Sat July 27, 2013
Garden Report

Love That Mountain Scent? Plant A Limber Pine

Limber pine seeds must be distributed by wildlife. The seeds are eaten by nutcrackers, who also make seed caches, burying the seeds in moist soil, where they may sprout if undisturbed. Sometimes several seedlings will sprout from a single cache, and grow together into what appears to be a single tree with several main stems.
Credit Credit Colorado State University

Limber Pine is a drought tolerant native pine. Its habitat is high mountain elevations, but it can thrive in your garden.

In it's usual high elevation environment, Limber Pine only grow a few inches a year. They tend to be bushy, multi-stemmed trees usually less than twenty feet tall. The bundles of five needles have a slight bluish hue. Limber Pine grow in groves all the way up to timberline.

How Tall Do They Grow?

Limber Pine have the fragrance of the mountains.

In the lowlands Limber Pine grow faster. They can put on eight or ten inches of growth each year. They grow taller and can be thirty or more feet tall. Limber Pine has a grey bark that is a contrast to the blue-green needles. Once established, Limber Pine will grow on natural precipitation and need no extra water. 

Other Selections of Limber Pine

A popular selection of Limber Pine has been Vanderwolf Pine. Vanderwolf was selected because it has consistent blue colored needles. It is also a more upright tree growing about twenty feet tall and only ten feet wide at the base. Most Vanderwolf Pine are grafted onto white pine root-stock.  That root-stock doesn’t grow well in most Rocky Mountain soils. Many Vanderwolf Pine that have been planted have suffered or died.   

Glenmore is another selection of Limber Pine. Glenmore is slow growing. It grows four to six inches a year.  Glenmore has an upright habit. At ten feet tall it is only three feet wide at the base. Glenmore has blue-green needles. Because it is a Rocky Mountain selection most Glenmore are grafted onto Limber Pine root-stock and are compatible with our regions soils.


Limber Pine will sometimes get infestations of white wooly aphids. They can be easily treated with a hard stream of water or mild insecticide. Or left alone natural predators will eat most of the aphids.  Limber Pine is susceptible to White Pine Blister Rust. But in my experience, this is a rare problem.

Limber Pine is an underused, native tree. It is very drought tolerant. It can be planted as a specimen by itself or used as a backdrop to other garden plants. Seedling Limber Pine vary widely in form from tall and narrow to bushy and stout. So there is a form for every garden.  And Limber Pine have the fragrance of the mountains.


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