Description & Overview

Pinus parviflora, the Japanese White Pine is a graceful, slow-growing conifer endemic to the sunny rocky slopes of Japan and Korea. Alongside Pinus koraiensis, the Korean Pine, is the characteristic pine of the subalpine areas of Japan. Japanese White Pine creates a striking landscape element wherever it is used. The ‘Glauca’ cultivar is prized for the silver-blue tinted needles, often presented in tufts at the branch apex, adding further charm to this already picturesque tree.

Core Characteristics

Category: Conifer

Wisconsin Native: No - Introduced

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 5

Mature Height: 35-50 feet

Mature Spread: 35-50 feet

Growth Rate: Very Slow

Growth Form: Upright. Broadly conical with spreading branches.

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Site Requirements: Moist, well - draining. Tolerant of many soil types as long as the drainage is good.

Flower: Inconspicuous.

Bloom Period: Spring

Foliage: Blue - green. Twisted.

Fall Color: None.

Urban Approved: No

Fruit Notes: Reddish - brown ovular cones. May persist on branches for up to six years.

Suggested Uses

The Blue Japanese White Pine will attract attention wherever it is planted and makes a spectacular landscape specimen, truly a pleasure to behold with its attractive foliage and form in all seasons. This pine species often has a dense conical habit in youth but develops wide-spreading horizontal branches, often creating a pad-like effect over time. The grayish-to-black bark is smooth on younger trees but develops interesting fissures and plated scales on mature individuals. Grow Japanese White Pine in full sun in a site with well-drained soil. In general, overly hot and dry planting locations do not lead to a healthy growing environment for this tree.

Japanese White Pine is also a trendy subject for bonsai.

Wildlife Value

While pine nuts are typically a highly sought-after food source for wildlife, the seeds of Japanese White Pine do not bring in wildlife with the same zeal shown towards our native pines, such as Pinus strobus, Pinus resinosa, and Pinus banksiana. The ecological value of this non-native pine pales in comparison to our native pines.

Maintenance Tips

If you have to prune any branches on your Japanese White Pine, the best time would be late winter or early spring while the tree is still dormant.

Throughout spring, you may notice that your pine is covered with prominent upright buds at the branch tips-called candles. They are the spring growth of your tree. Generally, they grow in clusters with a dominant candle surrounded by secondary candles. When left in place, the dominant candle eventually becomes a long straight branch, whereas the secondary candles grow into the side branches. “Candling” is the selective removal or size reduction of the candle to reduce or restrict the tree’s growth. By controlling this growth, you can maintain the distinctive shape of your pine tree.

When the dominant candle is removed, the growth of that branch is shortened, and without having to use its energy to grow that branch, the energy gets transferred into the secondary candles. When the dominant candle is shortened, the secondary candles produce shorter and dense growth, further lending to the form.


A healthy Pinus parviflora usually has few problems. The key to a healthy tree is to keep it stress-free. Japanese White Pine prefers slightly acidic soil that is well-draining-so your pine may struggle in thick, alkaline clay. However, it is generally adapted to different soil types and textures if your drainage is good.

Leaf Lore

Blue Japanese White Pine gets its cultivar name ‘Glauca’ from the word glaucous, which is an adjective describing a dull grayish-green or blue color; this is, of course, a reference to the bluish color of the foliage.

Pinus parviflora ‘Glauca’ was the accepted name for all blue-needled forms of Pinus parviflora. That name has been corrected, and the currently accepted nomenclature is Pinus parviflora Glauca Group, which includes all of the blue-needled cultivars. Pinus parviflora ‘Glauca’ now refers to the standard Blue Japanese White Pine.

Pinus, the genus for Pines, is the sole genus in the subfamily Pinoideae, which is part of the larger family Pinaceae, the Pine family. Many other well-known conifers are also members of the Pine family, such as cedars, firs, hemlocks, spruces, and larches.

Companion Plants

Japanese White Pines are often used as accent or specimen plants. They are beautiful on their own but can be paired well with many other plants. They often find themselves in Asiatic-themed gardens planted alongside Japanese Maples, such as ‘Bloodgood,’ ‘Crimson Queen’ or ‘Emperor 1′ for a nice contrast between the bluish foliage of the pine and the red foliage of the maple.

Other trees that make excellent companion plants include Magnolia, Serviceberry, Corneliancherry, Dogwood, and ornamental Cherries. Shrubs may include Rhododendron, Weigela, and different types of Chamaecyparis, such as ‘Nana Gracilis’ or ‘Kings Gold’. Regarding companion perennials, grasses like Miscanthus or ones grown for their flowers are the most common, such as Iris and Peony.

Pinus parviflora, the Japanese White Pine is a graceful, slow-growing conifer endemic to the sunny rocky slopes of Japan and Korea. Alongside Pinus ko…
miles minter avatar

Written by Miles Minter