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Jack Pine Planting Tips

By Jacob J. Wright ; Updated September 21, 2017
Jack pine grows in rocky, infertile soils with an acidic pH, like that around Lake Superior.
lake superior shoreline great lake image by Paul Retherford from Fotolia.com

A pine native to the boreal forests of northern North America, jack pine (Pinus banksiana) survives thanks to regular, light bouts with fire. These fires cleanse the forest of competing vegetation, and the fire's heat releases the seeds from the fallen cones, allowing seedlings to sprout. Grow this pine in USDA Hardiness Zones 2, 3 and 4, where temperatures are colder.

Light Exposure

Jack pine requires abundant sunlight in order to survive in garden conditions. Nearby trees that shade the pine place it at a disadvantage, and according to the U.S. Forest Service, acts to shorten the tree's life span. Select a planting site that receives a minimum of eight to 10 hours of direct sunlight daily in all seasons.

Soil Conditions

Jack pine prospers in sandy, gritty soils that have low nutrition and are acidic in pH (4.0 to 6.5). It adapts well to loamy soils with a shallow depth, such as above-rock shelves or in niches of rocky outcroppings. The soil must be fast-draining, as moist to wet soils lead to fungal root rot. Very fertile soils, such as those in agricultural regions or in improved soil garden locations, do not bode well for the long-term life of a jack pine. Clay soils suffice only if well-drained and comprised of coarse aggregate, such as gravel.


Whether grown from seed or as a young seedling from a container, plant jack pine to grow in a landscape, and allow its taproot to form without disturbance. Make the planting hole the same depth as the root ball of the plant's container or ball-and-burlapped mass. Make the hole twice as wide. Do not plant the tree too deeply. In fact, planting it 1 to 2 inches high in the hole ensures excellent drainage.

The U.S. Forest Service also mentions that the taproot of this pine may extend as deep as 9 feet, allowing the species to exist in seasonally dry soils and infertile sands. The balance of its roots remain in the top 18 inches of soil, so refrain from adding fertilizers or watering too closely to a jack pine. Plant it in marginal areas away from the highly maintained parts of your yard and garden. Typically, a jack pine lives for 50 to 80 years, and it grows most quickly during the first 20 years of its life.


About the Author


Jacob J. Wright became a full-time writer in 2008, with articles appearing on various websites. He has worked professionally at gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Wright holds a graduate diploma in environmental horticulture from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware.