How to Grow Virginia Pine Trees

Branch of Virginia Pine with needles and cone


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Native to the east coast, Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana) is a common tree to those who make this region their home. The coniferous evergreen ranges from New York State south to Alabama and along the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The tree grows on land that has been deforested, vacant, or infertile, often reforesting the area with a new Virginia pine stand. 

Virginia pine is considered a pioneer plant. One that is easy to grow, first to arrive and it thrives in areas that other plants don't. This ability, combined with their relatively short lifespan, 90 years or so, is why they make the perfect plant for reforestation projects.

The Virginia pine is a tree to consider for people with vast empty land looking to attract wildlife, especially pollinators and birds. It plays host to the Eastern Pine Elfin, a tiny brown butterfly that uses the pine’s needles as a home for its eggs. It attracts many birds, with woodpeckers, and bobwhites being the most common. 

Woodpeckers love the weak softwood of older trees that provides ample feeding opportunities. 

Northern bobwhites frequent the area around Virginia pines because it is an all-you-can-eat feast for the ground-dwelling quails, who love the seeds of the tree. Planting Virginia pine stands are especially beneficial to Bobwhites as their populations are dramatically decreasing due to land development projects.

Virginia pine is pyramidal in shape, but it gradually loses that form with maturity, becoming scrubby and rounded. This change is why it is also called the “Scrub Pine.” 

The shape and size, combined with the tree’s notoriously weak wood that breaks with ease, means it is a poor choice for most landscape uses, and it is not often chosen for that purpose.  Plus, the tree itself is not incredibly unique or attractive. It's fair to say that this isn't a tree with much ornamental value.

Young Virginia pines have smooth bark that, with age, becomes red and scaly until it takes on a shaggy and grayish-brown color at maturity. 

Its needles are in fascicles, the botanical term for a bundle of leaves. Its cones are seen throughout the tree and can stay on the tree five years before dropping. As the Virginia pine reaches maturity, the top of the tree often flattens out, and it loses the typical pine shape that people find so appealing. 

Botanical Name  Pinus virginiana
Common Name  Virginia Pine, Jersey pine, Poverty pine
Plant Type  Evergreen Conifer
Mature Size  40 feet with tallest 70 Ft. Tall
Sun Exposure  Full Sun
Soil Type  Well Drained, Sandy, Loamy, Clay
Soil pH  5.0-70
Bloom Time  Early Spring
Flower Color  males: yellow females: reddish yellow
Hardiness Zones  4 to 8
Native Area   Eastern United Stated
Toxicity  No

How to Grow the Virginia Pine

If you do have a vast space needing filled, the ideal way to grow a Virginia pine is to buy numerous seedlings or saplings and plant them roughly 20-25 feet apart to create a dense stand. 

Whether planting a stand or a single tree, it is recommended that the Virginia pine be staked and secured, so it is not affected by strong wind or weather until it establishes itself. Once firmly rooted and established, the tree is relatively easy to maintain. Be aware that limb damage is still common in mature trees, so you will have to think carefully about the position in a smaller garden landscape and whether it will make a good choice in terms of strength and appearance.

Light

The Virginia pine is best served by being placed in an area with full or partial sun.

Soil

While adaptable to almost any soil condition except wet soil, the Virginia pine thrives in well-draining, loamy, sandy soil with a neutral to low pH. The tree is known for growing in particularly inhospitable soils.

Water

Ensuring the tree is well watered while it is being established is essential. However, after the tree has established itself, watering is not needed besides what is provided by rain.

Temperature and Humidity

A very hardy and adaptable tree, the Virginia pine ranges from upstate New York to Louisiana. Its USDA hardiness range is 4-8 and it will thrive in a variety of conditions.

Fertilizer

There is no need to fertilize the Virginia pine. It will grow well in even the poorest of soil.

Is Virginia Pine Toxic?

The Virginia pine is not toxic. Native Americans used it as a refreshing tea and a health elixir to combat colds. It was also used in a celebratory drink during rituals when an infusion made with the needles would be mixed with apple juice.

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