Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Prune Japanese Pine Trees

By Kelly Shetsky ; Updated September 21, 2017

Japanese pine trees are perennial trees that can be grown in a garden, or indoors as a bonsai tree. There are three types of Japanese pine tree: red pine, black pine and white pine. As full-grown outdoor trees, they are irregularly-shaped and achieve heights of 50 feet tall. Each variety of Japanese pine requires maintenance to keep it healthy, and maintain its desired shape. Complete the bulk of the pruning every three years.

Prune back the needles that are two years old on young trees, and those that are three years old on mature trees.

Cut at the rear of each cluster of buds. Avoid pruning near new buds, as this will affect growth.

Trim above the small sheath to promote new needle growth on older Japanese pine tree branches. Leave two or three buds intact on the tips of branches.

Eliminate 75 percent of the Japanese pine's green foliage over the course of three weeks in late spring. This will encourage vigorous budding of smaller needles.

Shape the tree by pruning off the ends of any unwanted branches. Remove dead, diseased or damaged branches as soon as they appear.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning shears


  • Use a ladder and pruning saw when trimming full-sized Japanese pine trees.

About the Author


Based in New York State, Kelly Shetsky started writing in 1999. She is a broadcast journalist-turned Director of Marketing and Public Relations and has experience researching, writing, producing and reporting. She writes for several websites, specializing in gardening, medical, health and fitness, entertainment and travel. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.