by Matt Gibson
If you are looking into fast growing trees for adding some beauty to your landscape, the pine tree is an excellent choice. Pine trees are great picks for landscape trees because they are evergreen, so they keep their leaves all throughout the year.
Because of this, they beautify the landscape all year long, and serve as an excellent privacy screen as well. In this article, we’ll provide lots of useful information about growing pine trees, and let you know which pine tree varieties are fast growers.
How Much Do Pine Trees Generally Grow Each Year?
Different types of pines are grown for different reasons, and each type of pine tree serves a particular landscaping purpose. Some are great for privacy screens, while others are grown for their windbreaker capability. Pretty much every pine tree is adored for its evergreen foliage, however, and for its majestic appearance as well. Who doesn’t love the look and smell of a pine tree?
One of the main concerns of landscapers, however, is the rate at which a pine tree grows. Unfortunately, there is no uniform answer that fits every type of pine tree, as the growth rate of these evergreen beauties is different when looking at different species of pine trees, as well as the growing conditions that they are provided with, especially when they are seedlings or young trees.
On average, pine trees generally grow from less than one foot to over two feet per year. There are three different growth rate groups which a pine tree can be classified in, slow-growing pines, medium-fast growing pines, and fast growing pines. Slow growing pines, such as the Virginia pine and the longleaf pine, grow no more than one foot per year. Medium-fast growing pine trees, like the red pine, and the Australian pine, grow 1-2 feet per year. Fast growing pines, like loblolly pines, and scotch pines, can grow two feet or more each year.
What Are The Longest Living Pine Trees?
Slow-growing trees are typically the longest living trees. The bristlecone pine and the Pinus aristata are two of the longest living pine trees in the world, each of which have been reported to live for thousands of years. The amazing bristlecone pine tree can keep its needles for well over 3 decades before needing to renew them, while most pine trees renew their needle-like foliage every two years. The longest living bristlecone pine on record grows in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and has been dated at 5,062 years old.
There are three different varieties of bristlecone pines, all of which can live for extremely long periods. The variety with the longest lifespan is the Pinus longaeva, and most of the famously ancient pine trees are of this subspecies. The most prolific of the bristlecones is the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone. Last but not least, is the Foxtail pine, which is known for its ability to grow in thick, densely populated groves.
Which Pine Tree Grows the Tallest?
The very tallest species of pine tree is the sugar pine, Pinus lambertiana, which can stretch to reach heights of 200 feet or taller at maturity. Sugar pines can live for an astonishing 500 years. The trunk of a sugar pine tree stretches high into the sky before branches begin to emerge from it, and it can grow to a diameter of eight feet across.
How Long Do Pine Trees Take To Reach Maturity?
Like you might have guessed, just how long it will take a pine tree to reach maturity really depends on the variety of pine tree you’re growing. However, by 25 to 30 years old, most pine trees are considered mature enough to be harvested for their wood. Sometimes, though, a pine tree will be allowed to grow for as long as 50 years before the wood is harvested, because the older the tree becomes, the more valuable its wood will be.
You can track the development of your pine tree by using its leaves to determine which stage of life it’s in. Brand new seedling pine trees will spend their first year or so growing seed leaves. Then, for the next six months to five years, they’ll begin producing juvenile leaves, which can be identified by the spiral formation they grow in. After juvenile leaves, the pine tree will switch to scale leaves, which still grow in a spiral formation but can be differentiated because they are small and brown. The last stage is when the tree creates its pine needles, which emerge from the scale leaves. Once a tree is producing its adult needles, it is considered mature.
Can I Force My Pine Trees To Grow Faster?
The best way to get your pine tree to grow faster is to optimize its environment for the tree’s care preferences. Here’s a game plan you can follow.
- Do a soil test to see how much nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus your soil contains. Then use the appropriate fertilizer to add any macronutrients that may be lacking. Remember that the three hyphenated numbers on the fertilizer’s label stand for the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that the fertilizer offers, in that order. So a fertilizer labeled 10-0-0 contains 10 percent nitrogen by weight, but does not contain any phosphorus or potassium. When the soil has an optimal combination of macronutrients, your trees will grow faster.
