PINE

FAMILY: Pinaceae | GENUS: PINUS

TYPE
  • Evergreen
  • Shrubs
  • Trees
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Full Sun
WATER
  • Drought Tolerant
  • Moderate Water
  • Regular Water

Plant Details

It's hard to escape pines if you live in the South. And few of us would want to. The native longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) is just as iconic to the region as is the live oak (Quercus virginiana). As a group, these conifers are much better adapted to our soils and climate than firs (Abies) and spruces (Picea). They tolerate heat, humidity, drought, clay, and sand. Many become tall, graceful shade trees, providing filtered light to gardens below and whisper as the wind blows through the needles. Others featuring weeping, creeping, or dwarf forms make excellent garden accents.

Differences in cone size and shape offer one way to tell these trees apart; another identifying characteristic is the number of needles in a bundle (pines bear their needles in clusters, or bundles, on the branches). Most species carry their long, slender needles in groups of two, three, or five. Those with two needles tend to tolerate unfavorable soil and climate better than three-needle species, and three-needle pines more so than five-needle ones.

Young trees tend to be pyramidal, while older ones are more open or round topped. Seeds of all pines attract birds; some species produce the pine nuts enjoyed by people and sold commercially.

lacebark pine

pinus bungeana

  • Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7.
  • Hardy to -20F.
  • From northern and central China.
  • Grows 5075 feet tall, 2035 feet wide.
  • Slow growing.
  • Starts out pyramidal to rounded, then becomes more open, spreading, and picturesque.
  • Often multitrunked, sometimes shrubby.
  • Smooth, dull gray bark flakes off to reveal creamy white patches.
  • Bright green needles in groups of three are 24 inches long.
  • Cones are up to 2 inches long and yellowish brown.
  • Limbs are brittle, can break under heavy ice or snow load.
  • Great Wall is a dense, pyramidal form.

mexican pinyon pine

pinus cembroides

  • Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8.
  • From Arizona to Baja, California, and northern Mexico.
  • Grows slowly to 1020 feet tall, nearly as wide.
  • Rather rangy in youth; in older trees stout, spreading branches form a round-topped head.
  • Dark green needles in groups of two or three are 12 inches long.
  • Cones are 12 inches long, rounded, and yellowish or reddish brown.
  • Very drought tolerant and adapted to poor, rocky, limy soils.
  • Good choice for drier areas of Texas and Oklahoma.
  • Cones contain edible seeds (pine nuts).

sand pine

pinus clausa

  • Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11.
  • From the Gulf Coast and coastal areas of Florida.
  • Grows moderately to 3040 feet tall and 1520 feet wide.
  • Slender and upright with an irregular crown.
  • Dark green needles in groups of two are 23 inches long.
  • Cones are 23 inches long; ovoid-conic.
  • Good in sandy soils along the coast.

shortleaf pine

pinus echinata

  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9.
  • From dry, upland soils of Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas.
  • Fast growing to 5080 feet tall and 3045 feet wide.
  • Open, pyramidal habit when mature, with sinuous branches.
  • Dark, bluish green needles in groups of two or three and 35 inches long.
  • Pale brown cones are 12 inches long; ovoid-oblong.
  • Important timber species.
  • Adaptable but deep rooted and difficult to move once established.
  • Good lawn tree.
  • Resistant to most insects and diseases that affect other pines.

AFGHAN PINE

pinus eldarica(Pinus brutia eldarica)

  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9.
  • From southern Russia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
  • Grows fast to 3080 feet tall, 1530 feet wide.
  • Dense, erect habit, somewhat rounded with age.
  • Dark green needles in groups of two reach 56 inches long.
  • Cones are oval to oblong, 3 inches long, reddish brown.
  • Thrives in heat, wind, and poor soil.
  • Well adapted to the Southwest.
  • Often grown there for Christmas trees.

slash pine

pinus elliotti

  • Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11.
  • From the Coastal Plain from South Carolina to Florida and west to eastern Louisiana.
  • Fast growing, possibly to 80 feet high and 35 feet wide.
  • Dense, rounded crown.
  • Dark green, stiff needles in groups of two or three are up to 1 feet long.
  • Shiny brown cones to 36 inches long.
  • Usually planted for quick shade or erosion control.
  • Adapted to acid-soil areas of east Texas.
  • Pinus e.
  • densa thrives in southern Florida.

