Many people love the grafted pines that can decorate our gardens with year-round greenery. Unfortunately, evergreens continue to grow while they are alive and many times, eventually outgrow the spot we intended for them to live in. In order to keep them smaller, a good horticultural practice is to break the new growth (often called candles) of these pine when it occurs in early May.
By breaking these candles, we can reduce the amount of new growth. This will make the plant create clusters of buds next year to give the plant a more full appearance. Breaking the candles instead of cutting them with a pruner avoids cutting the needles and have the cut ends of the needles turn brown. This practice works well with all the varieties of Mugo pine and scotch pine that we want to stay smaller. It can also be used to keep upright varieties more compact like Bosnian Pine and even Austrian Pine.
I did this, along with my brother and sister did this to a mugo pine in my Mom’s yard and kept it beautiful for almost 40 years. So keep your pines in check and enjoy some special times in your garden!
Written by Jack Fetig