How to Grow and Care for the Loblolly Pine

Detail of a loblolly pine cone and needles.

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The loblolly pine is the second most common tree in the United States after the red maple, and its timber is widely considered to be the most commercially important in the Southeastern U.S. It is a large, fast-growing pine that can be distinguished from other pines by its needle arrangement, size, and stickiness. The loblolly has 5-8 inch long needles that are bundled in groups of three. Pine needles are sometimes used to make medicinal teas, and while they are not considered toxic, you should not consume them in large quantities. Loblolly pine trees are usually planted between November and March, its dormant season.

Common Name Loblolly pine, bull pine, blue pine, rosemary pine
Botanical Name Pinus taeda
Family Pinaceae
Plant Type Coniferous evergreen
Mature Size 40-90 ft. tall, 25-35 ft. spread
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Moist, loamy, sandy, clay
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Non-flowering
Flower Color Non-flowering
Hardiness Zones 6-9 (USDA)
Native Area North America

Loblolly Pine Care

The loblolly pine is highly adaptable and relatively easy to care for. The tree requires full or partial sun, moist soil, and regular watering. Unless it suffers from nutrient deficiencies, the loblolly pine does not need to be fertilized or pruned. However, slight fertilization can protect the tree in anticipation of winter. Light pruning of low-placed, diseased branches can occasionally aid tree health. The tree is susceptible to diseases and pests found in all evergreens. Monitor your loblolly pine for signs of infestations or damaged needles.

Light

The loblolly pine should be in full sun for four to six hours of direct sunlight each day. The tree can still grow in partial shade, but full sun is ideal.

Soil

The loblolly pine grows best in well-drained, acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, and clay soil. Because of this, they are often found in the Southern United States.

Water

The watering regimen of the loblolly pine is somewhat dependent on rainfall. When the loblolly pine is planted, you should water it often at 1 to 2 inches per week. A mature tree does well with moist soil but not in standing water. Occasional, short-lasting flooding won't damage the tree, but excessive exposure will have a negative impact. Generally, loblolly pines are drought resistant and should only be watered when completely dry.

Temperature and Humidity

The loblolly pine grows in humid, warm areas. They are most commonly found in the regions that endure mild winters and long, high-heat summers. Extreme winter weather in the north is what limits its northern expansion.

Fertilizer

Applying a high-phosphorous, slow-release fertilizer to your loblolly during planting helps stimulate root production, especially during the first one to two years of growth. Ensure that the fertilizer is specifically for evergreen trees. Fertilizing after the first two years is usually unnecessary as loblolly pines are very adaptable.

Pruning

You may trim the bottom of your loblolly pine, but pruning the top isn't recommended, as it will affect its natural shape. Pruning can also negatively affect the strength of the trunk and the density of the wood. If you choose to prune, you will likely only be able to do so for a short period as the tree will grow too tall to trim.

Propagating Loblolly Pines

Propagating loblolly pines is best done by cutting. Although propagating conifers isn't as simple as propagating shrubs, it can be done effectively with special attention and is popular in creating orchards. Planters are motivated to propagate due to the genetic uniformity it yields. Keep in mind that cuttings can take a year to root. Here's how to propagate a loblolly pine with cuttings:

  1. Take a 4-6 inch cutting with growth at the tips
  2. Fill a planting tray with a mixture of rooting medium and sand
  3. Water the rooting medium until moist but not overly wet
  4. Plant the cuttings but ensure that the needles don't touch the soil
  5. Cover the tray with plastic to mimic a greenhouse environment
  6. Remove the plastic once growth appears
  7. Place in partial sunlight for several days before transferring to full sunlight
Detail of loblolly pine pollen cones
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How to Grow Loblolly Pines From Seeds

Prepare pots or trays with a well-drained, acidic potting mix. Combining pine bark, peat moss, and sand make a healthy mix for conifers. Lightly press one to three seeds in each pot until the seed is barely covered. Mist with water until the soil is saturated, taking care not to displace the seeds. Keep the pots in full sun and the soil moist at all times, but do not saturate the soil.

Overwintering

Loblolly pines do well throughout winter, but if still a seedling, overwintering with a layer of bark mulch around the base will add protection. It's best to water the tree well during the cold to help retain moisture. You may also build a small mesh cage around the tree's base to protect it from burrowing animals.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

The loblolly pine is susceptible to pests and diseases in all evergreen trees. Your tree may develop infestations from insects such as pinetip moths, pine beetles, borers, and sawflies. The loblolly pine is also affected by diseases like needle rust, heart rot, and fusiform rust.

Common Problems With Loblolly Pines

The main issues with loblolly pines are related to disease and pests. Otherwise, the tree is relatively easy to take care of. Still, pay attention to your tree's general health to ensure any problems don't worsen with time.

Tip Dieback

Tip dieback in loblolly pines usually begins during winter weather but can progress through the spring and summer. It may be caused by potassium imbalance and various diseases and pests. Dieback starts at the top of the tree and travels downward, affecting branches and needles. If the dieback is extreme, the pine will need to be removed to prevent the further attraction of pests and the spread of disease to surrounding trees.

Needles Turning Yellow or Brown

Transplanting a loblolly pine or excessive salt in soil may cause discoloration in needles. Although needle yellowing or browning is unattractive, it does not always indicate a substantial problem. It may be a result of temporary wind damage or seasonal change. Nutrient deficiencies can also cause discoloration, prompting the need for vitamin and mineral-rich fertilizer.

FAQ
  • How long can a loblolly pine live?

    Loblolly pines can live up to 275 years.

  • What plants are similar to loblolly pine trees?

    The longleaf pine is similar to the loblolly pine but grows straighter and produces heavier wood. The longleaf pine needles are exceptionally longer than those of the loblolly pine. While the loblolly pine is abundant throughout the United States, the longleaf pine is considered to be threatened.

  • Can loblolly pines grow indoors?

    No, loblolly pines cannot grow indoors. While you may begin the seeding process indoors, you must transfer it outside as soon as growth begins. These trees grow up to 90 ft.