Loblolly Pine Profile

Detail of a loblolly pine cone and needles.

Getty Images 

If you live in the South or Mid-Atlantic states, there is a good chance you've crossed paths with a loblolly pine. The US Forest Service has reported that the loblolly pine is the second most common tree in the United States after the Red Maple. The tree is a large fast growing pine that can be distinguished from other pines by its needle arrangement and size. The loblolly has needles that are about five to eight inches long bundled in groups of three. This differs from the longer needles of the Longleaf pine, Pinus palustris; or slash pine, Pinus elliotii; and the shorter needles of the Shortleaf pine, Pinus echinata. 

The wood of the loblolly is especially resinous. The botanical name taeda, which conveniently means both pine and torch in Latin, stems from this sticky trait. The tree has many names that have fallen out of use but its common name has an interesting origin. Loblolly, was the word for a porridge fed to English sailors during the colonization of the country. These same sailors described flora found in the mire of the swamp lands, which was as thick as their porridge, in the Southeast as "loblolly" and the name stuck. This is how the common name “loblolly pine” was adopted.

Botanical Name Pinus taeda
Common Name Loblolly Pine, Bull Pine, Blue Pine, Rosemary Pine
Plant Type Needled evergreen
Mature Size  40 to 90 feet
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Soil Type Prefers moist, acidic soils with poor drainage.
Soil pH 4.5 and 6.0
Bloom Time Non-flowering
Flower Color Non-flowering
Hardiness Zones 6 to 9
Native Area Southeastern United States

Growing

This aromatic tree is usually planted on tree farms for production rather than for its horticultural value. The wood of the loblolly is most often used in industry to produce lumber for pulp manufacturing. Besides being used for quickly established screens, the loblolly is not usually seen in a landscape or garden setting. For other landscape uses, the spotlight is usually given to the loblolly's slow growing dwarf cultivar, which has gained popularity from the cultivar propagated at the JC Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina. Dwarves seem to be more versatile and are often used in rock gardens, rain gardens, and much closer to structures.

Light

Ideally, the loblolly pine should be full sun for at least six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil

Acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained and clay soils are preferred by the loblolly pine.

Water

When the the loblolly pine is first planted it should be watered often, 1 to 2 inches per week. A mature tree can tolerate some soil moisture it but it does not handle standing water well.

Fertilizer

Applying a high-phosphorous fertilizer to your loblolly during planting will help stimulate root production.  Read the label to be sure the fertilizer has the right ingredients. During the next one to two years, adding a high acid fertilizer meant for acid loving plants will aid the loblolly. Fertilizing further may not be necessary, loblolly pines are very adaptable. Pioneers originally found the tree growing in semi-dried river beds.

Propagating the Loblolly Pine

Growing a loblolly pine is a relatively easy project if you follow some easy steps and use the right materials. The first thing is seed preparation. The seeds shell needs to be softened by soaking it in warm water for 24 hours in a zip lock bag. After, drain the water but make sure the seed is not dried. Return the seed back to the bag and put into the a refrigerator set at about 37 °F. Keep at this temperature for 60 to 90 days. This process is called stratification, or mimicking the natural pattern of cooling and thawing between seasons. After 60-90 days you are ready to plant.

Prepare pots or trays with a well-drained, acidic potting mix. A good mix for conifers can be made by mixing pine bark, peat moss and sand. You can also find a good mix with the ideal pH and the right drainage quality at your friendly local nursery. Lightly press one to three seeds in each pot, and press till the seed is barely covered with no more than a quarter inch of soil. Mist with water till 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.

Detail of loblolly pine pollen cones
 Getty Images

Prepare pots or trays with a well-drained, acidic potting mix. A good mix for conifers can be made by mixing pine bark, peat moss and sand. You can also find a good mix with the ideal pH and the right drainage quality at your friendly local nursery. Lightly press one to three seeds in each pot, and press till the seed is barely covered with no more than a quarter inch of soil. Mist with water till 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.

Article Sources
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  1. Fia.fs.fed.us. 2002. Forest Inventory And Analysis: A Special Issue Of The Journal Of Forestry. [online] Available at: <https://www.fia.fs.fed.us/slides/current-data.pdf>