The White Pine is a fast growing (2-3 ft per year or more) evergreen that has needles of from 3-6 inches long and are arranged in bundles of five on the stem. In Sep-Oct this pine “sheds “ all of its needles that grew out the previous year. These needles make excellent mulch but are also very flammable, so fire and sparks must be kept away from the base of these trees. When grown in the open its branches extend to the ground, when grown in windbreaks they usually looses these lower branches, which is common in the pine family. It is a native of northern third of the US extending as far south as the mountains in Georgia.
It will grow up to 80ft tall + and 25 ft or more wide, its large spreading root system is very wind firm, but its branches are slightly brittle and can be damaged by snow, ice, and windstorms. It can live over 100 years in windbreaks but usually has a shorter lifespan because of being broken up by wind and ice storms. On a well drained, moist soil this species will outgrow any other evergreen that can be planted there, and a 20 year old tree can be 40 ft tall. Deer will readily eat this species and due to all the new growth coming out of the very tip of a branch, browsing can severely deform or kill this plant.
It will grow well in hardiness zones from 3-7 and will grow quite fast in most soils. It prefers a well-drained soil and does not like to have its roots too wet. On clay or heavy soils they seem to do quite well but when a wet year comes along have seen some deaths of 20-30ft trees and I blame it on the clay soil holding too much moisture causing root death. Norway Spruce is a better species in heavy/clay soils. Have seen them growing on PH soils of up to 9 but are thin and show signs of chlorosis, soils of 7.5 PH and below, are much preferred.
The White pine can grow well in sandy conditions where the spruce would not do as well. It is quite adaptable to dryer sites if not planted to closely together (16ft). It does have 2 disease problems such as the blister rust and white pine weevil, and Zimmerman Pine moth in Iowa. Before planting it is best to check other White pine in the area and see if they have any disease or insect problems, and check with your county extension agent on the local situation.
A 2ft tall potted White Pine tree can be over 12 ft tall in 5 years, in good soil, with adequate moisture and total weed and grass control. Spacing--single row -16 ft apart, Double row -20ft between rows and plants, Multiple rows -22ft or more between trees and rows.
The White pine tree is a recommended windbreak tree with its fast growth and adaptability, except we have found a problem as shown below, in Iowa. On a several row windbreak I would use other species along with this one and would consider deer activity in the area as they can severely inhibit growth.
We have recently discovered that Zimmerman pine moth is now infecting the White and Red Pine here in Iowa and probably other areas. It was previously believed to not infect this species, check your trees to see if you have a situation like as shown above. Long term effect may not be good as it creates a weak spot at the base of the branches and causes them to break in heavy wind or snow, and there is currently no effective treatment for this. Currently cannot recommend this species for a long term windbreak. Will keep you updated as to the long term effect of this destructive pest on White pine.