TREES & plants

Limber pine

This under-used pine, native to the western United States, is more tolerant of alkaline soils than the Eastern white pine. The dark blue green needles help this tree stand out in the landscape.

Botanical name: 
Pinus flexilis
All Common Names: 
Limber Pine
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
Native Locale: 
  • North America
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Dry sites
  • Occasional drought
  • Alkaline soil
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Oval
  • Pyramidal
Landscape Uses: 
  • Windbreak
  • Specimen
  • Shade
Time of Year: 
  • Early winter
  • Mid winter
  • Late winter
  • Early spring
  • Mid spring
  • Late spring
  • Early summer
  • Mid summer
  • Late summer
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
More Information: 

Size & Form

30 to 50 feet high and 20 to 35 feet wide.
Broadly pyramidal in youth, becoming more flat-topped with ascending branches as it ages.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun  with moist, well-drained soils; tolerant of part shade.
Adaptable to dry soil and windy once established.
Better tolerant of salt spray than other 5-needled pines.

Disease, pest, and problem

Less troubled by pests and diseases than other pines.

Disease, pest and problem resistance

Branches are flexible and less prone to storm damage.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to the Rocky Mountains in Western U.S. and Canada

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Birds use this tree for shelter

Bark color and texture 

Young trees have smooth, light gray bark. Older trees develop a blocky, scaly texture and turn grayish brown.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Needles are 2 1/2  to 3 1/2 inches long, in bundles of 5 and tend to be clustered at tips of branches.
The dark bluish-green needles slightly curved or twisted, persisting 5 to 6 years.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Monoecious, male flowers clustered, female flowers solitary or in 2's or 3's

Limber pine (Pinus flexilis)Limber pine (Pinus flexilis)photo: John Hagstrom

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Cones are 3 to 6 inches long, upright at youth, turning pendulous at maturity.

Cultivars and their differences 

Vanderwolf’s Pyramid  (Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’ ): This cultivar is faster growing than the species and has a very upright pyramidal habit.  The needles are a bright blue-green color and twisted.