How to Grow Pond Pine

Pond pine tree with short needled branches emerging from trunk.
Pond pines will sprout new needles at any spot where damage occurs.

Edward M. Roqueta / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

In This Article

Also known as marsh pine or pocosin pine, pond pine trees are native to North America and commonly found on the coast of the southeastern United States, stretching between Florida and Alabama, and as far north as New Jersey. Though closely related to the pitch pine tree, pond pine trees are not as cold-hardy and prefer temperatures in USDA hardiness zone 8 and above. These trees also flourish in the Southeast due to the large number of lightning storms there. Pond pine trees have cones that are serotinous, meaning they only open and release seeds after a fire.

The bark of the pond pine forms rough plates that are a brownish-red color. The tree's cones are rounded ovals, and the needles a long and lush dark green that are almost soft to the touch. The sprouts, seedlings, and seeds of the pond pine are known to be food for various wildlife including deer, rodents, and birds, and the trees also provide habitat for a number of diverse wildlife species.

Best planted in fall (but able to be started or planted year-round), pond pines will grow slowly, taking as many as 18 years to reach maturity. Due to their love of water, pond pines primarily call areas near swamps, marshes, and ponds home—though they're commonly seen in coastal plains areas as well.

Botanical Name Pinus serotina
Common Name Pond pine, marsh pine, bay pine
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 40–70 ft. tall, 12–36 in. wide (trunk)
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial shade
Soil Type Loam, sand, moist
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 7-9 (USDA)
Native Areas North America
Meadow with scattered pine trees
After forest fires, pond pines often retain dwarfed crowns that regenerate after fire damage.  Pine Pitch Pete / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Pond Pine Care

Pond pine trees are not generally valued as landscaping trees, as their form is not considered attractive or unique. However, they can be useful in preventing erosion and improving water quality. Like many landscape trees, they don't. take a lot of personalized care to help thrive. As long as you live in the proper USDA hardiness zone, you can likely grow a pond pine. That said, properties that boast some of the environmental elements they love (like moist, boggy conditions) will serve the tree the best.

Soil

Pond pine trees like sites with poor drainage, and in forests this means undrained peaty soil that holds moisture. Evergreen shrub bogs that do not drain well are also called "pocosins" and are also likely locations where one finds pond pines, which led to "pocosin pine" becoming one of the folk names of the pond pine. Additionally, the tree will do best in a soil mixture that is slightly acidic. These damp, boggy conditions can be tough to replicate on a traditional suburban property, so keep that in mind when deciding whether or not to host this tree in your yard.

Light

Because they tend to grow as overstory trees near damp areas such as bogs and swamps, pond pines do best with a fair amount of sun. In some situations, oaks and maples may tend to grow up around and dominate them in some forests, but as long as partial shade is maintained they should survive just fine. However, pond pine trees are generally considered shade-intolerant and will not flourish in true shady conditions.

Water

Pond pines trees thrive in wet spots and poorly-drained locations. Given changing weather patterns due to climate change, it's possible that pond pines will now be able to grow in different locations, such as further west or in spots previously considered too dry for them. They're also tolerant of the occasional flood, making them a good option for coastal locations prone to strong tropical rains or hurricane-like conditions. If caring for a pond pine tree in a more traditional suburban landscape, make sure to water it frequently, soaking the soil well each time and never allowing it to dry out.

Temperature and Humidity

The pond pine is cold hardy down to -3 degrees Fahrenheit. That said, it needs to have at least 190 frost-free days per year in order to flourish and grow properly, so it does best in warmer zones with an average low of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It especially loves the high humidity present in many swampy environments.

Fertilizer

When planted in the proper growing locations, pond pines should have no problem flourishing. That being said, if you're looking to mimic their natural environment in a more traditional landscape, they may benefit from a boost of fertilizer. Feed the tree when you plant it, and again at the beginning of the growing season during its first and second year of life. Choose a blend that is slow-release and all-purpose—one that is geared towards acidic plants is a bonus.

Propagating Pond Pine

Pond pine trees may be propagated in containers or as a bare-root planting. Doing so requires cold stratification, ideally at least 30 days at temperatures between 33 degrees Fahrenheit and 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Germination will usually occur in about three weeks. Plant your tree outdoors in early fall or spring—though it can be replanted any time of year that the ground is workable, it will establish best if added to the landscape while there are mild temperatures (around 50 degrees Fahrenheit).

Common Pests & Diseases

Pond pine trees are somewhat vulnerable to various pests or blights, including Atropellis tingens, which can cause cankers and result in dying foliage. Comandra blister rust (Cronartium comandrae), which can cause galls, or, more often, spindle-shaped swellings is also common, as is red heart disease.