Northern Nevada gardening and landscaping: Pinyon Pine Challenges | Carson City Nevada News

I received a question from a reader in the Virginia City Highlands. Some of their trees are turning brown and a lot of sap seeps into them. A small tree died and she noticed some signs of beetle boring.

She is concerned that a larger tree might have bugs nearby and whether or not she should treat it with something. The single-leaf pinyon pine, Pinus monophyla, is one of Nevada’s state trees.

Pinyon pine forests are found in many of Nevada’s mountain ranges. With the spread of development in these forests, home landscapes often include pinyons. Homeowners who want to preserve these native landscapes need to know how to care for the native pine trees.

Healthy trees have fewer insect and disease problems than stressed trees. It is important to keep the trees strong by reducing man-made stressors such as improper watering, structural damage, soil compaction, and improper use of fertilizers or chemicals.

Pinyon pines in native landscapes require minimal maintenance. They grow in their native habitat and are therefore adapted to the location. Pinyons tolerate drier conditions better than other pines in Nevada. Irrigation and fertilization are usually not required unless trees have been damaged by human activity or weather.

We often hit trees in our daily activities. Trees that have been injured above or below the ground are prime candidates for attack by insects such as bores and diseases. Root damage is a common cause of tree stress caused by humans.

Pinyon’s root systems are often damaged by overhydration. Because their natural habitats are drier than other pine trees, too much water can cause root problems and death. Homeowners who are used to watering landscape trees such as Austrian (Pinus nigra) or Scottish (Pinus sylvestris) pines regularly during the summer often mistakenly water their pinyons in a similar manner. Pinyon trees should never have irrigated landscapes planted around them. You need well-drained soil.

The growth of the pinyon, which begins in April and ends in September or October, is aided by stored soil moisture rather than spring or summer rains. Watering a pinyon pine should mimic natural rain or snow, and should be done primarily from December through April, when a winter is unusually dry. During the drought periods in winter and early spring, the trees should be deeply watered monthly. Keep water away from the root crown.

For more information on maintaining the health of pinyon pines, identifying specific pests, and controlling these pests, see “Pinyon Pines – Pest Control Guidelines” here.

– JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator Emerita at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at

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