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The Best Pine Trees for Northern Illinois

pine cone on a pine tree image by MAXFX from

Pine trees, evergreens in the Pinaceae plant family, typically feature needle-like leaves and pine cones. Gardeners often plant pine trees to add ornamental interest and green color to their landscapes. Northern Illinois gardeners reside in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness zones 4 and 5. If you live in this region, select a pine tree according to appropriate hardiness zone, needle color and mature size.

Jack Pine

The jack pine (Pinus banksiana) reaches between 35 and 50 feet in height with spreads ranging from 20 to 30 feet. This pine variety prefers moist, loamy soils that receive full sun. It thrives in the cooler summers and cold winters of Northern Illinois. Jack pines feature slightly pyramidal forms and red-brown bark. Short, olive green leaves sometimes turn yellow during the winter. The pine cones frequently stay closed for more than 10 years. Jack pines planted in hot climates often suffer from rusts and needle casts. The jack pine budworm often feeds on the foliage. Gardeners frequently use this tree in windbreaks.

Limber Pine

The limber pine (Pinus flexilis) grows between 40 and 60 feet in height and 25 to 40 feet in width. While the limber pine prefers well-drained, moist soils, it tolerates dryer soil conditions. This low-maintenance pine variety has rounded crowns, brown pinecones and bundles of blue-green needles. Limber pines sometimes suffer from white pine blister rust and weevil infestations. Northern Illinois gardeners often plant limber pines as landscape trees.

Lacebark Pine

Lacebark pine trees (Pinus bungeana) naturally occur in China but typically perform well in Northern Illinois. This slow-growing pine ranges from 30 to 50 feet in height and 20 to 35 feet in width. Lacebark pines need moist, well-drained soils that receive full sun. This low-maintenance tree sometimes suffers from winter weather damage. The ornamental bark features silver, light purple and olive green tones before maturing to white. Lacebark pines also bear yellow-brown pine cones and bundles of green needles. This pine works well as a specimen tree.

Swiss Stone Pine

The Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra) is native to central Europe but performs well in the cold winters of Northern Illinois. This slow-growing tree ranges from 30 to 40 feet in height and 15 to 20 feet in width. The Swiss stone pine prefers full-sun locations with well-drained, sandy loam soils. It also tolerates partial shade positions. Swiss stone pines have a pyramidal form and deep green needles. The purple-brown cones produce edible pine nuts. This vigorous pine variety has few insect or disease problems. Gardeners often plant Swiss stone pine trees in smaller lawns.

Japanese Red Pine

Japanese red pines (Pinus densiflora) grow from 40 to 60 feet in height with spreads ranging from 15 to 25 feet. Japanese red pines prefer well-drained soils in sites that receive full sun. This pine variety also tolerates partial shade in areas with hot summers. Japanese red pines feature flattened crowns, oval pine cones, reddish-orange bark and vibrant green leaves that often turn yellow in the winter. Few disease or pest problems plague this pine variety. Gardeners in Northern Illinois typically use Japanese red pines as specimen trees.

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