Caring for Norfolk Island Pines

By Teo Spengler | November 21, 2017
by Teo Spengler
November 21, 2017

Don’t limit your holiday plants to poinsettia and holly this year. Instead, invite a Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) or two into the festivities and you’ll get to know an attractive, easy-care houseplant that can double as a Christmas tree. You can find this delightful plant at Costa Farms.

No tree has ever looked more “piney” than Norfolk Island pine, especially when you decorate it with tinsel and lights. You may be surprised to learn that, despite needle-like evergreen leaves and a tell-tale common name, it isn’t a pine at all. Norfolk Island pine is a tropical plant native to the tiny Norfolk Island located in the South Pacific, somewhere between Australia, New Caledonia and New Zealand.

Unlike pine trees, Norfolk Island pine doesn’t do well in cold weather. Gardeners in South Florida, Hawaii or other subtropical regions – hardiness zones 10 and above – can consider an outdoor planting. But folks in chillier regions will want to grow Norfolk Island pine indoors, and you may find this “table-top” Christmas tree too pretty to let out of your sight. It can eventually grow to about 6 feet (1.2 m.). Don’t worry, it grows slowly, so your plant will stay small for a long time.

Don’t let the words “tropical houseplant” scare you off. Costa Farms’ beautiful little “pines” require far less care than you might imagine. It’s a good bet that they will need less hands-on help than any of your holiday houseguests. Like most houseplants, Norfolk Island pines need some light, some water and occasional fertilizer. What does this translate into in terms of practical care?

In terms of light, the plant is not demanding. You need to position your little “tree” somewhere in which it will get some light, but don’t overdo it. The more light it gets, the faster it grows.

Similarly, this plant doesn’t like dry soil – its tips will dry and brown – and it won’t be filled with holiday cheer if you grow it in wet soil. Just give it a drink when the top inch (2.5 cm.) of soil is dry.

How about fertilizer? Most houseplants do better with a light meal occasionally and the Norfolk Island pine is no exception. Try Espoma’s organic Indoor! houseplant fertilizer, a liquid concentrate food with an easy-dose cap. Use it once or twice a year or more often if you want faster growth.

Over the holiday season, you may have the fireplace blazing, but be sure to keep your Norfolk Island pine at a distance. They do not want to be near fireplaces. On the other hand, your plant will appreciate a summer spent in the garden. Just be sure you don’t set it outside before all danger of frost has past. Follow these simple rules and you’ll find this lovely little “Christmas tree” almost indestructible. Get used to it; Norfolk Island pines can live for decades.

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