Norfolk island pine tree

How do I care for a Norfolk Island Pine?

The Norfolk Island pine is a popular houseplant. During the holiday season, many individuals turn their plants into living Christmas trees by decorating them with miniature lights, ribbons, and ornaments. The Norfolk Island pine thrives indoors when given good, consistent care. Place the Norfolk Island pine in a brightly lit location near an east, west, or south window. Rotate the plant weekly to prevent the plant from growing toward the light and becoming lopsided. Thoroughly water the Norfolk Island pine when the soil surface becomes dry to the touch. Discard the excess water which drains out the bottom of the pot. From spring to early fall, fertilize the plant with a dilute fertilizer solution every 2 to 4 weeks. A temperature of 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit is suitable for the Norfolk Island pine. Winter is often a difficult time because of low relative humidity levels in most homes. Raise the humidity level around the Norfolk Island pine with a humidifier or place the plant on a pebble tray. Low relative humidity levels, insufficient light, or excessively dry soil conditions may induce browning of branch tips and lead to the loss of the lower branches.

Caring for a Norfolk Island Pine

So you picked up a Norfolk Pine before winter and it looked great until about two weeks ago when you noticed the needles beginning to fall off. Where did you go wrong? Let’s take a look.

General Care
Light Requirements: Norfolk Pines enjoy medium light. But what exactly is medium light? Well, don’t let your pine sit directly in front of an east- or south-facing window and keep it about five feet from all other windows.

Watering: Many sources will tell you to water once a week but I find this ambiguous. Your watering frequency will depend on the humidity in your house and the time of year. During the winter your tree is not really growing so allow the soil to dry out before watering again. From spring to fall, water more frequently to promote healthy, even growth. During this time, water when the first inch of soil has become dry. Norfolk Pines prefer high humidity so mist your plants once a week or more frequently if you notice that needles are turning brown.

When you water your plant, place it in a container to hold the water that runs through the soil. Let your plant sit in that water for no more than one hour. This allows the roots to pull up any extra water they need.

Fertilizing: As with any plant, fertilize your pine when it is actively growing (between spring and fall). Every two weeks, provide your pine with a mild fertilizer made for indoor plants.

Temperature: These pines prefer cooler temperatures and consistency: avoid drafts and vents and allow it to enjoy about 18°C.

Repotting: Norfolk Pines aren’t fond of re-potting and can keep their size in the same pot for many years before needing an upgrade. Check the root system of your pine every few years. If the root ball is bound and there is little soil left, consider re-potting. Always re-pot in the spring and use a fast-draining potting soil mix for best results.

The Usual Problems
The most common problem is needle browning resulting from overwatering, underwatering, or too much sun. Keep a close eye on your watering habits! Mist your plant regularly.

1. Brown needles will not turn back to being green. As soon as they start to brown, they have finished growing and will soon fall off.
2. Be careful with pruning: all growth stops at any point that has been pruned so only remove dead branches and brown tips.
3. Always use cool water for general watering and misting.

Norfolk Island pine

Norfolk Island pine, (Araucaria heterophylla), evergreen timber and ornamental conifer of the family Araucariaceae, native to Norfolk Island, situated in the South Pacific Ocean between New Caledonia and New Zealand. The wood of large trees is used in construction, furniture, and shipbuilding. The plant is grown as an outdoor ornamental in regions with a Mediterranean climate, and the attractive saplings are cultivated throughout the world as houseplants. The Norfolk Island pine was discovered on the second expedition of Capt. James Cook (1772–75) and was introduced to cultivation shortly thereafter. Despite its common name, the plant is not a true pine.

Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla, formerly known as A. excelsa).Kahuroa

In nature the Norfolk Island pine can grow to a height of 60 metres (200 feet), with a trunk sometimes reaching 3 metres (10 feet) in diameter. The branches are arranged in symmetric whorls, and the trunks are characteristically straight. The leaves of young plants are needlelike and curve upward to a point, while those of mature trees are scalelike and densely overlapping. The round female cones are spiny and reach up to 15 cm (6 inches) in diameter. An unusual feature of this species is that lateral branches cut from a tree and rooted in soil continue to grow horizontally and never produce an erect stem.

