Pine trees are plants that most of us associate with northern climates, mountains, and snow – not hot countries. That might leave you wondering, can pine trees grow in the desert?
Most pine trees prefer cold climates, but some are able to grow in the desert, and indeed the Desert Pine is perfectly suited to it. Many pine trees will need special care while they get established in the desert but will grow unaided once they have matured.
Let’s find out a bit more about growing pine trees in the desert and what a tree might need to survive in an arid region.
Can Pine Trees Grow In The Desert?
Some pine trees can grow in the desert if the conditions are right for them. The Desert Pine is among the fastest-growing trees and is specifically adapted to growing in the desert regions. Not all pines will cope with the heat, however.
In general, pines grow in cold places and they have adapted to survive well in cold climates. Except for one species, all of the various pines are native to the Northern Hemisphere and are usually found in cold, mountainous climates. However, the adaptations that help them survive well in the cold can also help them in hot climates, and these include:
- Thick, waxy needles that reduce water loss
- The ability to tolerate full sunlight
- Deep roots to gather water from far underground
- The ability to tolerate freezing overnight temperatures
Their needles are designed to minimize the loss of water, which can be an advantage in desert climates as well as icy environments. The stomata of the leaves are set into a crease, reducing the air flowing across them and therefore reducing water loss. This gives them an advantage over broad-leaf plants, especially in periods of drought.
Pine trees also tend to be deep-rooted, which means that they can suck up water from deep underground. As surface water evaporates quickly in desert regions, they are more likely to be able to survive than some shallow-rooted plants.
What Does A Young Pine Need To Grow In The Desert?
Most pine trees do not naturally grow in the desert, and therefore getting a young pine established in very arid conditions can be challenging. Usually, you will need to make sure that the pine gets plenty of water for the first few years of its life. Some may benefit from seasonal waterings for around 10 years or more, while others will get established more quickly.
It’s best to water deeply and fairly infrequently so that your pine is encouraged to grow long, deep roots that will help it to tap into water in the future years. Do not let a young pine get dried out; it is quite likely to die if it can’t get enough water before it has got established, and in arid regions, this could be a serious issue.
Older trees should not need watering regularly, although you should keep an eye out for signs of drought stress, and water the tree if it is starting to show them. Extreme drought will kill a pine, so you need to be vigilant and step in if the conditions are too harsh.
Depending on the species, a young pine may also need some shelter from the direct sunlight to prevent it from burning. Most pines enjoy getting plenty of sunlight, but providing a bit of shade in the hottest parts of the day could be beneficial. Some pines need more shade than others, so it’s a good idea to research your tree and its needs.
Is It Good To Grow Pine Trees In The Desert?
You might be wondering about the benefits of growing pine trees in the desert, but if you can get them to grow, they can offer various advantages, including:
- Cover from the sun and a good degree of shade, especially once they have matured
- Screening to provide privacy
- Reduced need for water compared with planting deciduous and broad-leaf trees
- An excellent windbreak to shelter other trees or buildings
Although many other trees can also survive well in desert regions, pines have some obvious and big advantages. However, they are mostly slow growers, so if you want them to get big within a reasonable amount of time, you will need to choose a variety like the Desert Pine, which can grow up to two feet per year once it is established.
Which Pine Trees Grow Well In The Desert?
You have quite a lot of choice when it comes to selecting a pine tree for desert conditions, including the Desert Pine (also known as the Mondell Pine and the Eldarica Pine). You can also grow the Ponderosa Pine, the Italian Stone Pine, the Bristlecone Pine, and the Single-leaf Pinion. These are especially good if the temperatures are going to fall dramatically at night because they can tolerate freezing.
Mugho and Austrian pines are further options that will generally do well in hot climates, and the Aleppo pine is also reasonably drought tolerant. It should survive well with minimal water once it has got an established root network to tap into.
Many pines will adapt to desert conditions if they are looked after while they are getting established, but if you want to grow a particular variety, it’s worth researching how well it copes with hot weather and a lot of direct sunlight.
Some pines may struggle even if they are given plenty of water, so make sure you are choosing carefully when you select your pine tree. If the pine needs shade or lower temperatures, it is unlikely to thrive in a desert environment, no matter how well you care for it.
Pine trees can grow in the desert, but you will need to provide water for the first few years, and possibly again during any periods of extreme drought. These trees are generally hardy and can save water well, but look out for signs of weather stress or major burning when the tree is young, and take action before the situation gets worse.