Pine straw is an excellent choice for many landscape applications. It retains moisture and forms a mat that will not wash away in heavy rains. It is also an excellent insulator, but not all pine straw is the same, and choosing the right one for your needs is important.
Is All Pine Straw the Same?
Although all pine straw consists of the needles of some pine species, different types of pine trees produce different types of needles. The characteristics of these needles affect how long they will last and how they will perform under different circumstances. Various companies have different names for the pine they offer, but they generally fall into the following categories.
- Premium Longleaf Pine. This type of pine has 14-inch needles and is considered high-quality and long-lasting. It contains a high amount of resin, which deters insects and allows it to keep its color longer.
- Standard Slash Pine. Slash pine straw has a needle length of about 9-inches. It is the most common type sold and is known for durability and low cost.
- Loblolly Pine. Loblolly pine has a needle length of about 6-inches. It does not last as long as the other pines and is considered the least desirable pine straw type.
- B-Grade Pine Straw. B-grade pine straw can be any pine straw that has not been thoroughly cleaned. It might contain other leaves, sticks, pine cones, and other materials.
What is Slash Pine Straw?
Slash pine straw is known as standard pine straw in many garden centers. It has about 7-10-inch long needles, which is in the middle range as far as pine tree varieties are concerned. It comes from the Eliottii pine tree, which grows primarily in the Southeastern United States. One of the reasons why homeowners like this variety are its reddish color. It is often known as “Georgia red.”
This is the type used for the average home or commercial projects. It is also used by golf courses, professional landscapers, and nurseries as bedding for their displays. It lasts longer and forms a denser mat than shorter needled Loblolly pine, but without the cost of long needle pine.
What is Longleaf Pine Straw?
Longleaf or Long Needle Pine is the preferable type. It comes in needle lengths of up to 16 inches long and is the most expensive pine straw type. It contains a high amount of resin, and the needles are thicker. This means it lasts longer and keeps its color longer than shorter needled pine varieties.
This type of pine is often called the Southern Pine and is used to produce the pitch and tar used to seal boats. It is found from Virginia to Florida. Its range goes as far west as Texas. In southern states, the needles of this tree are often referred to as “brown gold” because of their economic value.
Is Long Needle Pine Straw Better Than Short Needle?
For landscaping purposes, long needle pine is considered superior to the short needle variety. This is because it lasts longer, holds its color longer, and has better moisture retention properties. It forms a mat more readily, making it more difficult to blow away in the wind. Many people also think that it is softer underfoot when used for paths, and they prefer the texture and look of the long-needled varieties.
Longleaf pine straw has become more expensive over the recent years because too many pine trees were harvested for other purposes, like lumber. Also, the weather prevented those that do exist from dropping their needles. Pine straw is sustainable because you do not have to harvest the tree to obtain the needles, as they fall naturally every year. Fortunately, the Longleaf pine is making a comeback.
As you can see, there are several varieties of pine straw available. The longleaf variety is by far the favorite, but it is also more expensive. You might pay more, but it also breaks down more slowly and will not have to be replaced as often. Which one is right for you depends on your budget and which one you prefer.
Each pine variety has different moisture retention properties, and they have different coloring. You can also purchase pine needles that have been dyed in colors similar to standard hardwood mulch.
The long needle varieties tend to have a fluffier look than shorter needled ones. Which pine straw variety you choose depends on your personal preferences, and it is recommended that you obtain a sample of the material from the company you choose. Of course, if you have your own pine forest, then you have a ready supply any time you need more.