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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