Italian stone pine | Summer poinsettia care
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Issue: June 19, 2004

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Italian stone pine

Question:

I was told the beautiful pine trees that I saw in Italy would grow here in New Mexico. Is that true? I like their interesting umbrella shape.

Answer:

The umbrella shape that you described is the form of the Italian stone pine, or Pinus pinea. This is a beautiful, fairly drought-tolerant pine tree that will grow in some parts of New Mexico. I have seen several growing and doing well in Albuquerque. However, in recent years several of these have been cut down.

It tolerates our soil, and with minimal irrigation it grows to produce a large attractive tree with a broad crown. If you want the umbrella-shaped form typical of the Appian Way trees in Italy and surrounding countries, pruning of lower branches may be necessary. In looking for information, I discovered that there is disagreement regarding the winter hardiness of this pine. One source said it was hardy only to USDA hardiness zone 8b, while the U. S. Forest Service information gave zone 7 as the hardiness limit. This may indicate that there are some trees hardier than others. This will depend on the seed source, so if you purchase one, ask for a tree from a northern seed source (northern Italy or Greece).

The Italian stone pine is one of approximately one dozen pine trees that produce pine nuts. I have not seen any mature nuts produced in Albuquerque, but there is a chance the nuts will mature in other parts of New Mexico.

This pine becomes rather large, so select a site that gives adequate room for both the top of the tree and its roots to spread.

The Forest Service information also mentioned that finding a source of this tree could be difficult. I have not seen it in New Mexico nurseries lately, but you should be able to find it or have a nursery order it for you.

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Summer poinsettia care

Question:

What should I be doing to care for my poinsettia at this time of the year?

Answer:

You can "summer" your poinsettia outside during the summer. Choose a bright but shady location. Full New Mexico sunlight is not necessary and may burn your plant.

It should remain in its pot so that you can take it inside before frost in the fall, but that means you must take care to prevent drying. Plants in pots dry quickly. Water it often to prevent wilting. A liquid fertilizer may be used occasionally when watering the plant. A slow-release fertilizer may be added to potting soil (if not already included) if you need to repot.

You may prune it early in the growing season to remove leggy growth and encourage formation of new branches. As the poinsettia grows, you can also pinch the tips of the new growth to encourage branching. The greater the number of branches, the more "flowers" you will have next winter. Stop pinching the tips of growths in August to allow the growths to mature and prepare to form flowers. In general, just treat is as you would any houseplant that you are "summering" outside.

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Send your gardening questions to:
Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith
NMSU Cooperative Extension Service
9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112
Albuquerque, NM 87112

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.