Japanese umbrella trees (Sciadopitys verticillata) are small, strikingly beautiful trees that never fail to draw attention. These richly textured conifers are rare and expensive in nurseries because they grow slowly and it takes a long time to grow a sapling large enough to sell. In the landscape, it can take 100 years for a sapling to reach mature size. Despite the extra expense and slow growth, these lovely trees are worth the effort. Let’s find out more about Japanese umbrella pine trees.
Umbrella Pine Information
Umbrella pine trees aren’t true pine trees. In fact, they are so unique that they are the only members of their family and genus. One of the first things you’ll notice is the unusual texture. The shiny, dark green needles almost feel as though they are made of plastic. The needles are 2 to 5 inches long and grow in whorls around the branches.
Although they are generally spire-shaped, there are a few cultivars that take a more rounded form. The branches on young trees grow straight out, giving it a rigid appearance. As the tree ages, the branches become more pendulous and graceful. The ornamental reddish or orange bark sheds in long strips, adding to the exotic appeal.
Once the tree matures, it sets cones that are 2 to 4 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. They start green and mature to brown. You can start trees from the seeds in fertilized cones if you don’t mind the long wait. Rare because of the patience required to propagate them, you may have to ask your nurseryman to help you obtain an umbrella pine. Planting this unusual and lovely tree is something you’ll never regret.
Care of Umbrella Pine Trees
Care of umbrella pine trees begins with careful site selection and preparation. Choose a location with morning sun and shade during the hottest part of the afternoon. Even though the tree grows slowly, leave room for its mature size of 25 to 30 feet high and 15 feet across. Provide a sheltered site with protection from strong winds. Umbrella pines are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8a.
Umbrella pines need organically rich soil that manages moisture well. For most locations, this means working a thick layer of compost or rotted manure into the soil before planting. It isn’t enough to amend the soil in the planting hole because the roots need good soil as they spread into the surrounding area. Umbrella pines fail to thrive in heavy clay or alkaline soils.
Keep the soil evenly moist throughout the tree’s life. You’ll probably have to water weekly during dry spells. Organic mulch will help the soil hold moisture and keep down weeds that compete for moisture and nutrients.