Ponderosa Pine

Posted by shane - January 26, 2016 - A-Z Plant Maintenance, Trees - No Comments

Pinus ponderosa

Ponderosa pines at Bow Point Nursery. Ken Wright photo.

Ponderosa pines at Bow Point Nursery. Ken Wright photo.

This is one of my favourite pines.  I was first introduced to this species when I used to walk in the hills on the west side of Okanagan lake between Vernon and Kelowna, BC.  It is a supremely drought-tolerant tree, with the ability to thrive and grow to massive heights and diameter in an area that, during the summer months, receives only 50% of the rainfall we receive in Central Alberta.

While ponderosa doesn’t get nearly as large in Alberta, due to a shorter growing season, it can still do very well.  It is widely under-utilized in the province, and due to its hardiness and drought tolerance, should be considered for mixed plantings in medium to large yards, acreages, parks, and shelterbelts.

Ponderosa pine makes an interesting addition to the character and texture of a mixed planting. It has very long needles and cones, and despite the sharpness of the needles, adds a fluffy softness to the overall garden texture.  Like other pines, ponderosa allows filtered light to come through, and doesn’t darken the yard the way a thick, Colorado blue spruce might.  They also thrive in full some from the time of planting, unlike spruce, which prefers to grow up under the part shade of other tree species.  I have seen only a few shelterbelts of this species, and they are very impressive.

Also like other pines, ponderosa is very low-maintenance if planted in the correct location.  You can expect a growth rate of 1.5′ per year in good soil.


Full sun.

Pruning time

Anytime, but rarely required.


Remove dead or storm-damaged branches.  Clear back branches that interfere with structures and walkways.

Crown Reduction & Shaping

Inappropriate for this species.  Allow room for the mature form when planting.  Do not top.


Only necessary during the initial establishment period after planting.  Do not plant this tree in low areas that receive a lot of moisture, as ponderosa pine is intolerant of saturated conditions.


(c) 2016 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service Inc., Red Deer, AB.