More than 100 species of pine tree belong to the genus Pinus, with dozens of species native to the U.S. Some can grow more than 200 feet tall. A major source of construction lumber, pines are easy to grow and useful as windbreaks. Their stately silhouettes make them excellent specimens in the yard. According to the extensive Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute database, the fastest growing pine species rocket skyward about 3 feet per season.
The Fastest Trees in the West
The West is a rich source of pine tree species. Shore pine (Pinus contorta), sometimes called lodgepole pine, prefers to grow in coastal areas in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 8 and gets about 35 feet tall. Also good in containers or as bonsai, shore pine grows up to 3 feet per year and has dark green needles. Coulter pine (Pinus coulteri) does best in USDA zones 8 and 9. It lives more than 150 years and reaches 65 feet tall at a rate of 24 to 36 inches per year. USDA zone 5 is host to the Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi), with its vanilla-scented bark and attractive 3-inch cones. Jeffrey pine grows up to 3 feet per year to 120 feet tall. Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) also grows up to 3 feet per season. It has cinnamon-scented bark and does best in USDA zones 5 through 9.
Fast-Growing Eastern Pines
Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) is a common sight in the Southeast, where it thrives in USDA zones 8 through 10. Once out of the seedling stage, this tree shoots up at the rate of 2 to 3 feet per year. Virginia pines (Pinus virginiana) grow up to 3 feet per year in USDA zones 5 through 8 and reach a height of 50 feet. Members of the white pine subgenus include several species hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9, depending on the species, including the popular Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus). White pines generally grow 3 feet per season and can be anywhere from 50 to 80 feet tall. The loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) grows more than 2 feet per season throughout the Southeast in USDA zones 6 through 9 and can be 65 feet tall.
Canary Island pine (Pinus canariensis) and Calabrian pine, also called Turkish pine (Pinus brutia) both hail from the Mediterranean and grow best in USDA zones 9 and 10. The trees grow 3 feet per year, reaching a height of up to 80 feet. The Italian stone pine (Pinus pinea) grows up to 80 feet tall with a spread of 60 feet, so it needs plenty of elbow room in the yard. A source of edible pine nuts, this tree grows 2 to 3 feet per year and does best in USDA zones 9 and 10. The maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) grows 3 feet per season in USDA zones 7 to 10. Mature trees have a spreading or weeping habit. They grow up to 90 feet tall and can live 150 years.
Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora) grows best in USDA zones 4 through 7 in full to partial sunlight. It grows 2 to 3 feet per year and can reach 65 feet tall. It has a conical or rounded canopy. Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii) has a graceful, spreading canopy and makes an excellent tree for bonsai. Growing up to 65 feet tall at 2 to 3 feet per season, it is suitable for growing outdoors in USDA zones 5 through 9.