How to Grow and Maintain a Weeping Pine Tree

Weeping pine tree is a dropping cultivar, and it’s a very eye-catching tree to have in your yard, even if it doesn’t appeal to everyone’s taste. This tree offers a twisting, unique form with draping branches and pretty greenish-blue needles that helps it stand out in your landscape design. It’s a slow-growing, compact tree with an irregular shape, and this means that it works well as a specimen tree in the middle of your lawn or garden.

You do have to take steps to train your weeping pine tree to form a central trunk or it won’t have nearly as upright or pleasing of an appearance. Instead, it’ll slowly develop a sprawling, untidy, shrub-like look that isn’t nearly as elegant, and it’ll be harder to tell it has a weeping habit. Also, no two specimens look the same, no matter how much time you take to trim and prune them.

As your weeping pine tree matures, the pendulous, twisting branches can reach the ground and work like a creeping ground cover. Weeping pine trees also require the correct conditions to grow well, so they’re not necessarily one that is great for beginners as they can be an expensive investment.

1 Weeping Pine
Weeping pine trees make fantastic additions to your yard or garden as specimen plants for their dramatic growth habit. Weeping Pine by Cherice / CC BY 2.0

You know that most conifers are tree-like and upright, but the weeping pine tree goes against this normal growth pattern and produces cascading branches that spill down and slowly move along the ground to cover a large area. This makes it a great plant to have on a slope or bank, or it can even cascade over your retaining wall. You can also stake it up to make it a much taller tree. It produces very pretty soft and long needles that are an attractive bluish-green or greenish-gray coloring, and the older specimens will produce bigger pine cones. Also, weeping pine trees are:

  • Easy to care for once established
  • Great groundcovers for banks or slopes
  • Happy in most soils
  • Hardy to -40°F, so great for cold planting zones
  • Offer an eye-catching, exotic look

This is a very hardy evergreen that is rarely bothered by ice or snow, and it is a very special and unique plant to have in the yard. It works in everything from environmentally-friendly yard or garden designs to Japanese ones, and it will happily grow in ordinary garden soil without any special additives with a little help from you.

Weeping Pine Tree – General Overview

Attracts: Birds
Bloom Time: N/A
Botanical Name:Pinus patula
Common Name:Weeping Eastern Pine Tree or Weeping White Pine
Fall Coloring:Green
Fall Foliage: Green
Flower Color: N/A
Hardiness Zones:3 to 8
Mature Size:Tops out at 15 feet
Native to: North America
Plant Type:Evergreen pine tree
Soil pH:Tolerates a variety but prefers acidic
Soil Type:Prefers well-drained, loamy, or sandy soil
Spring Coloring:Blue-green or greenish-gray
Sun Exposure:Partial shade to full sun

History and Origins of the Weeping Pine Tree

The weeping pine tree is native to the eastern part of the United States, but you can also find it growing in the west in parts of Canada, and it’s now also in the south in Georgia. The Native American Iroquois nation calls this tree the Tree of Peace, and it’s known as the Weymouth Pine in the UK where George Weymouth introduced it in 1620. He found it in an area that is now known as Maine.

Weeping pine trees are very popular cultivars, and you can now find them grown in new shapes, including smaller dwarf versions and ones with a very strong weeping habit. Pendula is a conical-shaped tree that has a very broad spread, and it can easily get up to 20 feet wide. The weeping white pine tree will grow lower to the ground naturally, so it makes an excellent choice if you want to cover a big bare space in your yard or garden. If you’re interested in training your weeping pine tree to grow upright, it will top out at roughly 15-feet at full maturity under the correct growth habit.

Additionally, weeping pine trees can form a straight, tall trunk if you train it with branches that spread out horizontally before they start to take on the natural drooping appearance. As the tree matures, the branches will take on a more irregular shape to help accentuate the unique mature form. It gets very thickly covered in branches that are packed full of thin, long, soft, blue-green or greenish-gray colored needles that are far softer than traditional pine needles. Because these trees are evergreen, there is very little change in how they look from summer to the autumn or winter months.

