How to Grow and Care for Norfolk Island Pine - Backyard Boss
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How to Grow and Care for Norfolk Island Pine

Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) is an elegant and classic tree decorated with symmetrical branches covered in short, inward-curving needles. The tree survives indoors and outdoors and is low-maintenance and hassle-free.

Whether you grow them indoors in a pot or in your garden, Norfolk Island pine trees are a popular replacement for common Christmas trees (usually an evergreen conifer, such as fir, spruce, or pine) since they are easy to grow in pots. Regardless, you can grow them year-round with the proper care routine.

Tools You’ll Need

Potting tools
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To properly care for your Norfolk Island pine, you’ll need a few different tools. Fortunately, the list includes items many gardeners likely already have in their collection!

  • Pot with drainage (size depends on the size of your tree)
  • Well-draining soil
  • Gardening gloves
  • Watering can
  • Slow-release fertilizer
  • Sunlight or grow lights
  • Sharp pruning shears

How to Grow and Care for Norfolk Island Pine

Norfolk Island Pines are easy-to-care-for, no matter how you use them!

Warmth and Humidity

Norfolk island pine
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While Norfolk Island pine looks similar to pine trees, it doesn’t tolerate cold the same way. Though it is commonly sold around Christmas, never leave it outside in the cool months, or it will die. The plant is only hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11.

Keep Norfolk Island pine trees in cooler rooms, around 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, but can tolerate temperatures between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, since the plants are tropical, they prefer a little extra humidityKeep a humidifier nearby or place them in a location such as your bathroom where they’ll get the extra moisture they love.

Watering and Fertilizer

Fertilized soil
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These pine trees tend to be forgiving when it comes to under-watering. On the other hand, overly moist soils can hurt the trees quite quickly and cause root rot. Generally, you should only water the plant when the first inch of soil is completely dry. If unsure, it’s best to wait a little longer for the soil to dry out.

The trees don’t require any fertilizer during the cooler months (between fall and spring). Once summer approaches, use a balanced slow-release fertilizer every six weeks until it falls again.

Soil and Sunlight

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Norfolk Island pine trees prefer full sunlight, though they can survive in partial shade. With too little light, they may develop droopy branches. If you’re decorating it for the holidays, be sure to place it in a big window where it will get lots of light so it can shine as brightly as possible!

The trees also thrive in well-draining soil, such as cactus soil. A mixture of potting soil, peat moss, and sand or perlite will provide the best drainage. Regarding drainage, plant the tree in a pot with proper drainage holesTerracotta and clay are good options since they soak up extra moisture.

Pro Tip: If you’re planting outdoors, note that the trees have shallow root systems. Plant somewhere with weather protection, such as the side of a house, to stop the plant from blowing over.

General Maintenance

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Since Norfolk Island pine trees grow symmetrically, they don’t require regular pruning. Still, you can use a pair of sharp and clean pruning shears to snip away any unruly branches. If you see any browning branches or branch tips, snip them off as they appear.

If you notice that the tree is leaning to one side, it is too loose in its pot. If this occurs, replace the soil with denser potting media, such as sand, and pack it tightly. Other problems include yellow needles, which point to too much water, and brown needles, suggesting the plant requires more humidity.

The plants come in many sizes, and you may need to repot if it is root bound. Fortunately, it’s super easy to switch these plants from one pot to another! Remove them from their current pot, clear the soil from the root system, and add the tree and fresh soil to a pot one size up.

Because Norfolk Island pine trees are prone to pests such as aphids, mealybugs, and whiteflies, keep new plants isolated and regularly inspect your tree for signs. Spraying the plant with a jet stream of water is usually an excellent way to blast bugs away.

Pining for Norfolk Island Pine

Whether you’re interested in adding a Norfolk Island pine tree to your houseplant collection or like the idea of a potted Christmas tree, this faux-pine is an outstanding choice. Plus, the plants are easy to care for, thriving in-home temperatures with regular watering and plenty of sun. According to the ASPCA, the trees are also non-toxic, making them perfectly safe to keep on the floor around curious pets as you decorate for Christmas.

Do you have any tips for caring for Norfolk Island pine trees? Share in the comments below!