An Italian stone pine tree is an amazing evergreen that usually grows between 40 and 80 feet tall. It has a recognizable canopy top, which is why some refer to it as an “umbrella pine.” But, how difficult is it to care for one?
That depends on whether you want to keep it indoors or plant it as an ornamental tree in the yard.
And although it’s easier to care for than a Norfolk pine, there are quite a few differences that you need to know.
Proper Italian Stone Pine Tree Care
If you’re able to simulate the best environment for your Italian stone pine, they are relatively easy to grow. Though, you may not cultivate the tree to its full potential depending on where you live.
Well, unless you have a 60 to 80-foot ceiling in your home.
One of the nice things about this tree is that it is drought-tolerant. This means that in areas where water is scarce, it can still thrive. Though, it does need to get its root system established first.
For indoor growth, you want to keep it well irrigated and drained. Too much water will cause the root system to rot. Wait for the soil to dry in between watering.
If the top inch or so of the soil is dry, it may be time to water.
The Italian stone pine needs full sunlight to thrive. If you’re growing this indoors, you’ll need to find the most well-lit location in your home.
Usually, in the United States, this is any south-facing window. But, each home is different.
The point here is to make sure the pine tree gets plenty of sunlight.
Some people are known to take their trees outside during the spring, summer, and autumn months before the cold weather sets in. Then, they bring the trees back into the house before the temperature drops.
The Italian stone pine thrives in relatively dry climates. Areas that are too humid put the tree at risk of fungal infections and rot. So, areas that experience high levels of humidity are not ideal for this pine tree.
Perhaps the best levels for this tree range between 40 to 60%. Or, at least as close as you can get to similar humidity levels of the Mediterranean. After all, the tree is indigenous to those locations.
Here is where growing an Italian stone pine in the US becomes difficult. The environment needs to stay about 50 degrees. And it’s important to note that ice forming on the branches can be deadly for this pine.
Although the tree can survive in temperatures in the 40s, it’s a Mediterranean tree. It needs to be warm and dry.
When it comes to the soil for the Italian stone pine, it is quite diverse. Although it would rather have slightly acidic soil, it can thrive in just about any level of pH.
Many people will use all-purpose potting mix for indoor growing.
You should also consider using liquid fertilizer to help the tree get nutrients roughly once per month during growth cycles. You can pick this up at Home Depot, local nurseries, and a variety of other hardware or plant store locations.
Keeping the Italian Stone Pine House-Bound
If you plan on keeping the pine tree indoors, prune away the branch tips. This will help the tree maintain its shape and size. Kind of like how you would cultivate a small bonsai plant.
At which case, you can grow the tree to your liking depending on pot size and location.
Age Range of the Italian Stone Pine
It’s estimated that the Italian stone pine can live between 50 and 150 years, if properly cared for. Of course, this is also taken from data from the tree’s native landscape.
But, if you’re able to sustain it well, the tree could potentially outlive your children.
The nuts of the Italian stone pine are edible. Though, it may take some time before you’re able to harvest. For one thing, it’s unlikely you’ll have pine nuts available if you’re growing an indoor tree.
First of all, it takes years before the cones start to appear on an outdoor variant. Then, it could take several years after the cones appear before nuts are available.
These are technically the seeds of the tree. But for many, they are a delicacy.
Where to Find Italian Stone Pine Trees for Sale
A lot of nurseries around the US focus on plants that are indigenous to their respective areas. After all, why buy a tree that you’re not going to be able to grow in your geographic location?
In Zone 8 and up, you may find Italian stone pine trees for sale. Check the Agricultural Research Service to determine what zone you are in. The Plant Hardiness Zone Map will be of help.
However, it’s entirely possible that a local nursery may have Italian stone pines as indoor decorative plants. Though, they will require a bit of care if you plan to keep it inside.
But during the Christmas season, these pine trees can be found everywhere from Home Depot to Walmart.
A Living Italian Stone Pine Christmas Tree
Italian stone pine Christmas trees are quite common in many parts of the United States. Unfortunately, these trees don’t have the best outdoor resilience across the board.
Because the United States has a wide diversity of climates, this tall evergreen can survive nicely outside in many locations. But for the best chance of survival after Christmas, you need to adhere to the care laid out above.
For example, here in Colorado, the Italian pine tree has a very poor chance of surviving winter. Although Colorado has the right level of humidity, our winters get pretty rough.
And since anything below 50 degrees Fahrenheit is damaging to the Italian stone pine, outdoor planting in much of the United States is nearly impossible.
However, the tree can thrive in more arid areas that have a low humidity level. This includes much of the southern states, parts of Arizona and California, and southern Nevada.
Not All Pines Are the Same
Pines can come in all shapes and sizes. And if you want to plant one outside, you need to make certain your climate is ideal. Otherwise, it’ll kill the tree quite quickly.
For example, here in Colorado, it’s easy to grow a blue spruce. But for an Italian stone pine, putting one outside would be a short lived venture.
Make sure you’re paying attention to the care of your tree.
Michael has been interested in the practicality of living green for quite some time. He works closely with GreenGeeks Web Hosting as the Content Marketing Team Lead and an author of various articles.