If you can avoid the serious problems that sometimes afflict the Austrian pine (Pinus nigra), it can be the perfect conifer for a city landscape. It is able to withstand many challenging environmental conditions of an urban environment, such as pollution and salt sprays in the air. It is also quite an attractive pine in the landscape. The tree forms a pyramidal or oval shape while young, and with age the crown becomes rounded and forms a flat or dome-shaped top.
This tree typically grows to 40 to 60 feet tall and 20 to 40 feet wide, so it will need to be given plenty of space in the landscape. In rare cases, Austrian pines can grow over 100 feet tall. The bark on a mature tree consists of dark brown or gray furrowed plates. Each fascicle has two dark-green needles 2 to 6 inches long, and the brown egg-shaped cones are 2 to 3 inches long.
Like many pine trees, Austrian pines do best if they are planted in fairly warm soil; late summer can be an ideal time to plant an Austrian pine. You can expect this pine to grow at a moderate rate of 12 to 18 inches per year in most circumstances.
|Botanical Name||Pinus Nigra|
|Common Name||Austrian pine, European black pine, black pine|
|Plant Type||Needled evergreen tree|
|Mature Size||40 to 60 feet; 20- to 40-foot spread|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-drained soil|
|Soil pH||4.0 to 7.0 (but tolerates a mildly alkaline soil)|
|Bloom Time||Indistinct flowers appear in spring|
|Flower Color||Yellowish-green flowers are inconspicuous|
|Hardiness Zones||4 to 7 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Central and southern Europe|
How to Grow Austrian Pine
Austrian pine has the same cultural needs as most other pine species. It will do well in a sunny location with rich, well-draining soil. Container-grown or ball-and-burlap trees should be planted in a large, carefully prepared hole and backfilled with soil that is amended with peat or another acidifying organic material.
Be aware that this pine has some serious drawbacks for many regions of the country. It is extremely susceptible to the tip blight fungus Sphaeropsis (Diplodia)—so much so that planting the tree is strongly discouraged in many parts of the U.S. Even if you can avoid this serious problem, Austrian pine is prone to a variety of other disease and pest problems. Before planting an Austrian pine, consult your local University Extension Service to learn how well it grows in your region.
This tree grows best in a location that receives full sun, but it can also tolerate a part-shade planting site, provided it gets at least 4 hours of sun daily.
The Austrian pine is able to grow in many different types of soil, especially ones that can be considered difficult, such clay or sand. However, it thrives best in deep, moist soil that drains well. It has a better tolerance for alkaline soil than most pines.
Water new trees regularly for the first year and during dry periods for the first three years. Once established, Austrian pines are fairly drought-tolerant.
Temperature and Humidity
This tree is well suited for USDA zones 4 to 7, hardy down to minus-25 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a species that prefers cool to cold temperate climates; in warmer, more humid climates it will be susceptible to more disease and pest problems.
Feeding is not required for this tree. A 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch under the canopy will help provide slow-release nutrients and keep the soil moist and cool.
Pruning Austrian Pine
Little pruning is necessary, other than to remove dead or diseased branches. However, the branches tend to droop as the tree ages, so some pruning may be necessary to raise the canopy where the branches overhang sidewalks, driveways, or other living areas. Late winter or early spring is the best time to do this pruning, as the tree will be less susceptible to invasion by insects or fungi.
Propagating Austrian Pine
Austrian pines are propagated by seeds found inside the cones. However, the seeds are slow to germinate and develop into saplings, so this tree is normally planted from purchased container-grown or ball-and-burlap specimens.
Pinus nigra is popular as a specimen tree and for windbreaks. Its spreading canopy also makes it one of the better shade trees among the pines.
Common Pests/ Diseases
The Austrian pine is prey to many fungal diseases, such as lophodermium needle cast, diplodia (sphaeropsis) tip blight, as well as various and wood rots and decays.
Insects pests include the European pine sawfly, weevils, and Zimmerman pine moth. The tree is also frequently damaged by yellow-bellied sapsuckers feeding on the many insects that infest it.
The many problems with Austrian pine are so pronounced that the use of the tree is discouraged in many regions.
Austrian Pine vs. Lacebark Pine
The main appeal of Austrian pine is its good performance in urban conditions and problem soils. Unfortunately, its increased susceptibility to fungal problems and insect pests now makes it a poor choice in many regions. If you have lost an Austrian pine or are looking for an alternative, consider planting a lacebark pine (Pinus bungeana).
Lacebark pine is hardy in zones 3 to 8 and grows fairly slowly to a maximum height of about 50 feet. It has attractive exfoliating bark that resembles that of a sycamore tree. Like Austrian pine, it does very well in urban conditions, but unlike Austrian pine, it has few serious diseases or insect problems. But be aware that the branches of lacebark pine can be a little brittle in regions that see heavy snow and ice.