Norfolk Island Pine

Norfolk Island Pine

Norfolk Island pines growing in New Zealand.

Question: My aunt gave me a small Norfolk Island pine over Christmas, decorated as a Christmas tree. I have de-decorated it and it’s doing well, but is there anything special I should do to take care of a Norfolk Island pine? I live in Connecticut. Can I plant it outside in the spring?

Answer: The Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) is a conifer native to Norfolk Island, which is east of Australia and has a subtropical climate. The air temperature there generally ranges from 50˚F to 79˚F. It would not survive the winter in most of the United States, including Connecticut. It is hardy to USDA Zone 11 and it appears as a landscape plant in south Florida, Southern California and Hawaii.

Norfolk Island pine makes a nice and fairly long-lived houseplant, slowly reaching a height of 6 feet. (In the wild, it can reach 200 feet!) It does not like having its roots disturbed, so it should be repotted only every 2 or 3 years. Once it gets over 3 feet tall, just replace the top few inches of potting soil instead of repotting the plant entirely.

Keep Norfolk Island pine in a bright location with some direct sunlight. It likes moist soil and humid air. Water it when the top inch of soil feels dry. To increase humidity, mist the plant with water several times a week. If its needles seem dry and begin to turn yellow, it likely needs more water and more humid air. The plant may enter a period of dormancy in winter, especially if kept in a cool (50–60˚F) room. In this case, water it less frequently than usual.

Although Norfolk Island pine can’t spend the whole year outside in your area, yours will likely appreciate a summer vacation in the yard. Move it to a bright outdoor location once the weather turns mild. To prevent sunburn, move it outdoors gradually, first keeping it in the shade for a few days before transitioning it to a brighter spot.

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5 thoughts on “Norfolk Island Pine

  1. I have seen several references to height, but want to know how wide a NIP will get if planted outdoors in full sun in South Florida. Thank you.

  2. I am going to replant an 8 inch Norfolk Island Pine and I noticed that this plant has 4 wood stems coming out of the soil. To get one “trunk” do I cut off all but one stem or do I separate the 4 and do numerous plantings. Thanks

  3. Norfolk Island Pines want to grow to be 100-ft. plus trees, but in their juvenile state, which is how we buy them, they are deceptively full and lush, with branches all the way to the bottom of the trunks. After a few years, though, they lose this fullness and begin to drop lower branches, eventually acquiring the look of one of those phony cell-tower-pines you see along the highway. There is nothing you can do to prevent this, as the tree will usually lose an entire tier of its lowermost (oldest) branches for every new tier of growth at the top when it pushes new growth in the spring and summer each year.

    They seem to do best in subirrigation…a wick setup, or a “self-watering” pot of some kind. They do NOT like “wet feet”, and will succumb to root and stem rot if not given a chance to dry down somewhat between waterings. Good luck!

    • I’ve been asked how to prune a Norfolk Island Pine to keep it from getting too wide, as a potted indoor plant. I don’t think it should be pruned on it’s outer branches. I’ve never seen anything written on this subject. What is your opinion and or suggestions?

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