Japanese Pine Tree: The Complete Care Guide

Japanese pine tree in the stone garden of a japanese house, Japanese Pine Tree: The Complete Care GuidePine trees are a common tree throughout the world, but some are more special than others. The Japanese Pine Tree or Black Pine is one such species. Whether as a diminutive age-old bonsai or soaring at a hundred feet above your head, this is one such tree that you want to know about.

What Is A Japanese Pine Tree?

The Japanese Pine Tree (Pinus thunbergii), also known as black pine, is native to Japan and South Korea. It's a beautiful conifer with dark black trunks and lovely sculptable branches. It's a popular garden tree in its native Japan and is often used for bonsai as well as natural plantings.

This gorgeous tree is featured in botanical gardens, such as the Japanese National Garden in Tokyo and the Seattle Japanese Garden, because of its beauty and interest as it is sculpted over time. The bark, which starts out grey, changes to black and continues to thicken over the lifespan of the tree. Under perfect conditions, this tree can reach as high as 100 feet, but that is rarely seen outside of natural habitats.

How To Grow A Japanese Pine Tree

Japanese Pine Trees are one of the most common species to its native Japan. Grown primarily outdoors for gardens, it is also sometimes grown to act as a hedge, a windbreak, or historically to harvest for turpentine and wood for construction. It is a species of pine that can be grown in an outdoor container and, in addition, is highly prized as a species to be used for bonsai.

In a natural setting, the Japanese or Black Pine could grow to heights between 80 and 100 feet. However, in a typical garden setting, it is more likely to settle around 25 feet. It grows between 2 and 3 feet per year and has a long lifespan with some trees, in the right conditions living as long as 150 years.

The Needs Of The Japanese Pine Tree: Soil, Light, & Feeding

The Japanese Pine Tree does best in full sun but can do partial shade. It's hardy in USDA Zones 5-9. As for soil, it prefers moist, well-drained soil but can tolerate some sand, salt, and seaside. This factor is why the black pine has been used to help with seaside erosion on certain coastlines. When you choose to fertilize, you'll want to select an acid-based fertilizer and apply it during the growing season.

Steps For Planting A Japanese Pine Tree

If you're starting your Japanese pine tree from seed, you'll want to plant one seed per seedling pot in loose potting soil. Once your seedling has reached 2-4 inches tall, then you can place it either in its permanent outdoor location, or the pot where it's going to live. Use good soil and mulch around the top to prevent weeds. You can let the top of the soil dry out between waterings, but once it's dry, then water again.

Japanese Pine Photo Gallery

1. Lovely Branches Are A Feature Of This Tree

One of the reasons this pine tree is so popular in gardens is the ability to sculpt its branches so that they grow in pleasing forms. Here the trunk is spotlighted by the addition of two well-placed boulders near the tree.

2. Works Well In Border Beds

Though it can get very tall in its natural setting without pruning, the ability to prune this tree makes it work for smaller spaces. This tree has been sculpted in such a way that it looks like a large bonsai.

3. Japanese Pine As Bonsai

Here is a beautiful Japanese Pine sculpted and tended as a Bonsai. Grown to look like a miniature example of a full-size tree, the black pine lends itself to this passion.

4. Use As Specimen Trees In Your Garden

Do you have a Japanese themed garden? Consider growing the black pine as a specimen tree in your garden. Here are a couple of lovely examples.

5. A Perfect Bit Of Layering

Because the Japanese pine can be tended to grow smaller than other trees, consider using it as a layering plant. Here a gorgeous black pine is spotlighted in front of the taller willow tree.

6. Use The Shape Of Pruning To Your Garden's Advantage

This gardener has chosen to emphasize the clumps of foliage at the end of remaining branches, rather than the trunk and branches. The result is a whimsical stack of pompoms that look playful in this garden.

7. When Grown In Its Natural Setting, It Can Get Tall

A Japanese Pine in its natural setting can reach heights of up to 100 feet. Here is a prime example of one soaring into the stratosphere.

8. Keep It As Small As You'd Like

This black pine gives a unique focal point in front of this home's stucco garden wall. The angles and lines of the sculpted pine are almost like modern art.

9. Kotobuki Black Pine For A Vertical Accent

This variation on the species gives you a vertical choice for your garden. It will reach 4-5 feet tall in as little as ten years.

10. Plant It On A Bank Or Hillside

For a unique effect, plant your Japanese pine on a bank or hillside. The branches and roots will enhance the loveliness of what you create in your garden.

11. Dwarf Varieties For Containers And Rock Gardens

The Kotobuki variety is an excellent choice for containers or small edged gardens. Its small needles and upright branches are super attractive.

12. Use Boulders With Your Japanese Pine

Boulders and ponds are often a feature of a Japanese garden. Here a massive stone is a perfect counterpart to this lovely Japanese Pine Tree.

13. Bonsai Beauty With A Black Pine

Here's another take on the Japanese Pine in Bonsai form. Grown with spread out branches to create a taller look, you can see why this tree is a natural for the form.

14. A Lone Beauty By A Pond

There's something poetic about this Japanese Pine tree standing next to a lovely pond. The clearly defined mulched border creates a lovely background.

15. The Perfect Accent At The Entryway

Use a Japanese Pine Tree to create a beautiful welcome for your guests. This highly sculpted tree is a gorgeous focal point at this front door garden.

16. The Perfect Plant For A Japanese Garden

With its windblown branches, this specimen looks perfectly at home in this California Japanese garden.

17. Ancient And Beautiful

This ancient pine has such a long horizontal branch that it is now held up by supports. These gorgeous trees can live up to one hundred and fifty years old.

Where To Buy Japanese Pine?

It's possible to buy seeds and seedlings online. What a cool thing to be able to order this plant and have it shipped directly to your door. If you have some patience and are willing to let your tree grow, this is a cost-effective way to get this plant for your garden.

This 2-yr old seedling will arrive at 3-6 inches tall. Use it to create a bonsai, or let it grow up into a beautiful garden specimen.

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Want to try your hand at bonsai but not from scratch? Consider buying a started bonsai. This 6 yr old bonsai will arrive at 10-12" tall in an 8" pot. It also comes with a humidity tray and decorative rock (seen at the bottom of the pot).

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Want a seedling with a bit taller start. This 8-15" seedling is shipped directly from the grower in the Pacific NW to your door.

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You can get a package of 50 seeds to start a whole collection of Japanese Pine trees. These seeds have a 60-80% germination rate.

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What a cool gift! You can give a Japanese Pine Bonsai growing kit. This comes with a plastic tubular container, soil, stone, seed, and instructions to grow your very own bonsai.

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We hope you've enjoyed learning about the Japanese Pine tree. If you enjoyed this plant post,  please check out a few others here on GardenTabs.com below:

How To Grow A Pine Tree from Seed

How And When To Prune Pine Trees

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