Soil – The Decision Maker for Species Selection

Soil classification is an essential and often overlooked component used for species selection before planting. We have all seen stands of timber that are age 10, 20 or older that have performed poorly. We call these “off-site” stands. Some of the stands may be 20 plus years of age, and many trees are un-merchantable or barely merchantable. This is a result of poor species selection based upon the type of soil present. Choosing the incorrect species can potentially result in losses up to 50 percent volume potential.


Our Reforestation Advisors are here to explain a soil map for your area, similar to the example shown.

Today there are many helpful tools to assist forest owners and forestry professionals in making an informed decision as to the best species – soil combination. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has classified most soil series. Understanding and interpreting the data requires forestry training and soil management experience as is the case with each ArborGen Reforestation Advisor.

It is helpful to have an understanding of soil taxonomy or classification. For a simplified approach, we can use some simple rules of thumb. For instance, there is a wide range of soils in south Alabama, south Georgia and north and central Florida. These soils can range from very deep sands to heavy clay soils. To identify the pine species to plant on a given soil, we need to understand the presence or absence of clay, the geographic location, and drainage class.


These Varietal loblolly pine seedlings show amazing growth after only one growing season in South Carolina.

 Loblolly Pine: Extensively grown throughout the Southeast U.S. About 80 percent of the pine seedlings grown and planted in the Southeast U.S. each year are loblolly pine. Loblolly grows well on a range of soil types but grows best on soils with an argillic horizon (some clay content) such as Ultisols and Alfisols. Common soil types for loblolly are Bonifay, Orangeburg, Dothan, Tifton, etc. Loblolly pine prefers sites where the root system will not be saturated with water. If planting upon poorly drained soils such as wet flats, then bedding is recommended.



Florida landowner Harry Dicks inspects this ArborGen 15-month old slash pine elite.

Slash Pine: Grows along the lower coast and parts of the upper coast from the Carolinas to Texas. Slash pine is naturally adapted to grow on a wide range of soil types, including deep sands that are excessively drained; moderately well drained soils, with little to no clay content (Lakeland, Troup, Blanton); and poorly drained soils such as Spodosols (Leon, Allanton) having a high presence of organic matter and lack an argillic horizon with no clay content. However, because loblolly pine outperforms slash on all but the most poorly drained soils, only about 10 percent of the seedlings planted in the Southeast U.S. are slash pine.

Longleaf Pine: Heavily logged during the late 19th century and early 20th century, longleaf pine once dominated the Southeast U.S. during the settlement period. It is a favorite species for those who enjoy this particular species aesthetics and it is widely grown on quail plantations. It grows best on upland sites with some clay content. It is often planted on deep sands but tends to grow slowly on these soil types. Like slash pine, nearly 10 percent of the seedlings planted in the Southern U.S. are longleaf pine.

Sand Pine: Growing best on deep, excessively well-drained soils, such as Blanton and Lakeland drought-hardy sand pine tends to develop root rot when planted in soils with clay causing the tree to become wind thrown. Commonly used for wind breaks, it is a minor species with a few million planted each year.

Virginia Pine: Often found on some of the poorest soil types, but can grow on a wide range of soils. It is commonly found on sandy, rocky soils, but can also grow on heavy clay soils. This species is often used for wind breaks.

Shortleaf Pine: This species grows best in deep, well-drained soils. Ultisols are predominantly the best soils for shortleaf pine, soils that are fine sandy loam or silty loam. They grow on south and west facing slopes above the loblolly range.

Using the advice of a trained ArborGen reforestation professional, you can successfully launch a pine forest that aligns your goals of forest productivity and financial returns.


Customer Success Story: Ken Hoene, Forestry Consultant

Big Thank You!

A big Thank You to all of those that participated in our survey.

And to thank you, we have made a donation to Log-A-Load in your name!





Need a trusted partner to guide the way?
Get in touch with a Reforestation Advisor to explore your options!
Jason Watson

Jason Watson

South Carolina

Geoffrey Lee Hill

Geoffrey Lee Hill

Georgia, Virginia, Eastern Tennessee

Paul Jeffreys, Ph.D.

Paul Jeffreys, Ph.D.

Western Tennessee, Northern Alabama, and Mississippi

Randy Jarzyniecki

Randy Jarzyniecki

Gulf Coast, Southern Alabama

Lux Davis

Lux Davis

Senior Business Specialist, Texas


Shannon Stewart

Shannon Stewart

Eastern Texas, Southern Louisiana

Thomas Jackson

Thomas Jackson

North Carolina

Jonathan Wall

Jonathan Wall

Arkansas, Northern Louisiana

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