How to Grow and Care for Virginia Pine Trees

Virginia pine tree branches with short and twisted needles

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana) is a common tree native to the East Coast. This coniferous evergreen is also found from southern New York State to Alabama and along the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

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. Virginia pine is pyramidal in shape, but it gradually loses that form with maturity, becoming scrubby and rounded, which is why it's nicknamed “scrub pine.” 

Its needles are short, twisted, and come in fascicles, the botanical term for a bundle of leaves. Its seeded cones are seen throughout the tree and can stay on the tree for 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. Saplings can be successfully planted in the spring, with an expected growth rate of 1 to 2 feet per year.

Common Name Virginia pine, Jersey pine, spruce pine, scrub pine
Botanical Name Pinus virginiana
Family Pinaceae
Plant Type  Tree
Mature Size 15-40 ft. tall, 10-30 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Well-drained, sandy, loamy, clay
Soil pHN Acidic, neutral
Hardiness Zones 4-8 (USDA)
Native Area  North America

Virginia Pine Tree Care

Virginia pine is considered a pioneer plant that seems to arrive first on the land, is easy to grow, and thrives in areas that other plants don't. (Pioneer is the term for a plant that colonizes severely damaged or stressed land scapes. They are able to amend soil and, over time, they will start to improve growing conditions for more desirable type species to grow.

If you do have a large space that needs filling, the ideal way to grow a Virginia pine is to buy numerous seedlings or saplings and plant them roughly 20 to 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 stakes should be removed, as staked trees become weaker over time.

Virginia pine tree branch with short twisted needles and yellow-green pine cone hanging

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Virginia pine tree with twisted branches and short pine needles and pine cones hanging

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Virgina pine tree with dense and twisted branches in wooded area

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


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


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.


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 will thrive in a wide range of temperatures and humid climate.


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

Types of Virginia Pine Tree

The only known cultivar is 'Wates Golden', a tree with an irregular growth habit and golden yellow needles in the winter.


Many homeowners like to have a Virginia pine tree pruned into the tidier shape of a Christmas tree, especially because they will become scraggly in appearance when they mature. Limb damage is still common in pruned mature Virginia pines, however.

The shaping process needs to be done yearly to keep up the tree's appearance. Shaping requires numerous bouts of pruning and shearing during its many annual growth flushes to control the shape, height, and width of the tree. It may be best left to a professional who knows the correct timing to prune and shear a Virginia pine tree into shape.

Propagating Virginia Pine Trees

Propagating a Virginia pine tree should be done from cuttings taken between fall and winter before the new spring growth. You'll need patience, however, because rooting a Virginia pine can take at least a year to root properly.

  1. Take a few 4- to 6-inch cuttings from branches with healthy growth at the tips. Remove needles from the cutting's lower third.
  2. Dip the bottom inch of each cutting into rooting hormone.
  3. Plant each cutting in a small pot filled with a mix of potting soil, perlite, and coarse sand for good aeration. Make sure no needles are touching the soil when inserting the cutting into the pot.
  4. Water the soil until it's moist but not soggy.
  5. Cover the pot with clear plastic for a greenhouse effect.
  6. Place in bright, but indirect sunlight and keep the soil moist.
  7. Remove the plastic as soon as new growth appears.
  8. Allow the seedlings to grow enough before transplanting outdoors in the early spring so they can become successfully established.
  9. Plant seedlings outdoors in a clean site without any competing vegetation nearby.

How to Grow Virginia Pine Trees From Seed

Propagation from seeds is not recommended because by the time you find a flush of fallen pinecones, they have likely dried out and released their seeds. The tree might reseeds itself from cones.

Potting and Repotting

Virginia pine tree is a large tree that is not suitable for container growing.


As a native tree, Virginia pine is very hardy and does not need any winter protection.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Despite it being a native tree, Virginia pine can have a wide range of pest and disease problems. It can be attacked by pinewood nematodes, sawflies, pine beetles, and weevils.

The tree can also develop Diplodia tip blight, heart rot, and pitch canker, all of which may need professional intervention to stop the infection of adjacent trees. Sometimes applying fungicides in the spring or pruning infected branches and twigs during dry weather can prevent the spread of the disease.

Common Problems

The shape and size, combined with the tree’s notoriously weak wood that breaks with ease in windy conditions, means it is a poor choice for most ornamental landscape uses, and it is not often chosen for that purpose. 

  • Do deer eat Virginia pine?

    Virginia pine is generally not prone to deer browsing.

  • Does Virginia pine tree have any wildlife value?

    It attracts beneficial wildlife activity, especially pollinators and birds. The tree is host to the Eastern pine elfin, a tiny brown butterfly that uses the pine’s needles as a home for its eggs. The tree attracts many birds, with woodpeckers, and bobwhites being the most common. Woodpeckers love the weak softwood of older trees that provides ample feeding opportunities. 

  • How long do Virginia pine trees live?

    The tree has a relatively short lifespan of 65 to 90 years, making it the perfect choice for reforestation projects on vast pockets of empty land that has been deforested, vacant, or infertile.

Article Sources
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  1. Pinus virginiana. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.