220 Pinus mugoCommon Names: mugo pine, mountain pine, Swiss mountain pine, mugho pine, dwarf mountain pine Family: Pinaceae (pine Family)
The most common cultivars of Swiss mountain pine (or mugo pine) are dense and bushy shrubs, usually broad spreading or rounded. Some selections may grow to tree size, 30-50 ft (9-15 m) tall and about as wide, but most are low growing densely needled shrubs that rarely get more than 10-15 ft (3-4.5 m) tall and perhaps a little wider in spread. The needles are about 2 in (5 cm) long and carried in fascicles of two, crowded densely on the stems. They are often twisted or sickle shaped. The dull brown cones are ovoid, about 2 in (5 cm) long, and covered with flat or slightly concave scales. The bark is brown and broken into irregular plates, but they do not exfoliate. Branches are covered with little rounded bumps that persist where needles have dropped off. Var. mugo (sometimes spelled mughus) is the typical variety, normally a prostrate, spreading shrub. Var. pumilo is also small and shrubby but has branches that are more erect. There are more than 50 cultivars listed. 'Compacta' and 'Mops' are rounded and dense, 2-4 ft (0.6-1.2 m) tall and 3-5 ft (0.9-1.5 m) wide; the mat forming cv. 'Slavinii' is low and spreading, to 3 ft (0.9 m) tall and 5 ft (1.5 m) wide with bluish green foliage. 'Aurea' has yellowish foliage.
Var. uncinata, var. rostrata and var. rotundata are sometimes listed but these are now considered varieties of another species, Pinus uncinata, which is normally a tree to 80 ft (24 m) in height.
Swiss mountain pine, Pinus mugo, is native to the mountains of southern Europe from Spain to Yugoslavia.
CultureSwiss mountain pine is a slow growing little pine; some cultivars have been clocked at less than 2 in (5 cm) per year! Swiss mountain pine is tolerant of a wide range of soil types, including very calcareous soils. Prune regularly to keep it small and densely bushy. Light: Full sun to light shade. Moisture: Normal garden watering. Mugo pine does not tolerate drought. Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 - 7. Swiss mountain pine might be grown in zone 8A, but this is a cool climate shrub that does not tolerate extreme heat. Propagation: Swiss mountain pine is easy to grow from seeds which have no pretreatment requirements. However, plants grown from seeds are highly variable with unpredictable growth rates, sizes and forms. Cultivars are best propagated from cuttings, but this is difficult and requires skill and patience. Cloned selections are usually rather expensive to buy.
Shrubby cultivars of Swiss mountain pine are normally used in foundation plantings, shrub borders and in groups as specimen shrubs. They make interesting bonsai and rock garden specimens. This is an outstanding maintenance free little shrub with very dense foliage and a fine to medium texture that works well in most landscape settings.
Swiss mountain pine can be problematic to place in the landscape because its growth rate and ultimate size are often unpredictable. Cultivars listed as small and shrubby sometimes grow into 20 ft (6 m) tall trees. To be sure of growth rate and ultimate size, use only clones of known cultivars. If you plant seedlings, you take your chances! To compound the uncertainty, specimens of Pinus uncinata, a medium sized tree with otherwise similar characteristics, are sometimes offered as mugo or Swiss mountain pine.
Steve Christman 3/20/01; updated 1/18/03, 12/7/03