Norfolk Island Pine for Christmas and Beyond

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Norfolk Island pines (Araucaria heterophylla) appear in various shops around Christmastime, often decorated with bows and lightweight bobbles. Its branches aren't strong enough for heavy ornaments, but it looks elegant strung with twinkle lights. Here's how to take care of this evergreen as a houseplant.

NorfolkIslandPine

The Norfolk Island pine 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 does not survive the winter outdoors in most of the United States. It is winter hardy only to USDA Zone 9. It appears as a landscape plant in south Florida, Southern California and Hawaii, but elsewhere it's kept as a container plant that needs winter protection.

Norfolk Island pine makes a nice and fairly long-lived houseplant, slowly reaching a height of six feet. (In the wild, it can reach 200 feet tall.) It does not like having its roots disturbed, so it should be repotted only every two or three years. Once it gets over three 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. If its needles seem dry and begin to turn yellow, it likely needs more water and more humid air. The easiest way to increase humidity around houseplants is to cluster them in groups together. The plant may enter a period of dormancy in winter, especially if kept in a cool (50–60˚F) room. In this situation, water it less frequently than usual.

Although Norfolk Island pine can't spend the whole year outside in most areas, it can appreciate a summer vacation provided you keep up with watering it. 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. Bring it back inside before the first frost of fall.