. It's ability to grow in dry areas makes it useful for limiting soil erosion on arid slopes.
The Aleppo pine is one of the most drought-resistant of all the pine species, and the needles sometimes turn yellow or drop off when water levels are too high. It does best if it receives a few waterings a month during the first year. This helps the roots grow properly and creates a strong structure that can find water in times of need. It can't withstand continual waterlogged conditions. Once established, after around three years. the tree grows well with no additional irrigation, making it a perfect choice for a low-maintenance landscape.
Be aware that the sprawling, water consuming roots can drain large landscape areas of moisture, and this can be a problem for water-loving plants you might be growing in the surrounding area.
Temperature and Humidity
Aleppo pine trees thrive in warm climates, like their native Mediterranean region. In the U.S., the species is a popular ornamental tree in hot, dry areas such as the Southwest. You'll frequently see them growing in Southwestern California and areas at risk of forest fires. The Aleppo's tolerance for heat and drought and its fast growth are highly valued in these areas. It is also pretty frost tolerant and can survive winters with temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fertilizer application can cause an overgrowth of the Aleppo pine, so it isn't recommended. Plus, these trees can still grow readily in infertile conditions.
The Aleppo pine tree does not require pruning unless you are taking out a wayward branch or removing parts that are dead, diseased, or damaged. You can control growth and shape to some degree by removing the conifer candles—new growth—when they first appear.
Because the tree sheds copious amounts of needles, you'll want to clear these up regularly. If they smother the ground it can prevent native plant seeds from germinating and can change the soil chemistry, making it difficult for some native plants to thrive.
Young Aleppo pines are sometimes selected as outdoor bonsai specimens. They grow two lengths of needles (immature and mature). The longer mature needles will need trimming back to the same length as the immature ones for an even appearance. Because they need full sun to thrive, these trees are not suited to being grown as indoor bonsai.
Propagating the Aleppo Pine
Propagation is usually carried out through seed germination. You can also take cuttings from the tree in its early years (less than ten years of age), though they can be slow to take root and grow, assuming they gain a foothold at all. You might have better success if you disbud the shoots a few weeks before taking the cuttings.
How to Grow Aleppo Pine From Seed
Late winter seed sowing works well, or it can be done in a cold frame as soon as they are ripe. Following the steps below may help increase the chance of successful germination.
- Collect the seeds from the Aleppo pine as the cones open up
- Clean the seeds and drop them into a container of room temperature water for 48 hours, replacing the water once after 24 hours
- After this soaking, place the seeds in a container with peat moss or sand—you want the medium to be damp, but not wet
- Store the seeds in the refrigerator for 60 to 90 days—this stratification period can improve the chances of germination success
- After the time is up, plant the seeds in growing trays or cups, sowing them at a shallow depth in a mixture of 2 parts potting soil, 1 part peat moss, and 1 part perlite
- Keep 1 inch of space between the seeds, cover lightly with soil, and keep them in sunlight—the soil should continue to remain damp, but not wet
- Pull smaller, weaker seedlings and let the remaining seedlings grow to 3 to 4 inches before transplanting them into pots for additional growth
- Harden them off over a few months to prepare them for planting
- Plant out when the trees are around 12 to 35 inches in height
- Protect them with mulch to prevent weeds and the cold from becoming a problem for the first year or two
When the plant is small, protect the developing roots with a layer of mulch when cold weather rolls in. After a few years, there will be no need for overwintering precautions.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
Diseases you may encounter with the Aleppo pine include Aleppo pine blight, dieback, phytophthora, pine pitch canker, and root rot. Fortunately, these issues tend to occur in immature trees, during a time when they can be replaced by a new, heartier tree.
Pests that attack include aphids, pine wilt nematode, spider mites, and bark beetles. While most of these can be effectively treated and allow the tree to continue to grow, pine wilt nematode is a whole other beast. Often the only real treatment is removing the tree before the problem can spread to other trees in the area.
How long can Aleppo pine live?
It is not a particularly long-lived pine, surviving an average of 100 years. However, in the right conditions, these trees can live up to 150 years or more.
What plants are similar to Aleppo pine?
There are numerous other pine species that share many of the same characteristics as the Aleppo (although none are quite as drought-tolerant). This includes the Turkish pine (Pinus brutia), Canary Island pine (Pinus canariensis), and the maritime pine (Pinus pinaster). The Turkish pine is sometimes referred to as a subspecies of the Aleppo pine, but most experts regard it as a separate species.
How fast does Aleppo pine grow?
An Aleppo pine can grow about 10 inches per year and perhaps a bit more if the conditions are ideal.
Mauri, A., Di Leo, M., de Rigo, D., Caudullo, G., 2016. Pinushalepensis and Pinus brutia in Europe: distribution, habitat,usage and threats. In: San-Miguel-Ayanz, J., de Rigo, D., Caudullo,G., Houston Durrant, T., Mauri, A. (Eds.), European Atlas of Forest TreeSpecies. Publ. Off. EU, Luxembourg, pp. e0166b8