The major uses of pine trees in desert landscapes are for visual barriers, sun protection, windbreak, or mark property boundaries.
Problems with Pines
They oftentimes become too large for the property. Cute when they are small. That is the problem now, they are large trees so you need a lot of space to grow them. And they use more water as they get bigger. And they need to be watered deep to improve their anchorage during strong winds. There are plenty of other choices that are smaller trees for shade and for visual barriers. As windbreaks? Put windbreaks close to where they are needed, not on boundary lines.
|Pine trees are frequently planted for shade but out of scale when they mature.|
The two pine trees most commonly planted here, are the more formal looking Afghan (Pinus eldarica, sometimes called Eldarica or Mondell or Mondale pine) and the loosely structured and informal Aleppo pine (P. halapensis).
Aleppo vs. Mondell
|The less formal looking Aleppo pine (P. halapensis)|
|The more formal looking, Christmas tree-like, Mondell pine (P. eldarica)|
These can be fairly large trees at 40 feet tall and above and can easily dwarf a single story home. They can use quite a bit of space and, at those sizes, can use quite a bit of water when they get bigger. Its not a question about whether they will grow in the Mojave Desert but where will you put them?
Aleppo Pine Blight
They can look quite similar sometimes and telling them apart can be difficult. All pine trees can cross pollinate and are wind pollinated. But most of the time they are easy to recognize. One method I use to differentiate the two is the presence of winter physiological disorder called Aleppo pine blight. It only is present on Aleppo pine. It usually causes isolated browning of new growth in a patch or two here and there. In some cases, it can cause tree death but it is rare in Las Vegas.
|Aleppo pine blight occurs during the winter and is a disorder that oftentimes causes isolated browning of new growth in Aleppo pine only. It can get so bad in some regions that it causes severe browning and suspected of tree death.|
A vert large (60+ feet) and graceful pine sometimes used is the Chir pine (P. roxburghii). But this pine is a bit tender to winter cold (and in severe freezing temperatures (low 20's) can be damaged. Like many other plants, in its wild native habitat in the lower elevations of the Hindu Kush (northern India, Afghanstan and northern Paksistan) survives fire and will "sprout" new growth from its trunk if scaffold limbs are killed by fire or cold. Not to be confused with a very similar looking, long needled, but more winter tender pine called Canary Island pine (P. canariensis) heralding from...you guessed it...the Canary Islands.
|Chir pine, considered perhaps subtropical, can be a bit tender in the Las Vegas area but it has a very graceful appearance if it survives the winter cold every 15 years.|
Japanese Black Pine
Japanese Black pine is oftentimes recommended for planting in urban landscapes because it is a smaller pine (25+ feet) with an interesting form for landsapes. But when was the last time you saw one growing here? Nearly all of them planted here have died. Beware!
|Japanese black pine.|
Two Nevada State Trees
Bristlecone pine (P. longaeva) and Pinion pine (P. monophylla) are the two state trees of Nevada. Pinion pine occurs at around 4500 foot elevations in Nevada. Bristlecone pine much higher. For this reason, Pinion pine would have a better chance in the hot, lower elevations of the Mojave Desert than the 6000+ foot elevation Bristlecone pine. Pinion pine occurs in the wild along with Utah juniper. The problem? Availability. It was popular for Mojave Desert landscapes about 25 years ago and disappeared from nurseries.
If you choose to grow pines in the desert:
- Give them plenty of room to grow because they will be big trees.
- Amend the soil in every direction around the trunk about 2 to 3 feet and a foot deep.
- Cover the soil after planting with 3 to 4 inches of woodchips.
- Water them with a coil of drip tubing or basin filled with water.
- Water them deep when you water - three feet deep!