Norfolk Island Pine Care
A Beginner's Guide to Norfolk Island Pine Care
Common Name: Norfolk Pine, Christmas tree, Star Pine, Polynesian pine
Botanical Name: Araucaria heterophylla
Bring an Araucaria heterophylla into your space to create a rustic, outdoorsy vibe. Wisps of soft needle-shaped foliage grow in an overlapping scale-like formation from the long symmetrical branches. This houseplant is a common gift around the holidays, but the Norfolk Island Pine can do so much more than spread holiday cheer and it makes a great long-term addition to your home.
In order to understand how to best care for this indoor plant, it's important to understand a little bit more about the Norfolk Pine's background. Despite its appearance, the Norfolk Island Pine is not a true pine tree. As the name implies, this plant hails from Norfolk Island, a small tropical island located in the South Pacific Ocean which is part of Australia. The Norfolk Island Pine thrives when it has conditions similar to what it would find on its home island, which means lots of bright indirect light, high humidity, and routine watering.
Important! Araucaria heterophylla is poisonous if ingested, so be very careful if you have pets and/or small children.
Find a sunny spot, ideally in a South-facing window for your Araucaria heterophylla. The Norfolk Pine does best with lots of bright indirect light and the more indirect light the better. A minimum of a few hours of bright indirect light per day is best. During the growing season, the Norfolk Pine can add some major height if it receives enough light.
The Norfolk Island Pine has medium water requirements. Let the top few inches of soil dry out before you water your Araucaria heterophylla. Keep in mind that if a Norfolk Pine receives plenty of sunlight then that may cause the soil to dry out more quickly, so the plant will need to be watered more frequently.
Being from a tropical climate, the Norfolk Pine prefers warm environments. A comfortable indoor temperature is ideal for a Norfolk Island Pine. Also take care to find a spot that is not near a drafty window or exterior door, especially during the winter, as chilly airflow can be potentially damaging.
Temperatures that creep below 40-degrees F are too cold and can cause serious damage. While this plant can potentially spend the summer months on a covered patio or deck away from direct sunlight, it definitely needs to be brought back inside at the end of summer before the temperature begins to drop.
High humidity is a must for the Norfolk Pine to thrive. When the humidity is not up to the Araucaria heterophylla's standards, the tips of the branches may become brown and dry. This is a houseplant that will definitely benefit from a pebble tray or placement near a humidifier.
Occasionally fertilizing a Norfolk Island Pine can help the plant grow, but this is a houseplant that does not need much food. Fertilize Araucaria heterophylla during the growing season, typically spring through summer and hold off during the colder fall and winter months. Use a diluted complete liquid fertilizer, slow-release fertilizer, or a fish/seaweed emulsion.
- In nature, the Norfolk Pine can grow to be 100 feet tall. As a houseplant, the Araucaria heterophylla can reach the ceiling of most rooms given plenty of time and the right conditions.
- Brown branches at the bottom of the tree are normal, especially as the tree grows taller, and can be removed. Any brown branches throughout the rest of the tree are an indication that the humidity is low, or the plant needs more consistent watering.
- It is possible to propagate Norfolk Island Pines from cuttings, but only cuttings taken from a terminal lead will grow in the symmetrical form that these trees are known for. Also note, that new growth will not emerge from an area that is trimmed.