Pine trees are one of the faster-growing categories of trees and can gain over two feet each year! To achieve this rapid growth, you’ll need to do some things to keep the tree healthy and happy. A tree in optimal conditions will grow significantly faster than one in so-so conditions.
In order to grow your pine tree as fast as it can, you’ll need to pick the correct species, plant it in the right spot, and give it the right amount of sunlight, water, nutrients, mulch, and pruning
If you follow these simple steps, you’ll have a towering pine tree in no time!
Continue reading, and we’ll cover each of these steps in greater detail plus give you a couple more tips to get the most from your pine tree. With a bit of extra work and attention to detail, you’ll be rewarded with a large pine in no time!
Pine trees are a relatively fast-growing species of tree that have many benefits, including shade, windbreaks, and prevention of erosion with pine needles and deep roots. To get those benefits from your trees, however, you’ll need them to grow to a good size first.
Pine trees, like any other tree, and will grow best when you plan out the right species, location, and follow a schedule to give them the care they need. If you follow the steps below and do a bit of research on what conditions your specific species of pine prefer, you’ll be enjoying large majestic trees in no time.
1. Select The Right Species Of Pine For Your Climate
There are over 120 species of pine that grow worldwide, so the first step is to choose the right species for your particular environment.
Some pines do better in cold or warm climates, some need more or less water, and they all have different soil preferences. Selecting the right species will go a long way in affecting the growth rate of these trees.
Your best bet for choosing a species of pine tree will be to select one that is native to your area. Those trees have undergone thousands of years of evolution to be perfect for the environment they are in.
Native trees will also have the lowest environmental impact, which may be important in some areas, but inversely native trees will have the most pests and diseases that could affect them.
While I recommend doing some additional research to ensure you’re choosing the right pine tree for your specific area, here are five fast-growing species to get you started.
1. Eastern White Pine
The Eastern white pine is a hardy tree native to the New England area and does well in well-drained, acidic soils. They do best with full sun and grow up to 80 feet tall, and grow 2 feet per year!
These trees do best in USDA zones 3-8 and are an excellent option.
2. Green Giant Arborvitae
Or more commonly, the “Green Giant” is a sturdy tree that grows in a visually appealing conical form, topping out about 60’ tall and a 20’ spread
These trees need some full sun and some shade doing best in zones 5-7.
3. Loblolly Pine
The loblolly pine is a pine tree that grows remarkably fast, gaining over 24” per year and maturing to a size of up to 100’ tall and a 35’ spread in ideal conditions.
This tree adapts to most soil types and does well with full sun in zones 6-9, making it an excellent southern tree.
4. Jack Pines
These are hands down some of the toughest pines and will grow in poor soil without complaint, making it a nearly maintenance-free option for those looking for an easy option.
Jack pines grow in asymmetrical patterns up to 70’ tall, needing partial sun and doing best in USDA zones 2-6.
5. Ponderosa Pine
The ponderosa pine is a tree with a medium growth rate between 13-24” per year but can grow 100’ under cultivation and over 200’ in the wild.
A hardy tree that will resist fires and drought once mature, and can be planted in zones 3-7 with full sun and in most soils.
2. Plant Your Pine In The Right Soil
After selecting a tree from your local nursery, make sure to plant it in the right soil and choose a species best for the soil you have.
Most pine trees prefer soil with good drainage and plenty of room for their roots. Sandy and sandy loam soil textures are best for pines since they drain well, and a little acidity goes a long way.
Pines do best in soil with plenty of organic matter, although this is not a necessity and can be supplemented with some other techniques we’ll touch on later.
A large pine tree will have a taproot extending over 75 feet in the ground, and the rest of the roots can spread 30 feet out, although most trees will take up much less space.
Make sure to plant a pine tree far enough from any buildings so that the roots will have space to grow without compromising the foundation or causing other problems.
When planting your seedlings, plant them with their root collars 2-3” below the surface of the soil, or only 1” below the surface if you are dealing with poorly draining soil.
Pack the dirt well around the seedling for good root-to-soil contact and to keep the seedling securely in the ground while a root system develops.
If you are planting your pine tree in a container, the soil matters even more! Check out our in-depth list of what soil your pine tree prefers.
3. Make Sure Your Pine Tree Is Getting The Right Lighting
Since photosynthesis is how plants get all their energy, having the right amount of sunlight is important for their growth. Keep this in mind when selecting where to plant your pine trees.
