How to Care for a Living Christmas Tree-Norfolk Island Pine

I hate buying Christmas trees and throwing them out, so sad. This year I bought a “living Christmas tree” from the nursery. They said it was a Norfolk Pine but didn’t really know how to care for it. Could you give me some advice on how I should care for it. Much appreciated… Dave

Hi Dave,

Beautifully symmetric Norfolk Pines have long branches of blue green nettles

Norfolk Island Pine
Norfolk Pine Star Pine

Norfolk Island Pines, sometimes simply called Star Pines or Norfolk Pines, are stately evergreens that thrive indoors in very bright light. They make excellent Christmas Trees whether they are just a foot or two and sit on a table or 4ft or more and occupy center stage in your living room. Be careful not to put too many lights on this plant or you’ll dry out the the pine needles. The other thing to remember is that you can never prune the very top of the plant where the “star shaped” growth appears; if you do the plant loses its beautiful symmetry.

Norfolk Island Pines require very bright lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light., even some direct sun. Bottom branches fall off when it doesn’t get enough light. You’ll need to turn the plant weekly so all parts of the plant get good light.

Keep the soil of a Norfolk Pine barely moist at all times. Yellow needlesLeaves that are slender, narrow, and do not have a leaf blade are called needles. can indicate that the soil is too wet or too dry. If the soil completely dries out, entire fronds turn gray, brittle, and fall off.

Feed a Norfolk Pine every other week in the spring, summer, and fall. Use a well- balanced liquid plant fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.   diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. Do not feed during the winter.

You can read all my advice on how to grow, care for, and maintain a Norfolk Pine in the Popular Houseplant section of the website.

These plants are not considered poisonous but if a child or pet eats the pine needles it will cause severe stomach problems. Read more about common houseplants that are poisonous in Don’t Feed Me To Your Cat! A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants