Growing white pines

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by sawdust, Feb 7, 2004.

  1. sawdust

    sawdust LawnSite Member
    Messages: 39

    I have set out 300 white pines for potiental sale at a later date. They were set out last spring. they were 3 years old at that time. They have taken well but are growing tall and not filling in. My question is should I cut the tops out of them to make them fill in? :confused:
  2. Grassmechanic

    Grassmechanic LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,696

    No, dont cut the tops out. White pine looks kind of open and scraggly when they are young, but as they get older, they will fill in on their own.
  3. NCSULandscaper

    NCSULandscaper Banned
    Messages: 1,557

    I know around here, after a white pine gets to be about 15 yrs old, alot of them just die. Not sure why they are doing this, perhaps beetles, or some other disease, but we had a yard full of them and now we are slowly having to cut them all down. So we do not mess with them anymore.
  4. bcx400

    bcx400 LawnSite Member
    from PA
    Messages: 77

    You could cut the tops out, but you lose the central leader. With the leader gone, you'll get several new branches growing out of the top, and you will need to prune all but one, creating a new central leader. If you do not do this, the tree will grow more like a bush, eventually looking like a multi-stem tree.

    For White Pines, I have found spring pruning to work well for thickening the overall look. When the buds or 'candles' have elongated, cut them back 50-75%, and as they open , you'll have a denser tree. Leave the central leader bud alone, unless it is damaged. The other branches will have a long candle in the center, and shorter candles radially around the center candle. It is this long center candle that is most important for pruning if you want thick trees.

    One other thing- a lot of nurseries will wait several years, until the pines get big, and then do the 'candling'. The fastest way to do this is with a razor sharp machete.
  5. Peach

    Peach LawnSite Member
    Messages: 86

    bcx is right on with his answer but I think he should emphasize that you not top those trees. For the reasons he stated plus this: They are for sale. Purchaser will not understand and you'll have sold the ugliest Pine trees they ever saw. You'll be blamed.
    My rule for pruning..never top a tree.

    But I'm no expert.

  6. bcx400

    bcx400 LawnSite Member
    from PA
    Messages: 77

    Peach- you are being humble ('but I am no expert'.) Your rule for pruning... never top a tree, is an excellent rule to abide by.

    But I have seen trees that need to have their leader removed. Some boring insects love a trees central leader. Storm damage also may break the leader on some trees. Anyway... it is not a good idea to prune out the leader just to create a nicer looking tree- it creates a lot more work to restore that leader. A bamboo stake tied to the trunk works to train a new leader, plus a few years of selective pruning. In a nursery environment, this is a common situation
  7. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,825

    One thing you want to be aware of is that White Pine does not have very good root structure for transplanting. You should definitely root prune to keep that root structure tight.
  8. Peach

    Peach LawnSite Member
    Messages: 86

    Right AGLA & BCX
    This is great advice. That'll fill out the tree won't it? And the central leader does get damaged BCX
    For anyone who doesn't know what topping a deciduous tree does...look at the trees the power company lops under power lines. See how they grow several lateral trunks which turn upwards and compete to become the new central leader. Awful.

    I especially like the advice about shearing the end candles.

    Sawdust ... White Pines are tricky trees to keep full. Here in Indiana we get Michigan trees...balls of sand..and plant them in Clay. I just don't put them in designs anymore because of their tendency to thin in our climate and due to this transplant difference. But I'm happy when a customer requests 'em. Like all trees - they're wonderful things. Next time... you might consider nice Spruce.

  9. D Felix

    D Felix LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,898

    Shearing the candles will basically turn the trees into Christmas trees. They will look fine when you sell them, but beware- the customers will probably come back in a few years and complain that the trees look like crap!

    When you shear an evergreen tree, you need to keep doing it with the new growth. What you will end up with is a tree that is nice and tight for the bottom 3-6 feet (however tall it was when sheared), and anything above that will revert back to what the tree looks like now, its natural state.

    Peach- have you ever gotten sales fliers from Miller's Tree farm in Idaville? They sell (B&B) white pines that have been sheared for Christmas trees, but didn't sell for that purpose. Some of them look completely unbalanced from top to bottom because of this.

    I'm not saying don't shear the trees, just beware of what they will look like in the future.

    And I'll back Peach up on the no topping rule! Under NO circumstance should a tree EVER be topped! There are proper ways to prune a tree, and if a tree needs to be reduced in size, there are better ways of achieving that than topping. If you have tree you think needs to be smaller, chances are that the tree is fine. If you are worried about it, call a certified or consulting arborist. Check out and search for an arborist there.

    I'll say that this is my 2.5 cents worth.:D

  10. Peach

    Peach LawnSite Member
    Messages: 86

    Makes sense to me Dan...

    You tree guys are great.

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