Have you ever wondered how fast a pine tree gains size and height? Few of us pay much attention to these trees, but it can be fascinating to learn more about them.
Pine trees tend to take a slow and steady approach; they are long-lived, but gain height and girth pretty gradually. The growth rate will vary between species, but slow growers will only gain around a foot per year. The fastest species might gain 2 feet or even 3 feet in a year.
Let’s find out more about which pines grow fast, which are particularly slow, and how the conditions have an impact on the trees’ growth rates.
How Fast Do Pine Trees Grow?
There are three categories when it comes to measuring how fast a pine tree can grow: it can be a slow grower, a medium grower, or a faster grower. Slow-growing pines will gain about a foot per year, or slightly less, depending on the species and the condition.
Medium growing pines will usually gain between 1 and 2 feet per year, and this is the commonest category for pines to fall into. There are a few fast-growing pines, which can gain 2 feet or sometimes even more per year.
It isn’t as simple as just looking at the kind of pine and deciding how fast it will grow, however. Other factors also have an impact, including the region that the pine is growing in and the local conditions. The suitability of its immediate environment will make a big difference in how quickly it gains size. Factors that may affect a pine tree’s growth include:
- The tree’s genetics
- How you prune it
- The type of soil
- How much water it gets
- How much food it gets
- How much sunlight it gets
- What competition it faces for the natural resources it needs
By recognizing what a pine tree needs and providing it with the best possible conditions, you can have some influence over how fast it grows, although this will only affect it to a limited degree. Let’s look at how different kinds of pine trees grow, and then explore these factors in more detail.
What Are The Fastest Growing Pine Trees?
Some of the pine trees that grow particularly fast include ones such as the Afghan Pine (Pinus eldarica). This reaches a maximum height of 80 feet and has a spread of 30 feet. It can gain an amazing 2 or 3 feet every year.
Alternatively, there’s the Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii), which will gain about 3 feet every year. After about 15 years, the growth slows down, but the tree can still get to 100 feet tall. The Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) is another fast grower, with up to 3 feet of growth per year. It gets to about 80 feet tall on average.
There’s also the Lobolly Pine (Pinus taeda), which is one of the commonest species in the US. It can also gain around 3 feet per year in good conditions, and it is mostly used for timber. It’s native to the US and can reach 100 feet tall.
It’s worth being aware that even a “fast growing” pine tree is likely to grow quite slowly compared with most other trees. Pines are not like many broad-leaf trees, and gain height at a reduced rate because they evolved to grow in harsh conditions.
What Are The Medium Growing Pine Trees?
There are a few medium growing pines, including the Red Pine (Pinus resinosa) and the Austrian Pine (Pinus nigra), both of which tend to only gain about a foot and a half or so per year. It is possible to get one to grow a little more with the optimum conditions, but overall, these will not gain height fast.
What Are The Slow Growing Pine Trees?
Some pine trees are notable for having particularly slow growth rates. The Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo), for example, only gains about a foot in height per year and can take a decade or more to reach its full height.
Virginia Pine trees (Pinus virginiana) also grow at the rate of around a foot per year at their best, and so do Scots Pines (Pinus sylvestris). If you want a tree to fill your garden quickly, you should opt for other varieties, as these will take a long time to get established and start gaining height.
It’s worth noting that slow growth tends to be associated with longevity, so if you choose a slow growing pine, it is likely to live for many more years than a fast growing tree. Bristlecone Pines (Balfourianae) are particularly famous for their longevity and slow growth.
Do Pine Trees Grow At The Same Rate Throughout Their Lives?
Most pine trees grow much faster when they are young than when they are old. It is quite common for a young pine to gain several feet across the span of a few years, while an older tree may only gain a few inches.
Once the pine reaches its maximum height, it will almost stop growing, although it may continue to put out more branches and leaves. Pruning your pine may encourage bushier growth, but will not notably change its height once it has reached the full size expected for its type.
Let’s move on to looking at what else affects a pine tree’s growth rate.
The Tree’s Genetics
Just like other trees, pine trees will vary in terms of their genetics, and some trees will simply be stronger and faster growers than others. A tree that came from particularly healthy parents will grow better, suffer from fewer pest attacks, and adapt to its environment more effectively than a weak tree.
There’s not much that you can do about your tree’s genetics, but it’s important to bear in mind that they can have a major impact on how well your tree does.
It’s important to research whether the pine tree that you have requires pruning or not. Few trees actually need to be pruned, but many will grow better if they are cut back occasionally, so you may wish to prune yours to encourage new growth.
However, it is important to check whether this is beneficial or not before you do it, because some pine trees will not benefit from being cut back, and may even start to die off. You should also research what time of the year is best for cutting the tree if it does need cutting.
Pruning is a great way to make your tree look fuller if it’s a bit thin in places, but you do need to be consistent and make sure you do this every year for the best effects. Even trees that don’t need regular pruning will benefit from having diseased or damaged branches removed.
The Soil Type
Check out what kind of soil your pine tree needs before you plant it. Most like well-draining soil, but will tolerate a variety of pH values and types. Some are more particular about where they grow, which is why it’s a good idea to research this first.
If you need to amend the soil, it is much easier to do this before you plant the tree. This will give it the best possible start, which should help it to grow well in future years.
How Much Water It Gets
Pine trees are well adapted to surviving with minimal amounts of water, but it’s still important to ensure that your tree is getting enough. If you live in a particularly dry climate, you may need to water your pine tree during the dryer months.
It is worth noting that pine trees don’t much like being kept in very wet soil, so if your garden is on clay, a pine tree may struggle to thrive. You may need to improve the drainage before planting one.
How Much Food It Gets
Like all plants, pine trees need the right level of nutrients and minerals to grow strong, so you may want to occasionally fertilize your pine. This is often unnecessary, so you don’t need to spend a lot of money buying expensive fertilizers and mulches, but if the tree isn’t growing well, consider giving it a food boost.
This can also help to improve the soil’s pH value, so it’s worth trying if you want to accelerate your pine tree’s growth. If your tree’s color is good and it is already growing well, it’s best to leave it, however, as over-fertilizing a plant can cause root burn and other problems.
Under-feeding is always preferable, so be aware of this when deciding whether your pine tree needs food or not. If you think you have over-fed your pine tree, wash the soil around its roots with plenty of water to flush away some of the nutrients.
How Much Sunlight It Gets
Most pine trees like full sun, although this isn’t true for all of them. You should check out what your tree prefers and try to position it accordingly. Most pine trees will grow tall enough to enjoy the full sun eventually, but when your tree is young, you do need to think about whether it will get enough light.
If the pine cannot get enough light, it will struggle to grow fast, because it can’t photosynthesize effectively. Without energy from sunlight, it won’t be able to build new tissues, so even the fastest growing pine will slow down if it is grown in a spot that is too shady.
Pine trees don’t compete particularly well for sunlight, so if your pine is surrounded by broad-leaf trees or other shade-creating structures, it may not thrive. Some pines will even die if they aren’t able to get enough light. Be aware of this when you choose where to put your pine tree, and try to clear some space around it.
Minimizing The Competition
This ties into the competition for light, but applies to the other resources that the plant needs too. If the pine tree hasn’t got enough space, water, nutrients, or sunlight, it will not grow as quickly. Make sure the environment meets all of its needs and it isn’t having to fight for its fair share of them.
Pine trees are generally considered slow growers, and even one with a faster growth rate will take many years to become a mature tree. It is important to think about the conditions you will be providing the tree with, as well as its natural propensity for growth when selecting a tree for your garden.