The tree is a recent purchase (about 2-feet tall in a #5 pot). I make sure to water it until some comes out the drainage holes, and the water drains fairly quickly.
Just inner needles browning or at the branch tips?
A fair amount of inner needles, near the trunk, and the underside of some of the branch needles, but only a few on the tips.
If it's planted in a #5 pot and water drains out quickly it probably root bound with no other substance in the pot to hold water.
Probably not retaining enough water for moisture take-up.
Assuming you are going to plant it, you didn't say, try this.
Pop it out of thee pot. Replant into a larger pot adding soil from the planting area you have in mind. No amendments or fertilizers. When planting time arrives this fall re-plant it paying careful attention to root structure. Make sure you get that right (root separation and pruning) before it goes into the ground permanently.
Thanks Dave, but I think the problem is exactly the opposite! I removed the tree and the thick rubberized bag it was growing in, and re-potted it into the same container keeping all of the original soil, adding a bit of potting mix to fill in the empty space.
It definitely was not root-bound in any manner.
The water does not drain quickly, i.e. run out the bottom almost at once, but does not pool up on top of the soil for more than a short time.
Forgot to say that I plan to grow the tree in a container, not place it in the ground.
In your initial post I was acting on the information provided. Not much but you did say water drains out fairly quickly. A moot point now.
I should have asked more questions and then replied.
Growing in a thick rubber bag. I can't imagine how out of character this would be for a Pine or any other plant trying to survive.
Was the pine browning before you transplanted it?
If not then I would assume transplant shock considering you did everything else right in your transplant. Hole in pot for drainage. A dumb question but nothing surprises me anymore.
Don't plant in a black pot exposed to full sun. Watch your water letting soil dry down the the 2nd knuckle on your index finger. Hopefully it will acclimate and provide a beautiful potted specimen.
Here is a link that might be useful: Can I grow a conifer in a pot
Thanks, Dave, for your follow-up -- much appreciated! My best guess is transplant shock, as it was in perfect shape when we purchased it. I did not notice that it was growing inside a bag for almost a week!
It is growing in a black 5-gallon nursery container, but is in shade part of the day. I will keep a careful eye on the need for watering -- thanks for the 2nd index finger knuckle tip!