How to Grow Weeping Pine Trees

Your weeping pine tree will grow best when you put it in a sunny spot in the yard with fertile, moist, but well-draining soil that is slightly acidic. This species prefers to be in cooler planting zones, and it’s not a good choice for a city garden. Too much pollution around this tree will result in fewer branches, and a less healthy, shorter growth habit with yellow-tinted needles. To get the best look possible, you should:

Light

While your weeping pine tree starts to grow, it’ll do fine in a partially shaded spot in your hard. However, once it hits mature height and is fully established, it prefers to get bright, full sunlight for as much of the day as it can.

Fertilizer

This tree will appreciate a fertilizer application in the spring to encourage strong growth throughout the summer months. Use a very acidic fertilizer that is specially designed to use on evergreen shrubs or trees for the best results.

Soil

Weeping pine trees grow best in virtually any soil type as long as the soil is fertile, moist, and very well-drained. However, if you want to get the perfect growing conditions, they prefer acidic soil. Also, they’re not huge fans of being in compacted, heavy clay-based soil. Mulching around your weeping pine tree’s base can help you preserve moisture, reduce the soil’s alkalinity levels, and keep the roots cool on those scorching summer days. If your soil has a higher pH level, this can cause needle chlorosis, and the foliage will quickly turn yellow because they don’t have the chlorophyll they need to get the lush, green coloring. You can use some of the dropped needles as a mulch alternative too.

Temperature and Humidity

If you’re someone who lives in a very dry and hot region, the weeping pine tree won’t survive in your garden. They’re not a drought-tolerant species at all, and they thrive in colder climates. They also can’t cope with salty conditions, so coastal planting spaces are out. You should also avoid planting them in locations that are downhill from heavily-winter salted roads. If you have cold conditions during the winter months in your climate, the weeping pine tree usually don’t keep the pretty blue-green tint and turn more grayish-green until spring.

Water

You should make a plan to keep your weeping pine tree consistently moist. If you live in a location that gets longer periods of drought, you’ll need to water them frequently to encourage healthy growth. They won’t tolerate standing water very well either as this can quickly cause chlorosis or root rot.

2 Weeping Pine Growth Conditions
Once you get the growth conditions correct for weeping pine trees, they are a relatively hardy specimen. Mature Weeping Pine by Jon Sullivan / CC BY-NC 2.0

Propagating Weeping Pine Tree From Seed

With their graceful growth habit and eye-catching looks, weeping pine trees add an ornamental appearance all year-round and welcome shade during the hotter summer months. You can propagate them from seeds, and you start the seeds in the spring right after the last frost of the season recedes.

Also, weeping pine tree seeds germinate reliably well without pretreating them, but a week-long soak in water will speed up their slow germination process. Once they sprout, the young weeping pine trees will grow relatively quickly and be ready to transplant in four to six months. To propagate these trees from seeds, you’ll:

  • Put your weeping pine tree seeds into a bucket of cold water for a week before you sow them. Get rid of any stray seeds that float to the surface because they’re usually not viable or rotten.
  • Fill 10-inch pots with a mixture of one part pine needle compost, two parts coarse sand, and three parts loam. You can use pine needles that you gathered from beneath a well-established, mature pine tree.
  • Sow two weeping pine trees per 10-inch pot. Make a one-inch-wide and ¼-inch-deep depression in your soil mix. Put the two seeds into the depression and backfill them with the loose loam.
  • Next, spread a ¼-inch thick layer of pine needle compost over your seeds. Run water into each pot until the loam feels wet to the top three inches and you see water trickling out through the drainage holes.
  • Move your pots to a sheltered location that gets morning and late afternoon sunshine. Give your seeds dappled, light shade during the late morning and early afternoon hours to prevent the soil from drying out far too quickly. Remember, these plants aren’t tolerant to drought.
  • Water your seeds infrequently but deeply to prevent rot. Run water into the pots until it starts coming out the bottom drainage holes, and allow the surface to dry out before you water again.
  • Watch for early seed germination roughly a month after you sow them, but don’t be discouraged if it takes up to two months for them to sprout. Remove one of the weeping pine tree seedlings if both seeds sprout, leaving the healthier of the two in the pot.
  • Grow your seedlings under partially shaded conditions with regular, deep watering sessions. Transplant them into a sunny location or lightly shaded area once they get several sets of mature needles and reach five inches tall.
  • Space multiple weeping pine trees at least 20 feet apart in your yard. Mulch them heavily around the base of each seedling to ward off moisture stress. Water them weekly to a depth of four inches for the first two summers, and then you can cut back a bit.

