Neal Weisenberger

Pine trees are the best-adapted evergreen trees for the Antelope Valley. There are probably four or five different pine trees that grow well and another three or four related trees that do well in the Antelope Valley.

The most common pine tree in the Antelope Valley is the aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis). This tall, light green pine tree has a semi weeping growth habit, especially when young and is used for windbreaks. The aleppo pine has been planted her for many years. The aleppo pine can grow about 30 to 50 feet tall and wide. The aleppo pine can become a little too large for most residential landscapes.

Today more commonly planted is the eldarica pine. The eldarica pine is more upright and very symmetrically shaped. These plants are commonly sold as christmas trees and are becoming more commonly planted than aleppo pines. The brutia pine is basically the same as an eldarica pine except the needles are more bluish or darker green in color. The eldarica pine and bruita pines are closely related to the aleppo pine.

Another pine tree for the Antelope Valley is the Italian stone pine (pinus pinea). The Italian stone pine grows like a shade tree reaching about 20 to 30 feet wide and tall fairly quickly. It’s shape when very young is very symmetrical and you may have purchased one during the holidays as a small blue pine. Later the shape becomes barrel to rounded in shape as the tree quickly grows to 20 to 30 feet.

Given some time, about 50 or more years, a stone pine can grow to 70 to 80 feet tall. In older sections of Palmdale and Lancaster you may see some very large pine trees, which are Italian stone pines.

The most commonly planted pine tree in Southern California is the Canary Island pine (pinus canariensis), which could freeze in a cold location or a cold winter. A good substitution for a Canary Island pine is the chir pine (pinus roxburgii), which has long needles and a pyramidal shape, growing to 30 feet tall and wide. The chir pine can be damaged in very cold weather.

Other pine-like trees, called conifers also will grow here. Conifers include cypress trees, cedars trees and any other trees that have cones instead of flowers; actually, the cones are the flowers.

Arizona cypress has been a very successful windbreak tree that has been used in the Antelope Valley forever. Most Arizona cypress are bluish green in color and pyramidal in shape. It is best to shear this tree every year for the first 10 years to keep the tree neat and pyramidal in shape. It is also best to buy a grafted Arizona cypress rather than one grown from seed. Grafted cypress will have a more uniform growth habit and color, but they are more expensive. Arizona cypress grows to about 20 to 30 feet tall and 10 to 20 feet wide.

With all of the praise of Arizona cypress, I would not recommend planting them any more. Over the last few years, a disease called pitch canker has been attacking and killing the Arizona cypress trees.

Leyland cypress (cupressocyparis leylandii) has been used as a replacement for the common Arizona cypress due to their softer look. The last 20 plus years, the Leyland cypress have been developing a major problem in the Antelope Valley with a type of canker disease, and I no longer recommend planting them either.

Many of the conifers have a problem with our alkaline soil or they become too big for the landscape. Incense cedar (calcoderus decurrens) does grow well in the Antelope Valley with some extra iron fertilizer because they do not tolerate our alkaline soil.

Lately more deodar cedars (cedrus deodara) have been planted. These very large pyramidal trees quickly outgrow most home landscapes, and again they have a major problem with our soil.

A commonly planted conifer is the giant sequoia (sequoiadendron giganteum). Although it is one of the largest trees in the world, it will fit the landscape for many years. This dark green pyramidal shaped tree requires extra iron fertilizer to keep it green.

Colorado blue spruce falls in the same category as the last few, they do not tolerate our alkaline soil and become yellow.

Many conifers will grow in the Antelope Valley and with careful selection and planning it can become a focal point of your landscape.

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