Friday, December 18, 2015

Norfolk Island Pine as a Holiday Tree by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy
You may be seeing Norfolk Island pines in the garden centers and big box stores, marketed as an alternative to a typical Christmas tree. Planttalk Colorado offers the following tips for keeping your Norfolk Island pine alive and healthy during the holiday season and beyond.

Photo courtesy plants
Norfolk Island pine, Araucaria heterophylla, is a tropical evergreen tree that is adaptable to indoor gardening. It is not a true pine, and is not hardy in Colorado. In its native habitat, Norfolk Island off the coast of Australia, it can grow up to 200 feet tall. As a houseplant it can reach a height of 20 feet with good care and ideal conditions but more often it grows to six feet tall or less. 

As houseplants, Norfolk Island pines need at least two hours of bright, indirect sunlight daily to maintain their bright green foliage color. To ensure symmetrical, upright growth, rotate the plant weekly to keep it from permanently bending toward the light source. Temperatures of 60-72°F during the day and slightly cooler at night are optimum.

Norfolk Island pines require consistent moisture and high humidity. When the top inch of soil is dry to the touch, water thoroughly allowing excess water to drain out of the container.  In our dry Colorado climate, supplying adequate humidity for this plant is a challenge. Norfolk Island pines prefer an environment with about 50 percent humidity. Clustering plants, setting the growing container on a saucer filled with gravel and water or using a humidifier are a few options to increase the relative humidity around houseplants. Excessive browning of needles can be a sign of too little humidity, too little or too much water, or drafts from a furnace, air conditioner or outside door.

Only feed or transplant Araucaria when they are actively growing (March through September).  Araucaria are slow growers and only need to be transplanted when they show signs of being root bound.