3 Seed Germination
Germinating your weeping pine tree seeds may not be a labor-intensive process, but it’s one that will test your patience as it can take months from start to finish.

Pruning Weeping Pine Trees

Weeping pine trees are also called Eastern White Pine, and they are native to various parts of North American, particularly zones 3b to 7, as we touched on earlier. The weeping pine tree is a popular specimen or hedge plant in landscaping designs. It will grow very slowly, and depending on how well you do training it, can top out between 6 and 15 feet with a 25 to 35 foot spread. If you leave it untrained and allow it to sprawl out, it’ll usually only get three feet high, and this makes it more shrub-like. They do require a decent amount of pruning to remove any damaged or diseased branches and to help you develop one central trunk.

Ideally, you’ll get rid of the broken, damaged, or diseased branches as soon as you notice them, and as close to when the damage occurs as possible. This tree doesn’t go dormant at any point throughout the year. You can train young weeping pine trees to develop a strong central trunk by clipping away any low branches that develop at the trunk. Don’t leave a stub behind when you do this as it tends to be more prone to disease development. You can do this in winter when the tree is slightly more dormant than it is during the summer or spring months. To prune it, you should:

Branch Junction Pruning

Tip prune your weeping pine tree branches to your desired look, in very early spring or late winter by snipping them back to the tree’s branch junction. Make sure you have a pair of hand pruners that you put ¼ inch above the junction of a needle cluster or another living branch so you can retain it. Clear the lowermost portion of the tree’s trunk of any hidden or scraggly branches by snipping them until they’re flush with the main tree trunk. You can also do this with the main branches if you have a very cluttered, unattractive look when you step back and observe it.

Selective Pruning

No matter what the mature size of your weeping pine tree is, you have to lightly and selectively prune it to keep it healthy and retain this plant’s natural attractive form. Selective pruning also helps to keep the tree structurally sound. You can perform tip pruning at any time, but you should do any major branch pruning when the tree is young and actively growing. Trim away any wounded, dead, or diseased branches using a hand pruner, and make the cuts flush where the branch meets the trunk. Leave no more than a ¼-inch stub. If the branch you want to remove is bigger than ½-inches in diameter, use loppers. Remove diseased or dead branches at any point during the year.

Soil Level Pruning

Cut branches that make contact with the soil. Make the cuts on these branches at a junction with either a needle cluster or another branch that is roughly 6 to 12 inches above the soil. Prune them branches back even farther, depending on your desired aesthetics and depending on how much space you want between the weeping tips and the ground. Remove any twigs or branches that are pulling down the tree or making it look lopsided. Balance your tree’s canopy so that there is foliage and branches on all sides of the tree’s trunk.

Other Pruning Tips

Prune your weeping pine tree in midwinter because this is a semi-dormant phase that will reduce the “bleeding” or oozing that happens with sap. You can use the clippings for decorations. Also, keep in mind that no matter if you take the best care of this tree and prune it, wind frequency, soil, and the branch length can very well topple it. You may need to install a stake or brace at the centralized trunk to ensure that it can fully support this plant’s arching, weeping canopy.

