Japanese red pine, Pinus densiflora

Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora) can be found in Japan, Korea, northeastern China and southeast Russia. The Japanese red pine grows to heights of 65-114 feet, produces needles that are 3-5 inches long and cones that grow from 1.5-3 inches long. The Japanese red pine likes acidic soil that is well-drained and likes full sun. The pine will turn yellow in winter.

Japanese red pine is considered to be an ornamental tree and is used in Japanese gardens. The pine is also used for timber products.

This is a low-growing, dwarf, evergreen tree with a broad, irregular growth habit, often with multiple trunks from ground level. The bark is a beautiful reddish-brown; shoots are whitish-pink and resinous. The leaves are slender, needle-like and bright green, occurring in pairs, up to 5 inches long. Female cones are narrowly oblong, yellow-brown, and grow to 2.5 inches long.

A cultivar of the Japanese Red Pine reaches a height of 20 to 30 feet, but grows very slowly and is often seen much smaller. Needles are arranged in pairs and remain on the tree for about three years. A distinguishing feature of this tree is the upright, spreading branching habit, which is uncommon in the Pine genus. The bark is unusually striking showing reddish-orange as it exfoliates. The form is compact and the tree stays small making it ideally suited for the residential yard. It can be used as a screen planted in mass or in a row, or alone as a specimen. Needles may turn yellowish during winter on some soils.

The tree prefers a site with full sun and a well-drained, slightly acid soil. Heavy clay soil is not suitable. This cultivar must be grafted for propagation. There also exists a few other cultivars: ‘Alboterminata’ – yellowish needle tips; ‘Aurea’ – yellow needles; ‘Oculis-draconis’ – Dragon’s Eye Pine – two yellow lines on needles.


Pines are one of the most diverse groups of evergreen conifers, over 90 species are distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Although most are large trees, they can take a low growing shrub form. Pines have been very important commercially, in timber production, as well as a variety of other manufactured products such as turpentine and rosin. They tend to be more tolerant of varying soil types and urban environments than either Picea or Abies.

Pines tend to develop tap roots, so one should not attempt to transplant them from the wild. All species are grown from seed, with highly variable seed stratification requirements. They can be subject to many diseases, such as damping off, root rot, dieback, blister rust, canker, blight, scale, pine needle miner, pine weevil, bark beetles and pinewood nematode. Well situated plants should be relatively trouble free. They suffer salt damage along highways and can get tip burn in areas of high sulfur dioxide or ozone. In general they do not require fertilization, which can cause overgrowth.

Image Caption: Photo of Pinus densiflora. Credit: Shizhao/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)