Pinus pinea is commonly known as the stone pine tree, Italian stone pine, Roman pine, or parasol pine — but its most popular name, so clearly derived directly from the tree’s shape, is the umbrella pine. This striking needled evergreen looks unlike any other pine, and instantly makes you feel like you’ve been transported into a safari setting. The umbrella pine belongs to the Pinaceae botanical family — that’s pines in plain English — of over 200 shrubs and trees. Its genus, Pinus, counts 126 distinct species.
Umbrella pines have a single trunk, from which branches arch out to form an umbrella-like shape. This makes the tree, which is indeed also the source of pine nuts, especially attractive to gardeners who would like to create a canopy in their yards. Only add an umbrella pine to your garden if you have ample space, though, as despite the fact that umbrella pines grow rather slowly, they do grow into impressively tall trees with wide spreads!
Do you have the space to accommodate an umbrella pine, or perhaps even several? Then you’ll be delighted to hear that, in the right conditions, these are extremely low-maintenance plants that you’ll be able to grow and care for with surprising ease.
About Pinus Pinea
- Pinus pinea is a single-stemmed needled evergreen pine tree with an upright growth habit. Branches radiate from the very top of the tree’s long trunk, forming the mounding shape of an umbrella.
- These beautiful trees are almost always said to be native to Europe, and specifically the Mediterranean region. Umbrella pines were incredibly popular in the Roman Empire, and are one of the Empire’s symbols. However, stone pine trees have a much longer history — they were around in prehistoric times, too, during which they grew in Saharan Africa. In modern times, stone pine trees are considered to be native to the Mediterranean parts of southern Europe, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. They are also naturalized to parts of the United States, notably California. As you’ll note, all these regions are especially warm and sunny!
- Most gardeners decide to add umbrella pines to their green spaces for their beauty, but the fact that these trees also yield edible seeds — pine nuts — offers a very nice bonus indeed! The seeds are found within the cones the umbrella pine drops, something that happens in especially warm periods.
- Umbrella pine trees attract pollinators as well as moths. One unique perk is that the tree supports Imperial Moth larvae. Stone pines are fairly deer resistant, although deer do much on the pine cones.
- While the umbrella pine looks a long way off from a traditional Christmas tree, stone pine trees are sometimes used as Christmas trees in their native region.
- Umbrella pines are typically grown in warm coastal regions, where they also play an important role in erosion control.
- So long as you have enough space to accommodate these majestic trees, umbrella pines are a wonderful choice for gardeners looking to create a pollinator garden, a winter garden, or who would like to add more edible plants to their repertoire.
- The umbrella pine’s resin is widely used in the varnishing of furniture, making the tree economically important. The same resin has medicinal applications in the treatment of some forms of kidney disease.
- Do not confuse the umbrella pine (Pinus pinea) with the umbrella tree (Brassaia actinophylla), which is an entirely different species. Like all pine trees, umbrella pines are not toxic to dogs. They can, however, pose a problem for cats, who may vomit if they ingest any needles or other parts of the tree.
- Although Pinus pinea is generally considered to be a low-maintenance tree, stone pine trees are vulnerable to a number of pests and diseases. These include pine needle scale, sawflies, pine needle blight, and several fungal infections. Bark beetles and conifer seed bugs can afflict these striking trees, too. By spotting the problem early on and removing diseases branches, these problems can be overcome.
- The umbrella pine was honored with the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
Stone Pine Tree Features: An Overview
- Stone pine trees are needled evergreen trees with characteristic arching branches that form a semi-spherical “umbrella” (or mushroom) shape. In their early years, they have a shrub-like appearance, and may be grown in large planters.
- Pinus pinea can reach majestic heights — mature specimens can be as large as 40 to 60 feet (12 to 18 meters), with an equally wide spread. During their first five years, however, you can gradually expect your stone pine to grow to around 15 feet (four and a half meters) tall. These trees are notoriously slow growers, but don’t let that fool you into think they are shrubs or dwarf trees.
- Umbrella pines are flowerless trees that do not produce any fruit; the pine nuts, which are found inside their pine cones, are seeds. The fact that they are edible, and rather delicious in Italian recipes, makes umbrella pine trees all the more attractive! If you are hoping for tasty pine nuts, you will have to be patient — it can take years before these trees start to drop edible pine nuts.
- The evergreen needles of the stone pine tree grow in small clusters called fascicle. Each blue-green needle can grow to be up to four inches (10 centimeters) long, and the younger clusters are much bushier than the mature ones. Mature needles have a glossy look and feel, while young needle clusters are waxy.
- Umbrella trees can have dark brown or brown-gray trunks, but the bark may also be orange or burgundy in color, and has a beautiful rough and patchy texture.
- Are you looking for companion plants to an umbrella pine tree? Due to Pinus pinea‘s thick canopy, you will need to choose shade-loving plants that will thrive in the shade of this beautiful tree. Hydrangeas, wild geraniums, bleeding hearts, and rhododendrons are all excellent choices.
- These trees are sometimes grown as dwarf conifers, in which case they can serve as houseplants or may add a wonderful accent to your patio.
