HARDINESS: Zones 4 to 8
PREFERRED SOIL PH: Acid to slightly alkaline
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Average, well-drained
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun
ATTRIBUTES: Peeling bark, multi-stemmed trunk; for screens, specimens
SEASON OF INTEREST: Year-round
FAVORITES: Lacebark pine is sold by species name
QUIRKS: Grows very slowly
GOOD NEIGHBORS: River birch, serviceberry, and other trees with ornamental bark
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: n a site with sun and well-drained soil
LONGEVITY: Lives 100 years or more
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: European pine shoot moth larvae
SOURCE: Nursery plants
DIMENSIONS: To 40 ft (12.2 m) tall and equally wide; needles to 4 in (10.2 cm)
Lacebark Pine in the Landscape
Lacebark pine is a multi-trunked evergreen tree native to China that is grown primarily for its colorful peeling bark. The gray outer bark flakes off in irregular patches, revealing blotches of cream, purple, yellow, and green. This marbled pattern is framed by the rigid, gray-green, 2-4 in (5.1-10.2 cm) long needles, which are held in groups of three.
Plant lacebark pine in a prominent, sunny place, such as near a terrace, pathway, or house window, where you can view the patterns of its bark. As the tree develops, you can prune off the lower branches so that its lovely bark and multiple trunks become more visible. Or you can group several unpruned lacebarks to form a handsome windbreak, screen, or background planting in the garden.
Unlike some conifers, lacebark pine does not lose its green color in extreme low temperatures. In winter, it makes quite a statement when grown alongside other trees with ornamental bark, such as river birch and serviceberry.
Slow and Steady
Lacebark pine takes its time to reach maturity, but it attains a height of 6 ft (1.8 m) in 10 years, 14 ft (4.3 m) in 20 years, and 35-40 ft (10.7-12.2 m) within 50 years. As the tree ages, its shape begins to open up and then spread out, and the bark begins to peel. The colorful bark is most prominent on the large, sprawling limbs of older trees.
Other Care-Free Pines
Several other medium-sized pine species also exhibit ornamental bark. Chilgoza pine (Pinus gcrardiana) is a close relative from the Himalayas with a rounded canopy, silvery bark that peels off in plates, and long needles. It is hardy to Zone 6. Both Japanese red pine (P. densiflora) and American red pine (P. resinosa) earn their common names from their rust-colored bark. On older branches, the thick, scaly outer layer cracks to show gray inner bark. Hardy to Zone 5, the Japanese species has one particularly graceful variety. 'Umbraculifera' grows slowly into a densely branched umbrella shape that rarely exceeds 12 ft (3.7 m in height. The American red pine grows robustly north into Zone 2, becoming a 100 ft (30.5 m) tall tree.
Bosnian pine (P. heldreichii) has ash gray bark that splits, revealing yellow patches beneath. This egg-shaped tree grows slowly to 25 ft (7.6 m). is hardy to Zone 5, and is tolerant of dry, alkaline soil. Montezuma pine (P. montazumae) is a tender plant, which is hardy only to Zone 9, but it makes a striking columnar specimen for warm climates. The rough reddish brown bark develops fissures that contrast with drooping, 8-10 in (20.3-25.4 cm) long, blue-green needles. Seek these species at specialty nurseries and ! from mail-order sources.
Growing Lacebark Pine
Select a site where lacebark pine can bask in the sun. It grows best in well-drained soil, and will thrive in dry sites with poor soil and without supplemental irrigation.The trees transplant easily if they have a substantial root ball.
Pruning should be done selectively, a little at a time as the tree ages, to provide a view of the attractive bark. Cut back unwanted branches when they are still small to minimize the size of the pruning scar. Limbs can be pruned in any season.
Lacebark pine is resistant to many insects and diseases but not to the European pine shoot moth. Its larvae tunnel into tips of new stems, causing them to turn brown and die. Prune off and destroy damaged branches as you find them. Spray trees with a commercial insecticide that is labeled for controlling this pest on lacebark pine trees, applying it as directed on the package label.