Most species of pine trees need full sunlight as much as possible, so plant them in areas accordingly. Open spaces not being shaded by other trees or buildings are best, but work with what you’ve got since they are such hardy trees.
If you don’t have many spots that get full sunlight, then make sure you pick a pine tree that does well in partial light, such as Jack pines, which are not the fastest-growing option but will grow in the toughest conditions.
That being said, most species need full sunlight for optimal growth, so if you’re looking to grow your pine trees as fast as possible, then planting them in the right spots should be a priority.
While your seedling is growing, it is important to check that nothing is shading it and trim any branches blocking light or if there are any weeds to be weeded taking care of that.
4. Make Sure Your Pine Is Getting Water Regularly
Drought can be one of the most difficult environmental factors for a pine tree, and one season of drought can slow down growth significantly for several years following.
Frequent watering is especially important for the first two years of a pine tree’s life, and after being transplanted water is important to build a healthy root structure. 1 inch of water per week is all pines need to grow, and both rainfall and irrigation are good ways to achieve this.
If you choose a native species or one that is well adapted to your particular environment, then you probably won’t need to water it much as the rainfall will be enough.
However, if you are experiencing a dry spell or plant a species that prefers more water than your environment provides, then you’ll need to irrigate for the best growth.
While getting water to your trees is important, make sure you aren’t giving them too much water either.
Pine trees are susceptible to drowning, so it is important to plant them in soil with good drainage. Make sure the ground around your tree isn’t constantly wet and muddy, and allow the soil to dry out before watering again.
Watering your pine tree in the winter may also be necessary, which you can learn more about in our article on the subject!
5. Apply The Right Fertilizer At The Right Time
Fertilizing pine trees is thankfully pretty easy because you only need to do it every few years and for pine trees, over-fertilizing will cause more problems than under-fertilizing.
If you recently planted a pine seedling, they are very vulnerable, and fertilizing right away can cause nutrient burning and other problems. Water is very important for the first year, but hold off on fertilizing until the next spring.
The general rule of thumb for fertilizing pines is to apply 1 pound of fertilizer for every inch of trunk diameter, or 1.5 pounds per inch for mature trees over a 6” diameter. Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Flowering Trees and Shrubs Plant Food is a preformulated and easy-to-use option to provide nutrients to your pine tree.
Until the tree is 5 or 6 years old fertilize every spring with a balanced, slow-releasing fertilizer. Spring is the best time to fertilize your pine trees since they will go through the most growth at this time, and optimal conditions will increase growth.
After the tree has matured and established its root system, you can fertilize much less often. Pine trees are not super nutrient hungry, so you can get away with only mulching most years, and small amounts of supplemental nutrients otherwise.
Pine trees in nature get all their nutrients from decomposing plant matter on the forest floor, and the best way to emulate this environment is by leaving the pine needles the tree drops and using quality mulch.
6. Mulching Will Help Keep Pine Trees Healthy And Happy
Mulching is one of the easiest and most effective ways to grow your pine trees faster. Mulching mirrors the natural environments pine trees have adapted to help them keep the right microclimate for their root systems.
The single best thing you can do for your pine tree aside from properly irrigating is to mulch your trees.
One of the first steps to take is probably the easiest: when the tree drops its needles, leave them. This layer of pine needles is not a replacement for using high-quality mulch but will provide additional nutrients and cover.
One of the biggest benefits of mulching is mulch adds organic matter to the topsoil, improving water retention and preventing erosion. Mulching will keep the soil around your tree there, and you won’t have to water as often, protecting the tree from drought.
Did you know that pine needles actually make amazing mulch? To learn more, check out our article on how to make mulch from pine needles.
The other benefit of mulch is when the organic matter breaks down, nutrients are released back into the soil, feeding the pine tree. For a nice aesthetic mulch, I recommend using wood chips piled on top of the pine needles.
This combination of wood chips and pine needles will provide a range of nutrients that the tree needs, add an aesthetic value, and suppress weeds that could rob the nutrients from the soil around the tree.
When applying mulch, cover the entire area around the tree but leave 8-12 inches around the base of the trunk open. Piling the mulch too close to the tree trunk will trap too much water in the tree and will cause rot.
Other options to use for mulch include shredded bark and shredded hardwood, or you can mulch with organic material you have available, including leaves from other trees and grass clippings.
Apply mulch in the spring every year and depending on how the mulch looks, you can reapply it in the fall. Keep a good layer of 4” or so, there’s no need to pile on a ton of mulch since a thick layer won’t do any good.
