Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Japanese Black Pine
Pinus thunbergii 'Thunderhead'

Family: Pinaceae (py-NAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Pinus (PY-nus) (Info)
Species: thunbergii (thun-BERG-ee-eye) (Info)
Cultivar: Thunderhead

Synonym:Pinus thunbergiana

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

6 members have or want this plant for trade.


20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)
30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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There are a total of 8 photos.
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3 positives
2 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive johnebar On Jul 20, 2013, johnebar from Woodfin, NC wrote:

I purchased the dwarf black pine thunderhead when it was 18 inches tall, 8 years ago. It is now over 8 ft tall and 10 ft wide at base. I was told it was a dwarf, however I think it is a regular black pine as it goes a foot a year and does not show any sign of slowing. When it was young I fed it aquarium water at the rate of 3-5 gallons every 3 weeks, plus regular waterings. I looked online and found out in order control this monster, I would have to trim the candle from every branch, Remember this pine multiplies each candle (read branch here) 8 times its size every year. I have hundreds of branches. I live in the mountains of Asheville, NC . This pine is the coolest tree I ever grown. I first saw it at the Biltmore Estate, and had to have one. I wish I could post a picture.

Neutral tiqi On May 19, 2013, tiqi from Birmingham, MI wrote:

I purchased this plant two years ago and it seemed to be doing well until this spring. Needles are largely turning brown and falling off and it is slowly dying. In addition to the fact it was expensive, its a beautiful plant and I don't want to lose it . Is there anything I can or should do to to save this plant?

Positive Gracye On May 18, 2013, Gracye from Warrenton, VA wrote:

Mine's a trooper. I bought it two summers ago, in the heat of Virginia, after coming across it in the "TLC" lot in my favorite nursery.
It was a good size, at about 48" tall and round. Broader than tall, however. My husband and I dug a huge hole in our clay soil, threw in some amendments, and in went the newly named "Monroe." This Spring, it has obvious candles, and shows that it is adjusting well. The very top of it is gone, so that is why it was on sale, but we don't care. This pine can just do its own thing, which it is doing, in morning sun and afternoon shade. Has the most beautiful green color to it, and it has a personality!
Winter is a real treat for us with this Pine. Come what may, and it has already to Monroe, this Pine rewards with personality, sturdiness, and modest growth.

Neutral paddleaddict On Feb 1, 2013, paddleaddict from Chesapeake, VA wrote:

I found the below comment on another site. In order to encourage a wider range of planting I'd like to semi debunk, but not fully, information that may otherwise limit it's usage. Please note the following:

"This shrub should only be grown in full sunlight. It prefers dry to average moisture levels with very well-drained soil, and will often die in standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH, and is able to handle environmental salt. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments"

The zip code 23322 butts up to the Great Dismal Swamp in Chesapeake, VA. My neighbor has a wonderful specimen growing in about 80% shade, in heavy clay, less than 6-7' from a drainage ditch that regularly/seasonly floods, on a fairly busy connector road. It has been there about 12 years or better with no evident disease or maladies of any sort. Being an arborist/ horticulturist by trade I've watched in amazement, knowing the touted prescription for this particular plant's health.

Through nearly daily observation I'm reminded to not forget that individual genetic variables within a species come into play as cultural conditions are considered. Some species have a wider range of tolerances and may thrive in less than perfect conditions, often to our astonishment. And one or two minus' in an application may be canceled out if other requirements are fulfilled. Thus overly strict absolutes could be relaxed in light of the fact that plants just don't read books!

It seems when we think we have all the answers along comes an example to unsettle the apple cart, so to speak. And until we fully understand what makes these individuals tick and can with complete assurance claim such stringent boundaries, please feel free to bend the rules a tad. As a specimen conifer Pinus thunbergii 'thunderhead' is an under-used, under-rated and great dwarf black pine that could add both interest and variety to many settings.

Positive Dekejis On May 27, 2010, Dekejis from Roswell, GA wrote:

Excellent plant - very showy candles.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Louisville, Kentucky
Annapolis, Maryland
Frederick, Maryland
Boston, Massachusetts
Dracut, Massachusetts
Royal Oak, Michigan
Asheville, North Carolina
Chesapeake, Virginia
Warrenton, Virginia

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