Norfolk Island Pine

Araucaria heterophylla is commonly known as the Norfolk Island Pine, as it is found on Norfolk Island of the coast of Australia. This species has a restricted range occurring on just one other Pacific island (Phillip Island) and consequently it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Despite this the Norfolk Island Pine can be found across the globe where it is commonly propagated for use as a house plant, as a Christmas tree or as a coastal ornamental. It is grown as an ornamental due to its attractive evergreen foliage, conical appearance and fanning, whorled layers of branches. In cultivation the tree is shorter than the heights reached on its native islands where specimens exceeding 40 m have been found.

Sadly, the Norfolk Island Pine is threatened by more than just its restricted range as its population is also fragmented across open water. It has also experienced severe historical losses such as the removal of 200 trees from Nepean Island prior to the 1900’s, leading to its extinction here. A. heterophylla was the dominant forest tree on Norfolk and Phillip islands but through the efforts of logging and introduced, invasive species this natural habitat of evergreen, subtropical forest has been decimated to 10% of its original cover. The introduction of rabbits and other herbivores have wiped-out understorey cover and are the suspected cause of species decline on Phillip Island. While on Norfolk Island competition from Olea europea, Psidium cattleianum and other introduced shrubby species have contributed to the decline in Norfolk Island Pine populations. More recently the species has become threatened by fungal dieback.

The Norfolk Island Pine population is currently sustained through conservation action. The species is protected in the Norfolk Island National Park, where the largest population exists on Mount Pitt. There is also a public and private effort to remove non-native species and to replant Norfolk Island Pines to reinstate a self-sustaining population, it is due to these continued efforts the species is not more severely threatened. These efforts are aimed to encourage the re-establishment of the once dominant Araucariaceae forests on Norfolk Island and improve populations of other declining flora and fauna such as the endangered Norfolk Island Green Parrot (Cyanoramphus cookii).

A. heterophylla pine cone. Photo Credit: C. J. Earle

Photo Credit: C. J. Earle

Did you know?

The bristlecone pine may be the world’s oldest known living organism. One tree found in California’s White Mountains is 5,062 years old.

The biggest challenge to successful indoor cultivation is dry indoor winter air. Norfolk Island pines prefer humidity in the range of 50 percent, while 15 percent is the norm in most houses during winter. Running a humidifier can solve this problem.

Ways to increase the humidity

If that is not an option, place the pot on pebbles in a saucer with water in it. It is important to keep the bottom of the pot above the water so that the plant is not sitting in water constantly, or the roots will quickly rot.

Another way to increase humidity is to group houseplants together. Because plants lose moisture through their leaves constantly, the humidity is higher in the microclimate created by grouping them.

Watering Norfolk Island Pines

Norfolk Island pines prefer evenly moist but never saturated soil. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. The best way to water this plant — and most houseplants — is to place the pot in a sink or bathtub and water until it comes out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Once the pot has finished draining, take it back to its usual place. If that is not an option, be sure to empty the saucer under the pot. If the pot is too heavy to lift, remove the excess water with a siphon pump or a turkey baster. Houseplants usually respond to higher light levels that come with spring by putting on new growth.

