What’s The Best Native Pine Tree For California Coastal Areas?

What’s The Best Native Pine Tree For California Coastal Areas?

California has many native pine trees, the best pine tree species is the Torrey pine.


Torrey Pines in the Wild. Pinus torreyana is the best native pine for southern California.

Photo by Daniel Orth.

Native to only a small part of the coastal strand and Channel Islands in San Diego County. The Torrey Pine thrives in coastal conditions and is native to the coastal sage scrub and chaparral plant communities. It is also the rarest native pine species that probably was much more widespread in previous centuries.

The Torrey pine is highly regarded in its native range. In fact, the City of Del Mar requires landowners to get a permit to cut down a Torrey pine tree.

Torrey Pine Description

Torrey pine needles

Photo by Brian Dearth.

Needles are long and grayish green. The needles on vigorous specimens may grow to 13 inches long, but average trees grow to around 9 inches. The long sparse needles form an irregular open canopy that allows filtered sunlight through to the plants growing underneath. The 6 inch green pinecones matured to a chocolate-brown color. The trunk is covered in plated bark.

Trees grow between 40-70 feet tall and spread up to 35 feet wide.

Torrey pine is adapted to low-water ornamental landscapes in Sunset Climate Zones 8, 9, and 14-24. Hardy to 15 degrees.

In the WUCOLS manual, Torrey pine is rated as a low water use plants near the coast. Water once or twice a month during summer.

Where to Plant

Torrey Pines at Torrey Pines State Reserve

Torrey Pines at Torrey Pines State Reserve

Plant in full sun or light shade for best results. In the wild, the Torrey Pines grow in sandy coastal soils. As you might’ve guessed, it needs adequate drainage around the roots. Avoid planting lawns since they require more water than the tree can handle. Use in low-water landscapes. Irrigated trees grow considerably faster than trees in the wild.

Landscape Uses

Use Torrey pine as an evergreen screen or as a specimen tree. The open canopy allows users to see some view through the needles. This pine tree species can also tolerate windy sites.


Torrey Pines is available from native plant specialist. In recent years, the Torrey pine has become more common in nurseries. Avoid planting root bound specimens since they can be easily girdled if left too long in the container at the nursery.

Las Pilitas and Tree of Life nurseries sell Torrey pine trees in five and fifteen gallon containers.

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John is a landscape architect who is currently preparing to take the California Supplemental Exam to become licensed in California. He is currently a licensed professional landscape architect in Georgia and Florida. John graduated from California State University, Pomona with a BSLA degree in landscape architecture in 1997 and has extensive practice experience in residential and commercial landscape design.

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