Types of Japanese Pine Trees You Should Know About

Types of japanese pine trees
Pine trees or Pinus are widely diverse that produce multiple varieties of the plant. Pine trees are common and loved all around the world for their toughness and adaptability.


Known as ‘Matsu’, they are a symbol of eternity and endurance. They appear everywhere in Japan including in Japanese art, literature and gardens. Japanese pine tree species hold an important place in Japan.


They are excellent for ornamentation purpose of any landscape and are good for environmental reasons too. Planting these trees can help conserve energy as they provide shade and coolness during summers. They also help clean the air.


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Pine trees are capable of living for hundreds of years. The longest living pine is around 4500-5000 years old. The best care for pine tree is to grow it in full sunlight, well-draining, moist soil with adequate space, letting it to spread its roots.


There are three important Japanese pine tree varieties and all of them are valued for their attractive dense foliage and shape. These trees are primarily used for ornamentation and are widely popular for bonsai art or miniaturization in containers.


Types of Japanese Pine Trees

1. Japanese Black Pine

Japanese black pine (also called black pine) are the most common Japanese pine tree species in Japan. Botanically they are called Pinus Thunbergii as the mature trees have dark, black-colored bark.
They are the most elegant, strong, interesting and stoic. These 2-needle pines develop into an attractive and powerful form and shape with regular pruning. Their dark green foliage or needles persist on for four years, before shedding.
Considered to be a fast grower, these trees grow its best in full sun and fertile, moist and well-drained soil. They are tolerant of heat, drought, sandy soils, cold and salty winds. Hence, they are the best for beachfront plantings.
These dark green densely crowded trees are 2-4 inches long, sharply pointed, stiff, outward-spreading and slightly twisted. Their buds are silvery white and pointed.
Old trees have blackish-grey bark. Out of different types of Japanese pine trees, historically, black pine trees were highly regarded for their strength and ruggedness. They were planted on the streets and in gardens of temples as they served as boundary markers at Shinto shrines.
These trees make for a good specimen in the landscape with their attractive conical-shaped pine. They are the most commonly used trees for bonsai all across the world. Their wood is used in construction and as fuel and with proper winter japanese black pine winter care, they survive the winters well..
When grown in coastal landscapes, these trees can grow up to 20 to 50 feet, whereas when grown inland, they can reach up to the remarkable height of 100 feet.


2. Japanese White Pine

Of all the Japanese pine tree varieties, Japanese white pine also called the Japanese five needle pine. It is a medium-sized tree that is common in the landscape.
Botanically called Pinus Parviflora, these medium growers reach up to 50 feet. As compared to other types of Japanese pine trees, the white pine has light-colored thinner bark.
Unlike other Japanese pines it is used as a horticulture tree in several countries. It can reach up to 80 feet and produces shorter needles that are only 2 inches long which makes it ideal for the art of bonsai. It is popular among bonsai enthusiasts.
As the tree reaches maturity, branches start developing from the top. This slow growing conifer has a unique appearance with blue-colored foliage and a bark that is purplish brown.
It grows well in full sun and well-drained, loamy, acidic soil. It is drought-resistant. Its wood is weak and therefore tends to break. Hence, it is better to prune young trees for a strong structure.


3. Japanese Red Pine

Red Japanese pine tree varieties are also known as Pinus Densiflora. It is native to the rocky slopes of China, Korea, Japan and nearby areas of Russia. Red pine is widely cultivated in Japan for ornamentation and timber.
These trees are intolerant to hot and dry winds. Their needles are 3 to 5 inches long, soft, bright green and are more delicate than that of black pine.
It is tufted and held upright from the stem. The tree has orangish to orangish-red colour of young bark that peels off in thin scales and so it is commonly called red pine.
As the tree grows older, the lowest bark becomes grayish and gets divided into oblong plates. Compared to black pine, red pine is slower growing conifer and are likely to have multiple stems at its base.
Red pine wood was used to construct buildings and bridges. In ancient temples, red beams are seen. Even today it is preferred over hardwoods as a fuel for pottery kilns. Its wood is also useful in making varnish, musical instruments, and even turpentine.
In the wild, red pine can reach up to 100 feet. But in the landscape, it grows up to 50 feet. Adequate sunlight, watering, well-drained soil, pruning and fertilizing is needed for its proper care.


Related: How Fast Does A Pine Tree Grow?



Q. Are Japanese pine native to Japan?

A. Yes, the Japanese Pine tree species are native to Japan. They are widely cultivated in Japan. Among many Japanese pine tree varieties, some are found in Northern China, South Korea and Southeast Russia.


Q. How tall does Japanese black pine grow?

A. If Japanese black pine are grown in ideal conditions, they can reach upto 80 to 100 feet. However, in garden setting, it is likely to settle at 25 feet. Per year it grows 2 to 3 feet in height.


Q. How do you trim a Japanese pine tree?

A. Trim the tree only to remove the broken or deceased branches. Avoid trimming the tree for shaping it. Japanese pine do not need pruning to keep its shape.


Q. Is Japanese black pine fast growing & invasive?

A. Japanese black pine grows between 2 and 3 feet every 12 months. It is easy to cultivate this species. It just needs eight hours of full, direct sunlight, good soil and fertilizer.


Q. How can you tell a Japanese black pine?

A. While identifying a pine tree, counting the number of leaves in each bundle can help you with the proper identification. You can determine the correct Japanese pine tree species by knowing whether they have two, three or five needles per bundle. The pine tree that has two needles per bundle is Japanese black pine.


Q. Can you keep a Japanese black pine small?

A. Keep the lowest branch very small; stop it from growing out. Let the main trunk grow tall. Allow the tree to build from the lowest branch that you kept small and healthy.


Q. How big does a dwarf Japanese black pine get?

A. Of all the types of Japanese pine trees, the dwarf Japanese black pine grows to a height of six feet in 10 years.


Q. Are these pine easy to grow and maintain?

A. It is easy to cultivate Japanese pine. Besides regular watering, this tree needs nutrient-rich soil to grow. Make sure it gets lots of sunlight and open space for its branches can spread up to 25 feet.


You can also grow them indoors in a shallow pot with good soil. Water weekly if there is no rain. The tree adjusts well to most soil types, but it will need fertilizer from time to time.



Pine trees are evergreen conifers that are excellent for adding beauty and color to your landscape. It is relatively easy to grow and maintain these trees. There are more than 120 species of pines found worldwide.


We have talked about three important Japanese pine tree varieties here that you can consider planting on your property.