7. Pruning Is Important For Pine Tree Growth
Alright, you can probably get away with not pruning your pine tree, and it will still grow well since they are very low-maintenance trees. However, if you want it to grow as fast as possible, you’ll need to give it the occasional trim.
When you go to give your pine tree a haircut, the best time to do so is in spring. Since most of the growth is done in spring and early summer, this will give as much time as possible for the cuts to heal.
Pruning any broken and diseased branches should be the number one priority, so any bare branches or those with only brown needles should be taken care of.
The other branches to target are if two branches are rubbing against one another since this can rub the bark off and open up the tree to pests and diseases.
After these branches are taken care of, you can prune any branches that you need for maintenance reasons, or change the tree’s look. Never cut off the top section of the tree.
The best way to trim branches is not to remove the entire limb if possible and just cut it back as far as you need. However, if the branch is overhanging a driveway, dead, or you need to remove it completely, then you can still do so.
Whether you are using pruners or an electric saw, make sure that you clean and disinfect the equipment between uses. This will prevent any transfer of disease from one tree to another or one branch to another.
You also do not need to prune your pine tree every year if all the branches are healthy, and every other year or three years will still result in a large and healthy pine.
If you need a lopper to prune your pine tree, these Fiskars 9138 Power-Lever Bypass Loppers will easily tear through small branches. For larger branches, you can use a reciprocating saw or a handheld one depending on what you have available.
For an in depth guide on pruning, read our article on all of the reasons to prune your pine tree.
8. Monitor Your Pine Tree For Pests
To truly maximize growth, you’ll need to ensure that the tree is as healthy as it can be. This involves frequently checking for any damage that pests could cause.
Pests are going to vary by region, so the pests that will target your trees will vary. However, here are a few common pests that like to target pine trees:
- Southern pine beetles
- Pine sawfly
These pests will target your pine along with many more. Pine trees are especially vulnerable tree to pests so closely paying attention to any discoloration in needles or back, or noticeable damage and acting accordingly will keep the tree healthy and maximize growth.
Pine beetles are the most serious pest to watch out for and are most likely to affect trees stressed by drought and weakened trees.
Following the other tips on this list will help prevent pests since a healthy tree is more resistant than an unhealthy one. A healthy tree will also recover much quicker than an unhealthy one, so treat issues as soon as they arise!
If you do have another pine tree in a place where you want to plant a new one, take a peak at our guide on the reasons to cut down your pine tree here.
If you made it this far, thank you! I hope you enjoyed these tips and learned something from them that will help your trees grow as fast as possible. Waiting for a tree to mature and reach its full height takes a lot of patience, but it is rewarding in the end.
To recap, here are the 8 steps to maximize the growth of your pine tree:
- Pick the correct species
- Plant it in the right spot
- Give it the right amount of sunlight
- Water regularly, but not too much
- Provide the right nutrients
- Apply mulch yearly
- Pruning any branches that will detract from growth
If you do these things, then your pine tree will grow as fast as it can! Some pine trees will fully mature in only a decade, and anything you can do to help it early on will exponentially help it in the long run.
Daniels, R. F., & Burkhart, H. E. (1975). SIMULATION OF INDIVIDUAL TREE GROWTH AND ST AND DEVELOPMENT IN MANAGED LOBLOLLY PINE PLANTATION. DIVISION OF FORESTRY & WILDLIFE RESOURCES. Retrieved August 23, 2022.
Kluepfel, M., Polomski, R. F., & Coyle, D. D. (2020, June 19). Pine. Home & Garden Information Center | Clemson University, South Carolina. Retrieved August 23, 2022.
Sun, F., Kuang, Y., Wen, D., Xu, Z., Li, J., Zuo, W., & Hou, E. (2010). Long-term tree growth rate, water use efficiency, and tree ring nitrogen isotope composition of pinus massoniana L. in response to global climate change and local nitrogen deposition in southern China. Journal of Soils and Sediments, 10(8), 1453–1465.
Thompson, M. Y. (2018, March 10). Fertilizer for thought: Caring for your pines. College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Retrieved August 23, 2022.
Tong, Q. J., & Zhang, S. Y. (2005). Impact of initial spacing and precommercial thinning on jack pine tree growth and Stem quality. The Forestry Chronicle, 81(3), 418–428. https://doi.org/10.5558/tfc81418-3
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