spruce pine

pinus glabra

  • Zones LS, CS; USDA 8-9.
  • From South Carolina to Louisiana.
  • Grows to 4060 feet high and 30 feet wide.
  • Horizontal branching at the top of trunk with a rounded crown.
  • Branches low, casting heavy shade.
  • Difficult to grow grass under.
  • Dark green, twisted needles in groups of two are 23 inches long.
  • Buff-colored cones to 22 in long; ovoid.
  • Likes fertile, moist, acid soil but tolerates heavy clay.
  • Widely planted in Lower South (USDA 8) east of the Mississippi River.

mugo pine, swiss mountain pine

pinus mugo

  • Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7.
  • From the mountains of central and southern Europe.
  • This slow-growing, extremely variable species can reach 75 feet tall, but smaller forms offered in nurseries and garden centers tend to be shrubby and symmetrical.
  • Dark green needles to 3 inches long are held in groups of two, crowded on the branches.
  • Cones to 2 inches long are tawny to dark brown.
  • Durable and adaptable.
  • Moderate to regular water.

Look for named selections to ensure uniformity in size and shape. All look best if left to grow naturally; choose plants with a pleasingly rounded form rather than trying to shape them later through pruning.

Big Tuna

  • is dense and upright, to 10 feet tall and 68 feet wide.
  • Gnom forms a tight globe just 2 feet high and wide after 10 years.
  • The popular dwarf 'Mops' forms a dense mound to 23 feet high and wide; needles take on a golden cast in winter.
  • Slowmound is dense and slow growing to 12 feet high and wide in 10 years.
  • Tannenbaum grows slowly into a dense Christmas-tree shape about 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide.
  • The Pumilio Group includes several compact selections.
  • Selections with golden needles are also available.

p

  • mugo mugo, dwarf mugo pine, is widely offered.
  • It is low growing, usually topping out at 48 feet tall and up to twice as wide.
  • Excellent performer but quite variable in habit.

longleaf pine

pinus palustris

  • Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11.
  • From Virginia to Florida and west to Mississippi, southeastern coast.
  • Slow growing for 510 years, then fast to 5580 feet tall and 2530 feet wide.
  • Young plants look like fountains of grass.
  • With age, gaunt, sparse branches ascend to form an open, oblong head.
  • Dark green needles in groups of three are 1 feet long in youth (called grass stage) and replaced by 9 inches needles when mature.
  • Cones are 610 inches long and dull brown.
  • Prefers deep soils (grows on sandy ridges in its native range).
  • The classic, graceful pine of the South.

japanese white pine

pinus parviflora

  • Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7.
  • From Japan and Taiwan.
  • Slow to moderate grower to 2050 feet tall and wide or larger.
  • In youth, a dense pyramid; with age, wide spreading and flat topped.
  • Needles are 12 inches long, bluish green, and held in groups of five.
  • Reddish brown cones are 23 inches long.
  • Widely used and popular as bonsai subject, container tree.
  • Bergman has thin, blue-green needles and an upright habit; grows 6 feet tall, 4 feet wide, in 10 years.
  • Glauca Brevifolia has short, blue-green needles and persistent dark cones; upright and broad, it grows to an eventual 40 feet tall and wide.
  • Many other blue-gray and dwarf forms are available.
  • Regular water.

white pine, eastern white pine

pinus strobus

  • Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7.
  • From Newfoundland to Manitoba, south to Georgia and west to Illinois and Iowa.
  • Slow in seedling stage, then fast to 5080 feet tall (or taller), 2040 feet wide.
  • Forms a symmetrical pyramid, with horizontal branches in regular whorls.
  • Becomes broad, open, and irregular with age.
  • Fine-textured, handsome tree.
  • Blue-green needles are soft, 35 inches long, held in groups of five.
  • Light brown cones reach 38 inches long.
  • Intolerant of strong winds.
  • Needs regular water and excellent drainage.
  • Popular Christmas tree.
  • Contorta has twisted branches and needles.
  • Angel Falls and 'Pendula' have weeping, trailing branches.
  • Niagara Falls is also weeping, but with a very broad, cascading habit.
  • Blue Shag is a blue-needled form.
  • Louie has bright-yellow needles in fall.

