The Q&A Archives: reducing the size and shaping of a mugo pine

Question: i have 3 very healthy mugo pines that are a lot larger than i would like them to be. i would like to know if i will be able to reduce their size and to shape them without hurting them. if so, could you tell me how or direct me to a resource with pictures and a complete explanation. i also need to know what time of year would be best to do this if it can be done. your site has a beautiful photo of a low growing, spreading mugo pine. that is what i would like mine to look like.
thank you for your help

Answer: You can prune Mugo pines, but you can't make them a lot smaller than they have already grown. If you reduce their size too much, they won't recover and you'll end up with some pathetic looking plants. You can trim Mugos back in early spring, just as new growth begins. Many of the mugo pines (Pinus mugo) we see for sale are grown from seed and so will show some variation in size and growth habit. Culture can also play a role in that a certain amount of compactness can be induced by breaking off the growth tips in the spring. However, there are different types. Some you might see are "var. mugo", a low growing species under 8 feet tall and twice as wide; "var. pumilio, a prostrate form; "Compacta", a very dense and rounded form, "Gnom", a very short and dark green form, and "Mops" a very dwarf form. You can't encourage a normal sized Mugo to grow into a compact or dwarf form. If your trees are much too large, you might want to consider replacing them with smaller cultivars.

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