How to Take Care of a Pine Tree in a Pot

Pine potted plant

Pine trees are wonderful accent plants for indoor spaces. They emit wonderful fragrances and help to clean the air of impurities, infusing fresh oxygenation. Did you know that you can successfully grow some types of pine trees in pots? Proper care is essential for a pine tree to thrive in a pot, but it’s not rocket science. If you’re embarking on this endeavor, here are some facts about potted pine trees along with tips to successfully grow them in pots indoors and outdoors.

The basics of growing pine trees in containers

Hunker advises that it’s essential to choose the right kind of pine tree to grow in pots or other containers. The best types for indoor plants are slow-growing varieties such as the award blue Scotch pine, the Slowmound Mugo Pine, or the Norfolk Island Pine. These are pine trees that will grow at a slow rate for years of indoor enjoyment.

Choose the pot

The pot you select needs to have a depth and width that is twice the size of the root ball of the pine tree you purchase from a nursery. Pine trees require one foot of pot width for every four feet of height. Clay pots are heavier, but they provide an anchor to prevent tipping, but they also dry out quicker than plastic pots. Choose a pot that has a glazed ceramic finish if you opt for the heavier clay variety. It must have one or more holes in the bottom for drainage. Also, choose a dish to catch any water drainage with your new pot.

Choose the right type of soil

Resist the temptation to use soil from your backyard. Pine trees such as the ones listed above do best when planted in a potting mix that is comprised of 2 parts compost and 1 part pumice or perlite. The mixture provides good drainage with enough water retention for root absorption.

How to pot your new pine tree

Pine trees that come from nurseries in pots, or those that are freshly dug up from the soil should be transferred to a pot with the roots loosened gently. Fill the bottom of the new pot with a few inches of soil on the bottom, then place the root ball on top. Add the potting soil, gently pressing it down around the roots so there are no air pockets, but don’t press so hard that you damage the roots. Firm the potting soil around the fresh transplant adding soil to within 1/2 to 1-inch under the rim of the pot. A gentle tamping down as you add the potting soil is the best method to use. Water the fresh transplant until the soil around the pine tree is moist. Add water until you see it seep out the bottom of the pot.

Care of a potted pine tree

Potting a new pine tree is just the first step in the process of caring for the plant. Home Guides explains that pine trees require the right placement in light sources, proper watering and fertilizing, and are kept at certain temperatures to thrive in a pot. They offer tips for attending to the necessities of caring for a pine tree in a pot.

Where to put the pine tree

Pine trees can tolerate partial shade but the needles or leaves of evergreens require sunlight to perform their life-sustaining functions and to grow. It’s best to choose a spot that receives morning and afternoon sun at a minimum. Place the pot in a location that is safe from freezing or roasting temperature extremes. The plant is likely to grow in the direction of the sunshine so you may wish to rotate the pot periodically to avoid overgrowth or leaning in the new growth.


Your potted pine tree should not be submerged in water, nor does it need to be watered daily. You should check the soil and add water when it starts to feel dry. Pine trees do well under regular watering conditions that soak the plant at the root base, then drain out, and allow the soil to become nearly dry in between watering. Too much water can cause the roots to rot, so make sure to stick your finger an inch into the soil before determining the best watering schedule. The soil will dry out faster when the air around the plant is hot or dry versus humid and moist air.


Overfertilization can be a detriment to pine trees but they do need access to the vitamins and nutrients normally found in the ground. It’s best to prepare the soil before planting with a well-balanced slow-release fertilizer recommended for pine trees. Follow the directions on the package and maintain a regular fertilization schedule as directed.

When is it time to repot a potted pine tree?

In time, your pine tree will outgrow its original pot. You’ll know when it’s time to repot the tree when the roots begin to mass together in the pot. Keep an eye on the height of the tree. As it grows, the rule of thumb to remember is the size of the pot must be 1 foot in width for every four feet of tree height. When repotting the tree, gently prune back the roots, but be careful not to take too much off. It’s safe to remove one-third of the roots before repotting if you’re using the same pot.

Final thoughts

Caring for a potted pine tree is not difficult nor time-consuming. Start with the right type of pine tree that grows slowly, and use a large enough pot with the right mixture of soil with a healthy dose of time-release fertilizer. Plant the tree as directed, and water it thoroughly. Place in a sunny spot that is protected from extreme temperatures, water when the soil feels dry, and repot the tree as often as necessary. By following the basic recommendations you can successfully grow a pine tree in a pot.

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