Northern White Pine
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Grow for its evergreen, soft needles
Mature Height x Spread
50 to 80 feet x 30 to 50 feet, with dwarf versions
Native, deer resistant
This large, evergreen tree is a common site in many New England forests. The long, soft evergreen needles give a velvety appearance to the tree as they wave in the breeze. This fast growing evergreen produces 6 to 8 inch long cones that are great food for wildlife and decorations for the holidays. Like many other large evergreens, there are now many dwarf versions of the original. Some types have golden colored needles while others have blue-green needles. Because of the varieties of forms and colored needles, eastern white pine has become a versatile plant in the landscape. It can be grown as a large shade tree in the yard to a unique weeping shrub in a flower garden.
When, Where and How to Plant
Eastern white pines are hardy throughout New England. Purchase trees from a local nursery. Plant in spring or summer in full sun in moist, well-drained, acidic soil. Eastern white pines often prefer light loamy or sandy soils. Space large trees 20 to 30 feet apart. Space dwarf trees closer, depending on the selection.
Keep Eastern white pine trees well watered, especially when young. Create a mulch ring around the base of trees planted in lawns covered with pine needles or wood chips to help maintain the soil moisture, keep the soil slightly acidic and minimize trunk damage from mowers and string trimmers. Fertilize in spring with a plant food for evergreen trees.
Regional Advice and Care
Eastern white pines have brittle branches that break easily in ice, wind or snowstorms. Unfortunately, once a branch breaks, a new one in that location will not grow and the tree will be permanently deformed. Eastern white pines also can’t tolerate salt spray or air pollution, so are not good choices along the coast or near roads. Prune broken branches back to the trunk and remove dead and diseased branches anytime. Eastern white pines also can be attacked by insects, such as the white pine weevil, which bore into the pine tree leader and cause it to dieback. The tree usually recovers.
Companion Planting and Design
Plant Eastern white pines in the yard to create a shady grove. Plant dwarf and different colored needle trees in the garden as interesting focal points. Eastern white pines also make a great informal hedge. They can be sheared, but not as close or as often as cedar or false cypress.
The most common variety is the large species form. However, there are many dwarves. ‘Nana’ or ‘Compacta’ are general terms given to any mounded or dwarf types. ‘Blue Shag’ is a popular compact form with blue-green needles. ‘Contorta’ has twisted, and curled branches. ‘Fastigiata’ is a tall, columnar form with blue-green needles. ‘Pendula’ is a weeping form. ‘Aurea’ has yellow needles.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.