Growing a Scotch Pine in Your Garden

Most Popular Tree Used for Christmas Trees

Scotch Pine Branches
DEA/RANDOM / Getty Images

The Scotch pine, scientifically called Pinus sylvestris, can be found in many places throughout the world. In fact, it holds the title for the most widely distributed pine tree. The Scotch pine is the most popular choice for a Christmas tree. It is a member of the Pinaceae family, or pines. It is commonly called a Scotch pine or Scots pine. It is the national tree of Scotland.

The lifespan of the tree is normally 150 to 300 years, with the oldest recorded specimens in Lapland, Northern Finland, which was more than 760 years old.

Learn all you need to know about growing this pine in your landscape.

Where the Tree Grows

The U.S. Department of Agriculture established the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. This is known as the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Accordingly, this plant should be planted in zones 2 to 9 for best results, which encompasses most of the U.S.

The tree is native to Eurasia, ranging from Western Europe to Eastern Siberia, north to the Scandinavian Arctic Circle and south to the Caucasus Mountains. The tree can grow at sea level and at altitudes of up to 8,500 feet.

Growing Statistics

The Scotch pine will grow from 30 to 70 feet tall and up to 25 to 30 feet wide, with an irregular shape. The tallest Sctoch pine on record is a 210-year-old tree growing in Estonia which stands 152 feet tall.

The pine needles come in sets of two per fascicle, or growing bundle. Each needle can be anywhere from 1.5 to 4 inches long.

The Scotch pine is monoecious, which means that it bears both male and female reproductive parts. A Scotch pine does not need another Scotch pine to reproduce, it can reproduce on its own. As with other conifers, or cone-bearing trees, this tree has special reproductive parts called strobili, the Latin term for cones. The cones are brown, usually from 1 to 3 inches long and feature diamond-shaped scales.

Growing Tips

This tree is versatile and can live in many different kinds of soils and climates. It prefers acidic soils but can tolerate soil that is slightly alkaline. The Scotch pine is propagated by seeds.

Plant these trees in a location that receives full sun. The tree will languish in shady areas.

Scotch pine will not need much pruning if any. You can take out any branches that are dead, diseased or damaged.

Landscape Tips

The bark is a lovely shade of cinnamon throughout much of the tree, which can add visual interest year-round. The bottom bark is gray or red.

The Scotch pine is a good choice for a location with clay soil. It also offers drought and salt tolerance.

Pests or Diseases

The Scotch pine is a favorite of a number of pests. The following pests are known to attack Scotch pines:

  • Pine spittlebug (Aphrophora parallela)
  • European pine sawfly (Neodiprion sertifer)
  • Pine root collar weevil (Hylobius radicis)
  • Giant conifer aphid (Cinara spp.)
  • Pine needle scale (Chionaspis pinifoliae)
  • White pine weevil (Pissodes strobi)
  • Pine root tip weevil (Hylobius rhizophagus)
  • Zimmerman pine moth (Dioryctria zimmermani)

Birds such as pine grosbeaks, or Pinicola enucleator, and porcupines, which eats leaves and bark, may also cause damage.

Diseases that might strike a Scotch pine include scleroderris canker, the fungus Lophodermium needlecast, western gall rust, and brown spot needle disease.