- Check the needles of your pine tree for signs of issues. Yellow needles can indicate that the tree is suffering the effects of iron chlorosis, which can happen due to compacted soil, insufficient drainage, or alkaline soil. Addressing the root of the problem is the best way to correct iron chlorosis in the long term, but as a stopgap solution, you can apply iron chelates to your soil, following the instructions from the manufacturer. Correcting iron chlorosis if it exists will help your trees grow more vigorously.
- You can conduct another soil test to determine its pH level. Each variety of pine tree has its own preferred soil pH, so you’ll need to do a bit of research to determine what your tree craves. Then you can amend the soil to adjust the pH level as needed. Applying garden sulfur around your pine tree can reduce a pH level that’s higher than a tree prefers. You can use dolomitic lime to increase a pH level that’s lower than a tree’s preference.
- If you want your tree to grow as fast as possible, don’t prune or trim it unless it’s absolutely required. Of course, you’ll want to remove branches that show signs of disease or insect infestation as well as those that are broken. If bushy growth is more important to you than height, prune back the new growth in the spring once it emerges, removing about half of the candles from new shoots. But if height is what you’re going for, don’t trim or prune unless you must.
- Check the soil to ensure your tree has access to enough hydration. Some pine trees prefer wetter conditions than others. You can tell a tree is suffering from soil that’s too dry if its limbs are drooping. If this is the case for your tree, give it a deep watering, and start abiding by a watering schedule so you can help Mother Nature keep your tree well hydrated. That way its growth will be maximized.
You’ll know that your efforts are working if your pine tree responds by producing new shoots, if its limbs stop drooping, or if the needles become a more vivid green. Once you’ve made some changes to your tree’s environment, keep an eye on things so you can see whether your tree responds with one of these signs that its growth has picked up. If your tree doesn’t respond within a few weeks, don’t give up—try again with another tactic.
Can I Force My Pine Tree To Grow Slower?
As with just about anything you grow, there are ways to slow down the maturation of your pine trees so they take longer to reach their eventual height. Careful pruning of your pine tree is the best way to manage and control its growth to keep things moving slowly. Although trimming the tree doesn’t actually cause it to grow any more slowly, you can use a pruning program to keep your tree restricted to a certain height.
Don’t start trimming your pine tree until it’s grown to your desired height. Then you’ll need to use a tree saw to remove a section from the central stem at the top of the pine tree that measures between six inches and one foot. Make sure to cut the tree at a 45-degree angle to prevent water from standing on top of the cut, which can cause the tree to rot.
After you’ve trimmed a section from the central stem at the tree’s apex, break out your loppers to start trimming the branches. Begin at the top of the tree, removing a couple of inches from each branch. Continue working around the tree and down, being careful to maintain the pyramid shape that pine trees are known for. You’ll need to trim your tree in this fashion once per year to keep it at the desired height.
Types of Fast Growing Pines
Afghan Pine (Pinus eldarica)
Also called Mondel Pine or Eldarica Pine, the Afghan Pine tree is a medium-sized pine that reaches an eventual height of between 30 and 60 feet tall, with a spread of 25 to 40 feet. Grow Afgan Pines in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 through 10. Afghan pines have soft needles in a shade of dark green, dotted with three-inch oval or oblong pine cones that are reddish brown.
Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis)
The Aleppo Pine also goes by the name of Jerusalem Pine, and it can reach between 30 and 60 feet tall with a spread of between 20 and 40 feet. It has thin needles between two inches and four inches long, and it also produces pine cones that may be round, egg-shaped, or oblong. The pine cones vary from two to five inches long and start out green, eventually turning brown as they mature. Grow Aleppo Pine trees in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 through 10.
Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)
The Eastern White Pine grows between 50 and 80 feet tall, with a spread of between 20 and 40 feet. It produces bundles of five needles each in a shade of blue-green along with large, cylindrical pine cones that can be up to six inches long. Grow the Eastern White Pine in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 8.
Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)
Loblolly pine trees flourish in a variety of soil types and are also tolerant of drought. They grow up to heights between 60 and 100 feet, with a spread between 25 and 35 feet. The Loblolly pine creates dark green needles and narrow cones between three and six inches long that often grow in pairs. Grow the Loblolly Pine in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 through 9.
Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata)
Monterey Pine trees also go by the name of Insignis Pine, and they grow up to 40 to 90 feet tall generally, although they have been known to exceed 100 feet in height. The glossy, dark green leaves can turn a blue green when trees are mature, and they also produce traditional-looking pine cones that are nut-brown. Grow Monterey Pines in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 through 10.
Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii)
Slash Pine trees grow best where soil is acidic, and once the tree has settled into its location, it will tolerate wetness better than most pine tree varieties as well as a moderate amount of salinity. The Slash Pine will grow to reach a mature height between 75 and 100 feet tall, with a spread between 30 and 50 feet. The dark green needles are glossy and long, typically growing from four to nine inches but occasionally reaching a foot long, and the tree also produces cones between two and four inches long. Grow Slash Pines in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 through 10.
How To Plant And Grow Pine Trees
Pine trees grow in a vast variety of landscapes, and they are loved by landscapers because they typically don’t create a mess, or require a lot of individual care. Care instructions can vary greatly based on the variety of pine tree that you purchase to grow, but the most important thing to check is to make sure you purchase pine tree varieties that are well-suited to your growing zone. Once you have picked out a variety or several varieties that are well-suited to your region,. You will want to look into the specific needs of those varieties, specifically their sunlight and watering needs.
Most pine trees prefer full sunlight exposure, so pick a planting location that receives at least six to eight hours of full sunlight every day. Plant your pine trees in a well-draining soil for best results, but most varieties will adapt to soils with poor drainage, as well as various oil types. The best time to plant your pine trees is in the early parts of the spring or the fall seasons. Be sure to wait to plant them until any chance of frost has passed.
Step-By-Step Pine Tree Growing Guide
Growing Pine Trees From Seed
- If you have pine trees on your property already, there is no need to purchase pine tree seeds. Just collect seeds by shaking a few pinecones while holding them upside down. If you do this over a white surface, the tiny seeds will be easy to spot and collect.
- Once you have collected the seeds, put them into water. The seeds that float up to the surface of the water are good for planting. Those that sink to the bottom of the water should be thrown away.
- Dry your seeds well and place them into a ziploc bag or a tupperware container with an airtight seal. Keep the seeds in an airtight container until you are ready to plant them. To get a head start on the season, start your pine tree seeds indoors in December or January if planting in the spring.
- Come planting season, fill a small planter with soil and irrigate the soil well, placing a pine tree seed just beneath the soil’s surface. Place the seed into the soil vertically, with the pointy side of the seed facing down in the soil.
- Keep your pine tree container near a window that gets plenty of sunlight and water it regularly, every time the top layer of soil is dry to the touch.
- Keep an eye on the planter for pine needles to emerge from the soil. You should start to see the first sproutings emerge in March or April.
- As the pine needles start to sprout, you will notice that they tend to lean towards the position of the sun. To keep them from leaning too far in a particular direction, turn the container regularly.
- When your seedlings reach six inches to one foot high, it is time to transplant them into a larger container. A one-gallon pot should suffice for this stage. It is also time to move them outdoors.
- As soon as your pine tree seedling outgrows its pot, move it to its permanent home in your landscape.
Growing Pine Trees From Saplings
- Whether you purchased your sapling from the nursery or ordered it online, it should arrive with its roots bagged up and wrapped in a burlap cloth. Dig a hole that is twice the width of the burlap ball and the same depth as the ball’s height.
- Gently place the burlap ball into the hole lifting the by the ball, never by the trunk, as it can hurt the seedling.
- While holding the sapling up straight, (if you have a helper to hold the young tree upwards, it makes this step much easier) fill the hole with soil, loosely, so that water can easily drain through the soil around the sapling.
- If your tree is taller than six feet, or if you live in an especially windy area, consider staking the tree so that it grows straight upwards, instead of leaning in one direction due to its weight. If you tie off your tree with any kind of binding, keep an eye on the spot where you have tied it off to make sure that the tie is not girdling the tree, which will inhibit its growth, or injure the tree.