Pines "develop" better in the shade?


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Vancouver, WA, USA
I got my latest copy of "Bonsai Focus" yesterday, in the Q & A section somone asked for some clarification on two different articles, one claiming that pines should be in full sun, the other claiming part shade. The reply from the staff was:

"Pines like full sun, but their development is quicker in half shade. So it's a matter of what's required according to the stage a particular tree has reached - growth or ramification. First develop the branches and small needles in half shade, then put into the sun to slow down the rapid growth."

This is the first time I've ever heard this kind of advice, everything I've read says full sun for pines. It also seems counter-intuitive, I would think shade would encourage long, weaker growth. But maybe it is a quirk of pines.

Any thoughts on this?


As one who deals with a shady growing area, I do not enjoy great success with pines. I need to refine my growing technique, to be sure, but I do not get near the results of others in the area who grow the same pines (mainly JBP) in sunnier surroundings. Weak budding and leggy growth are the norm. I actually have sent trees to blast furnace sunny yards for summer vacations and have seen great improvements in one growing season. Stronger budding, more budding, shorter needles and overall healthier growth and appearance.

I thought the Bonsai Focus article specifically tallked about White Pine, and their comments may only be concerning White Pine.

I saw that too. Not sure what to think of that advice, along with some other info in this issue that made me scratch my head.

I also noticed there were some areas in the front that the text looked like it was continued somewhere else and I never found it. It simply stopped in mid

Well, I'm no expert, but I work with one, does that count?

I think it depends quite a bit on what your "full sun" is, and what the history of your tree is.

Recently we brought some pines down from oregon bonsai to brent's. They were in full sun there, but our sun and heat is quite a bit stronger here, so we have kept them in partial shade.

But we have numerous pines that have been living here for their whole lives, and they enjoy the full sun no problem.

I suspect, that eventually we will be able to move the oregon pines out into fuller sun, but it will be a gradual process.

Not having read the articles in question, I'm not sure what they meant by "develop faster." If they mean leggier growth with longer internodes and bigger needles, then yeah, you can do that in the shade. But is that really what we want for our pines? i don't think so.

- bob
Good response Bob I didn't know I would wake up the dead with my post :) I haveyetr to receive my copy, but I will definetly read in earnest.
As in many articles on the web as well as magazines, writers' opinions often get passed on as fact without oversight. Editors are doing the best they can, but accept the writers' articles based on how well it may be written, whether or not it has big, pretty pictures, and whether or not what is in the article pretty much jibes with what the editor believes to be true.

I don't put much stock in this particular bit of wisdom. My pines have always been in full sun. This is what every teacher from Yoshimura to Naka to Boon to so many others have taught. Dave DeGroot puts a lot of emphasis on the amount of light needed by specific species, sounds like the makings of a good article. "What exactly is meant by full sun?"
I would have to see anything living in South Texas In August-September In Full Sun!
Not even my yard trees like it!
But we have numerous pines that have been living here for their whole lives, and they enjoy the full sun no problem.

I personally believe that environmental genetics, for the lack of better words, has everything to do with how you can treat a tree. Growing out of zone would be the most blatant example. Some junipers from Florida will not do well in the mid-Atlantic or New England, and vise versa. Unless special care is taken. My personal case in point would be Acers. The yamadori I have collected locally can sit in full sun and not miss a beat. Others I have from far flung locations need shade all but early spring and late fall.

One definition for sun and shade from Lynn Remly"s article Grateful Shade from the Washington Sunday Journal (which coincides with with suggestions from the Yoshimura/Halford book).

"Morning sun, afternoon shade = shade"
"Morning shade, afternoon sun = sun"
If they mean leggier growth with longer internodes and bigger needles, then yeah, you can do that in the shade. But is that really what we want for our pines? i don't think so.
- bob

I would think that if you are growing a pine from seed or from a young age where the trunk size is small, long leggy growth would be good to get sacrificial branches to grow more and thus increase your trunk diameter. You could still keep your "chosen" branches small and close to the trunk by proper techniques, though needle size might be hard to reduce too much, while alowing the sac branches freedom to fatten it up.

I agree that if you had a more "finished" tree that you would want short internodes and small needles, but until you got your tree to that stage you would want as much growth as possible.

But then again full sun provides the tree with maximum photosynthsis where as shade would hinder it (not sure if this would make too much of a difference since we are providing nutrients)

Pines grow naturally in the sun when there are adults due to their size, where as seedlings are under the canopy and are subject to partial shade.
Seedlings in the understory of the forest stay small and in a "holding pattern" until there is a break in the canopy, such as an older tree dying and falling over; this lets more sunshine reach the forest floor and then the seedling really takes off.

I visited a sequoia grove in Yosemite Nat'l. Park and one of the interpretive signs explained that the smaller trees (sequoias) growing in the shade that were only 6" in diameter could be up to 100 yrs. old and waiting for an opening in the canopy in order to take off. I think Bob's report on acclimating trees from other regions where the sun is less intense in partial shade is spot on. Once acclimated, it would be best to try and get as much sun for the trees as possible.

But like Irene says, in places where desert conditions persist, some protection from full afternoon sun must be provided even for the most sun-loving species of pines. I know this from 15 yrs. of growing bonsai in the Tucson area, where it can reach 117* in the shade. This extra caution should be taken from May through October. The tree can be moved into full sun for the remaining 6 months of the year.
Growing a pine in too much shade makes the stems weak and the needles long as the reach for the needed light. This will do nothing to improve the girth of the trunk because the tree is only interested in finding light, it needs the light to produce the energy and carbohydrates to produce trunks etc.
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