Monday, December 12, 2016 Houseplants, Winter

5 Norfolk Island Pine Facts

Norfolk Island pines are delightful living Christmas trees that are sure to add a big dose of holiday cheer to your home or office. They last longer than poinsettias, and in fact, can keep growing beautifully for years. They’re also a lot easier to deal with than traditional living Christmas trees (such as pines, firs, and spruces), especially if you live in a cold-winter climate. These cute holiday plants are pretty inexpensive, too, making them an excellent holiday or hostess gift.
We grow thousands of Norfolk Island pines each year here on our farm in Miami, Florida, and get a bunch of questions each holiday season. Here are answers to five of the most common questions we get during the holiday season.
1. Does Norfolk Island Pine Grow Outdoors?
A: A tropical tree, Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) doesn’t like frosty weather, and can’t be grown outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zone 9 or colder. They’re best suited to subtropical areas, such as South Florida and Hawaii. If you live in an area that experiences frosts or freezing weather (below 32F/0C), it’s best to grow Norfolk Island pine as a houseplant. That said, they love spending the summer outdoors and will reward you with faster growth!
Fun fact: We harvest seeds (by hand!) from mature Norfolk Island Pine plantations in Hawaii.
2. How Tall Does a Norfolk Island Pine Get?
A: Outdoors in the tropics, Norfolk Island pines can grow more than 200 feet (61 meters) tall in time. Happily, if you grow one indoors as a houseplant, you don’t need to worry about it busting through the ceiling anytime soon. Inside, they’re not particularly fast growers. With good care, over the course of years, they can eventually reach 6 feet (1.2 meters) tall or more.
3. How Do I Care for a Norfolk Island Pine?
A: Indoors, give Norfolk Island pine a spot that has medium to bright light and water when the top inch or so of the potting mix dries out — just like a traditional houseplant. They’re not particularly fussy or temperamental, but Norfolk Island pines will drop their lower branches if they get dried out too much or are grown in a spot that doesn’t have enough light to support them.
Some folks like to grow Norfolk Island pines outdoors in a shaded or partly shaded spot for the summer. They love this and usually reward you by putting on a big burst of lush, new growth. If you want to move your tree outdoors, wait until after all danger of frost has passed and avoid moving it directly from inside to afternoon sun. Like with people, the needles can suffer from sunburn when first put out.
Get tips for growing Norfolk Island pine indoors.
4. Does Norfolk Island Pine Purify the Air?
A: Yes! Scientific research by NASA showed that Norfolk Island pines can remove harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from the air, purifying it and making it safer for you and your family to breathe. VOCs are released by common household furnishings and compounds, including cleaning agents, beauty products, paints, clothes that have been dry-cleaned, and crafting products such as glue, adhesives, and permanent markers.
5. Where Can I Buy a Norfolk Island Pine?
A: During the holidays, Norfolk Island pines are commonly available from a wide range of retail stores, including garden centers, home improvement centers, mass merchandisers, grocery stores, and other places. See a list of some of our largest retail partners.
Learn how we grow Norfolk Island pine!
Get tips for decorating with Norfolk Island pine.

Written by:
Justin Hancock

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Araucaria heterophylla


Araucaria heterophylla is a tropical needled evergreen tree that is commonly grown as a houseplant in temperate climates. Evergreen small tree to 9′ 10″ (indoors). For indoors, use fertile, porous, sandy, peaty, slightly acidic, well-drained soils in fairly cool conditions (55-65 degrees F). Full sun is normally best for developing compact symmetrical growth, but some light afternoon shade may be needed to avoid possible foliage bleach (yellow tints). As a houseplant, it will generally adapt to the warm, dry atmosphere found in most offices and homes. Consider weekly or biweekly applications of dilute liquid fertilizer from spring through fall. Avoid soils that are too soggy or too dry.

Slow growing plant; tolerates low to high light; prefers dry soil, medium relative humidity; prefers cool temperatures; has pest problems. Mist in heated rooms in winter; water regularly spring to autumn, sparingly in winter.

Specimen tree. Branches have tiered growth pattern. Branches form herringbone (flat-plane) pattern and feel like a bottle brush. Grows to 197′ in native habitat (S. America). Plant will often stay beautiful 2-3 years under very low light. Major problem is leaf drop & loss of lower branches.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Evergreen small tree with saber-like leaves
  • Leaves are turned inward, overlap in herringbone pattern
  • Branches are tiered*, herringbone, lateral branchlets feel like bottlebrush

Cultivars / Varieties: Tags: #tropical#evergreen#sun#full sun#houseplant#tree#interiorscape#afternoon shade#needled evergreen#fantz

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