Two and five needle Pine differences, and balancing growth

To develop new branches and new buds on Pines is one of the difficulties with this specimen. It can be a bit complicated to get an overall view of the many different techniques acquired to succeed with the Pine. I will try to setup some guidelines that hopefully will help to understand this.


Balancing the vigour between weak and stronger areas in the tree is also to be aware of. Pinching and pruning shall be done with awareness of balancing the weaker branches against the stronger growing ones. The same is the case with weak and strong candles.

Only do this on healthy trees. Week trees should be left to grow and gain vigour.

1) Start pinching the undesired weak buds.

ave the strongest growth on the top, and on the tip of the branches. Lower branches and inner shoots are the weakest.

Therefore it is necessary to keep balance between the stronger parts and the weaker ones, by pinching and pruning harder on the strong parts, to make the weaker parts gain strength.

With this work the focus in on keeping the balance between week and strong areas. This will also influence on how many new buds will emerge i.e., but here the focus is on the balance of growth:

2) Approximately one week later pinch the undesired strong ones.

3) Then selectively remove buds in the weak areas, leaving only the biggest and strongest.

4) At last, in the strongest areas you have to leave the weak buds and remove the biggest and strongest.

!!! Five needle Pines are treated opposite.


Strong candles versus week candles

The difficulty to understand in this part is the rule about letting the stronger candles grows when you pinch the weakest first! This is though to keep needles short, and it will have no effect to the overall balance if pinching is performed during a tree weeks period.

Get to know your Pine 

One has to have good knowledge about the tree and its growth to fully understand this. If you carefully observe your tree throughout the seasons you will be well aware of the balance between strong and week areas, and thereby be able to correct any unbalanced growth.

Always prune in order to let the sun reach the inner branches, in order to develop new buds from where new branches can grow. This will secure the possibility to develop and keep your Pine in the desired shape.


It is important to know that there are some differences between Pine species.

1) There is the common two needle Pine that includes Pinus sylvestris, P. thunbergii (Japanese Black Pine), P. mugo i.e. All known by setting two needles from the same point.

2) The five needle Pines sets five needles in the same cluster. This is Pinus parviflora (White Pine) and variants.

3) A special Pine is the three needles Pine, and this one is treated as the two needles Pine.

It is very important to differ between the two- and three needle Pines, and the five needles Pine. They need to be treated differently in order to succeed. Furthermore it is necessary to be aware of the timing of pinching new candles. The Pine reacts differently whether the new candles are pinched early, late or not at all. Also the time of year the tasks are fore filled will influence on the Pines reaction and behaviour.

A thumbs rule is that in general it is best to keep the trees at the dryer side in the period where candles are unfolding and hardens.


Factors that will influence on both two needles, and five needles Pine

Wind and weather in general, will affect the techniques used on Pines. And the different species will react different on this outer coming influence. But the main thing to be concerned about is the timing of pinching relating to the development of the candles. This will affect how good the effect of pinching will be, and what result will follow.


As a principle the strongest candles needs to be removed, in order to develop the weaker ones. Else the weak branches will die back over time.

The weaker candles therefore only have to be pinched a third, or not all, depending on their vigour. The strong candles have to be pruned to thirds or are removed entirely. Divide the process in three steps, with approximately a weeks pause between the pinching. When new buds later on the season sprouts from the base of pinching or behind, the same principle is to be used in keeping balance between strong and weak points.

Five principles

1) There always has to be no more than two new candles left too form the new growth, after pinching. Remove excessive candles.

2) Always remove the centre candle, in order two let the new growth forming a V-shape.

3) Removing the slowest candles first on two needle Pines, will help keeping the needles the same length. It is opposite when you pinch five needle Pines.

4) The more candles are removed, the more new growth will appear. On older trees that just have to be kept in shape, this should then be partly or totally avoided.

5) Do you have doubts about how to, and when to, it is always advisable to bring your tree to an experienced Pine grower. It is always easier to understand the techniques when they are shown to you on the spot.