As the plant grows, the tips of the branches will stay on the soil or mulch, and they can root and grow horizontally as a groundcover. You can remove these if you like, and you want to get one main trunk where all other branches radiate from. Branches that criss-cross one another or put uneven weight loads on the main trunk, like branches growing out to the right side of the trunk with zero on the left, should be thinned out or removed.

Things to Watch For

Don’t cut the branches on the weeping pine back into lower bare areas and expect them to regrow. Pines usually don’t sprout new buds or needle clusters on the barren, old twigs or lowermost parts of the branches. Branch cracks or breakage can manifest themselves after a heavy snowfall or ice storm. Be prepared to have some residual branch die-back roughly three to six months after these events.

  • HappyDIYHome Pruning Tip – The pruning tools you’ll need for this project depend on the location and size of the branch you want to remove. When the tree is younger, you’ll only need hand pruning shears most of the time. When the tree matures, if you want to cut away any larger branches, you may need to invest in a pole pruner, lopping shears, or a tree saw

4 Tree Pruning
Pruning your weeping pine tree is a huge part of the general maintenance you have to perform each year to help keep it healthy and thriving.

Commons Pests and Diseases

Weeping pine trees have issues with several pests and diseases. They can attract certain types of aphids, spruce mites, bark beetles, and more. The biggest issues tend to be connected to blight and rust, and pine blister rust on the bark is the most serious issue that can kill your trees.

Depending on how cold it gets, this tree will usually be okay. However, temperatures that dip below -40°F are problematic for it. We’ve rounded up a few of the biggest issues you can see with this tree and how to help get rid of them so your tree survives it and looks lovely in your yard.

Cankers

Pine pitch canker is a fungal disease that can easily expose the root system and girdle branches, causing the needles to turn yellow and brown before they drop from the tree. If you have a serious infection, it can cause crown dieback, and this will lead to the tree’s death. For trees that are mostly brown to begin with, it can be too late to save it by aggressively pruning out the damaged branches. If you catch it early, selectively pruning can help slow the disease down. Always sterilize your pruning equipment using bleach or rubbing alcohol when you trim a diseased tree to reduce the risks of accidentally spreading it.

Frost Damage

Frost damage can turn into foliage damage during an especially harsh winter or frigid cold snap. The needles can turn brown or black, and it can kill full branches.  Younger trees and plants are much more prone to having issues with frost damage. If hard frosts are on the radar, you want to cover your younger trees with a sheet during the night. Wrapping the branches with Christmas tree lights can also generate a little heat. This is why it’s so important to plant them early and get them in the ground to establish themselves well before the first hard freeze of the season.

Verticillium

Verticillium wilt is a fungal disease that comes from the soil, and it starts at your weeping pine tree roots and moves up to the canopy, causing the foliage to discolor, wilt, and then prematurely drop. Wilt can kill branches, and it’ll eventually kill the entire tree. There is no proven cure for this disease either, but providing good care can slow down the disease’s progress. Any tree that succumbs to this disease should get removed, along with as much of the root system as you can. Irrigate regularly to keep your living tree growing and fighting the disease.

Weevils

Pine needle weevils are brown beetles that eat the needles on your weeping pine trees, causing small notches to form on the margins. They have grub-like larvae that feed on the shoots and roots. Needles turn brown later in the winter months or spring due to this damage. They can drop very quickly afterwards. Also, there is no control currently known, but you can prune out damaged branches. Infestations aren’t usually bad enough to kill your weeping pine tree.

Warning

You never want to plant any type of white weeping pine tree close to currants, and this includes the European red and black currant. These plants are hosts to white pine blister rust, and this is a serious disease that can quickly kill the tree if it’s infected.

Bottom Line

Weeping pine trees make fantastic additions to your yard or garden, especially if you live in cooler climates. You now know the basic growing conditions and how to keep them healthy and disease-free. You can take this information and plant a weeping pine tree anywhere you like in your own garden.

Weeping Pine Tree 1 Weeping Pine Tree 2

Related Posts