Plants in the Nana group are broad shrubs, growing slowly to 37 feet tall, 612 feet wide. Useful in rock gardens or containers, though plants sold under this name have been known to grow into small trees.

scotch pine

pinus sylvestris

  • Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7.
  • From northern Europe, western Asia, northeastern Siberia.
  • Grows fast at first, then moderately to 3070 feet (possibly to 100 feet.) tall and 2530 feet wide.
  • Forms a narrow, well-branched pyramid when young.
  • With age, becomes irregular, open, and picturesque, with drooping branches.
  • Stiff, 1- to 3 inches-long, blue-green needles often turn yellow-green in winter.
  • Cones to 2 inches long are gray to reddish brown.
  • Popular as a Christmas tree and in gardens.
  • Showy red bark, sparse foliage in maturity.
  • Deer and wind resistant.
  • Needs regular water in hottest areas, moderate water elsewhere.

Plants in the Aurea group take on bright golden tones in winter. 'French Blue' keeps its blue color throughout the cold months. Handsome and dense 'Fastigiata' grows slowly to 2030 feet tall and just 46 feet wide. 'Inverleith', to 4060 feet tall and 2025 feet wide, sports needles tipped in creamy white. Dwarf forms include rounded 'Beuvronensis', blue-green 'Glauca Nana', and relatively fast-growing 'Watereri'. 'Hillside Creeper' is well named; it grows to 2 feet high and 8 feet wide in 10 years and makes an interesting ground cover.

loblolly pine

pinus taeda

  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9.
  • From southern New Jersey to Florida, east Texas, and Oklahoma.
  • Fast growing to 5090 feet tall and 3040 feet wide.
  • Loose, cone shape in youth; as it matures, loses lower branches to become a rather opened crowned tree.
  • Dark yellowish green needles are 610 inches long and grouped in threes (rarely twos).
  • Rust-brown, oval to narrowly conical cones are 36 inches long in clusters of two to five.
  • Tough tree; withstands poor soils.
  • Useful in Lower South (USDA 8) for quick screening and shade.
  • Adapted to acid soils of east Texas.
  • Widely planted for pulp lumber.
  • Provides light shade; good to garden under.
  • Old favorite in the South.

japanese black pine

pinus thunbergii

  • Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8.
  • From Japan.
  • Grows at a moderate rate to 2040 feet tall and 1520 feet wide.
  • Spreading branches form a broad, conical tree; irregular and spreading in age, often with a leaning trunk.
  • Bright green needles are stiff, 34 inches long, held in groups of two; new growth (candles) nearly white.
  • Brown cones grow to about 3 inches long.
  • Handsome tree that can be sheared as a Christmas tree or pruned as a cascade or giant bonsai.
  • Regular water in hottest areas.
  • Very salt tolerant but subject to nematodes.
  • Majestic Beauty has good form and tolerates smog and salt.
  • Dwarf 'Thunderhead' (6 feet tall, 5 feet wide in 10 years) has dark foliage and white candles that are eye-catching in spring.

virginia pine, scrub pine

pinus virginiana

  • Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8.
  • From New York to Georgia and Alabama.
  • Slow growing to 4555 feet tall and 3040 feet wide.
  • Broad, open, sparsely branched habit with wide, stiff top.
  • Yellow-green to dark green, twisted needles are 14 inches long and grouped in twos.
  • Persistant, 3 inches-long, conical to ovoid cones in clusters of two to four.
  • Seldom used as an ornamental but valuable in clay or poor soils.
  • Popular cut Christmas tree in the Lower South (USDA 8).
  • Adapts to most well-drained soils.

himalayan white pine

pinus wallichiana

  • Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7.
  • From the Himalayas.
  • Slow to moderate growth to 3050 feet tall, 1530 feet wide; much larger in the wild.
  • Broad and conical, it often retains branches to the ground even in age.
  • Gracefully drooping, soft-looking, blue-green needles 68 inches long are held in groups of five.
  • Cones are 610 inches long and light brown.
  • Good form and color make this a fine choice for featured pine in a big lawn or garden.
  • Nana is dense and upright, to about 3 feet high and wide after 10 years.
  • Zebrina has needles banded in yellow, giving the plant an overall glow.

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