Growing Stone Pine Trees
Mature stone pine trees practically take care of themselves, requiring very little intervention on the gardener’s part. Those who are currently considering adding a stone pine tree to their garden will likely acquire a young plant from a nursery, however, so it is important to know that young umbrella pines do need love and care to be able to thrive. They also, of course, need the right growing conditions!
As trees that are now native to the Mediterranean, including Italy and Spain, and which used to call Saharan Africa their native soil, it is no surprise that umbrella pines thrive in warm and dry climates, including in coastal regions. They aren’t frost hardy at all — although an umbrella pine can survive short cool stretches with temperatures that dip as low as 14 °F (-10 °C), these trees don’t like that kind of cold at all, and will protest if exposed to prolonged periods of frost. Pinus pinea doesn’t appreciate high humidity levels, either, as they’ll quickly be attacked by fungi in those conditions. In extreme circumstances, fungal infections can threaten the life of an umbrella pine.
Furthermore, stone pines prefer consistency. They don’t do well with large temperature fluctuations, which is why they are typically grown in regions that don’t have seasons clearly defined by hot summers and cold winters.
- Offering 2+ PINE NUT TREE seeds, packaged in a paper seed envelope.
- Germination and growing instructions are clearly displayed on each package for successful gardening every time.
- Grow plants for food or try gardening as new hobby
- Seeds make great gifts for all ages
- Packet contains 10 hand-sorted, high-quality seeds.
- Leaning trunk. Wide, flat top, resembling an umbrella. Produces an edible seed known as pine nut.
- Thrives in zones 8 to 10 in partial sun and sandy soil.
- These seeds are not pre-packaged - they are hand-selected after you place your order.
- Includes full germination instructions to get your seeds started.
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Umbrella pine trees absolutely need full sun — when planted in a location where they do not receive at least six hours of direct sunlight a day, they will begin to struggle. It is no surprise that the Romans used to plant these trees along large roads, where they could grow unhindered while providing some much-needed shade to travelers.
As coastal natives, these trees prefer loamy soil, but Pinus pinea can cope with any well-draining soil type. Like other pines, they do best in slightly acidic soil, but umbrella pine trees are more tolerant of neutral and alkaline soils than other pine tree species are.
In terms of ongoing care, young umbrella pine trees can benefit from an acid fertilizer, especially if your soil leans toward the neutral or alkaline. Once they are well established, which would be around the five year mark, umbrella pines do not need fertilizer at all. Mulching can help with water retention, but here’s the beauty — all you need to mulch your stone pine are the tree’s own fallen needles!
Watering Pinus Pinea
Young umbrella pine plants, up until five years of age, do need supplemental watering if your region does not enjoy much rainfall. Gardeners who ensure that the soil never quite dries out help their stone pine trees grow strong and healthy roots, setting their tree up for a long life.
Once your Pinus pinea is established, however, you will not need to worry about watering it any longer. Mature umbrella pine trees are (again, true to their native regions) drought tolerant.
Propagating Umbrella Pine Trees
Most gardeners who are hoping to add a stone pine to their garden will simply pick a young Pinus pinea plant up from a nursery. It is possible to propagate umbrella pine trees yourself, but the process is challenging. Two methods are commonly recommended, while a third may also be possible in some cases. Let’s take a closer look at your options!
Pinus pinea is most commonly propagated from seed. To attempt to do this yourself, you will need to:
- Have a mature umbrella pine tree that has already reliably been producing edible pine nuts for a few years.
- Collect as many pine nuts (seeds) as you can from one cone or multiple cones.
- To activate the harvested seeds, place them in a Ziploc bag with moist sphagnum moss. Place them in your fridge and allow them to chill for two to three months.
- Your next step lies in preparing smaller containers with a seed starter mix. The soil should be misted lightly with water, so that the topsoil is moist but not soggy.
- Once your pot is prepared, plant the pine seeds 1/4 inch (just over half a centimeter) into the starter mix.
- The seedlings will need to be misted as needed to ensure the soil remains lightly moist, and the container should be placed in a location where it will receive consistent sunlight.
Not all the seeds will be successful, so planting as many as possible will give you the best odds. Despite the fact that not all seeds will grow into stone pines, this is by far the simplest way to propagate these wonderful trees.
The other recommended method to propagate umbrella pine trees is through grafting — a complex method not suitable for beginners. This is practiced by commercial farmers and horticulturalists, and should not be attempted unless you know what you are doing.
Some people say that propagating umbrella pines through cuttings is a viable option. In this case, you will want to choose the young waxy needle growth and follow the same steps you would for any other cutting.
Pinus pinea — stone pine trees or umbrella pines — are unique pine trees in that they fill you with a sunny, summery feeling instead of a Christmas vibe. It is easy to see why the Romans loved these trees so much; they are truly majestic trees that will reward you with shade and beauty. Growing and caring for stone pine trees is a little involved in the trees’ early years (but just a little). Once they become established, however, they grow just fine on their own without any involvement on your part.
No fertilizer. No pruning. No watering. It doesn’t get much more low-maintenance than that, does it? To top it all off, umbrella pines will give you access to tasty pine nuts that will allow you to create a mean pesto sauce. If you don’t have basil in your garden yet, now might be the time to consider adding that, too!