We evaluated nutrient uptake efficiency and subsequent leaching fractions for western white pine (Pinus monticola Dougl. ex D. Don) seedlings grown with exponentially increasing or conventional (constant) fertilization in a greenhouse. Conventional fertilization was associated with higher leachate electrical conductivity and greater nutrient losses, which were more pronounced for the more mobile NO3-N than for NH4-N. Exponential fertilization increased seedling nitrogen (N) uptake efficiency (75%), which helped reduce leaching losses compared to conventional fertilization (50%). Although exponentially fertilized plants received 45% less fertilizer (20 mg N·plant-1) during the establishment and accelerated growth phases compared with conventional cohorts (36 mg N·plant-1), seedling morphological characteristics and nutrient status were similar at the end of greenhouse culture and after 2 years of growth in the field, except that exponential fertilization increased root volume after the first year and also increased ctomycorrhizal colonization. Reduction of applied fertilizer quantities and enhanced fertilizer uptake efficiency through exponential fertilization allows for production of high-quality seedlings while simultaneously minimizing fertilizer inputs and mitigating potential environmental contamination.