Richard C. Bogren, Owings, Allen D.
Pines are one of the many great native tree species in Louisiana. Several species of pine trees are native to our state. These include loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana), longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata), spruce pine (Pinus glabra) and slash pine (Pinus elliottii).
The best pine tree for landscape use in Louisiana is the spruce pine. It has a slow to moderate growth rate and matures at a size that works in medium- to large-size landscape settings. Spruce pines are much more adapted to adverse or varying soil moisture and pH conditions when compared with other pine species. Spruce pines can tolerate neutral to slightly alkaline soils and can also grow better in more poorly drained soils that have some clay – although their growth will be slower than if they were planted in more ideal silty, acid soil. Virginia pines are also slightly more tolerant of adverse growing conditions.
Because pine trees vary greatly in size, selection is important. Shortleaf, Virginia and spruce pines are the smallest with average heights of 25-50 feet with and average spread of 20-30 feet. Shortleaf pine performs better in north Louisiana than in south Louisiana.
Loblolly, slash and longleaf pines are more upright-growing and get to be considerably larger than the other species. The longleaf pine stays in a “grass-like” growing stage for several years before starting upright growth.
Garden center supplies are generally limited, but you can often find the spruce and loblolly species. Seedlings are available every year (normally December-March) from the tree seedling sales office at the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Although container-grown plants can be placed in the landscape during spring and summer, it is best to plant them in fall and winter.
Give pine trees a chance in your landscape if room allows. They are great for perimeter landscaping efforts, and the soil conditions they require match those of common ornamental shrubs, such as gardenias, hydrangeas, camellias, sasanquas and azaleas.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture