About a Norfolk Pine
A Norfolk Pine, Araucaria heterophylla, sometimes called a Star Pine, or a Norfolk Island Star Pine, is a stately, symmetrical evergreen tree that thrives indoors in very bright light. Despite the name Norfolk Pine, the plant is not really a type of pine at all, it is a conifer member of the Araucariaceae family. The plant got its nickname Norfolk Island Star Pine because the tree is native to Norfolk Island, a territory of Australia located in the Pacific Ocean. Many people use the plant as a living Christmas tree, but be careful not to dry out the branches with too many lights. A Norfolk Pine come small enough to sit on a table and large enough to fill the corner of a large room with tall ceilings. When purchasing one as as a houseplant, try to find a plant with multiple trunks so that it will stay bushy and full as it matures.
Description of a Norfolk Pine
In nature the Norfolk Pine can grow as tall as 200 feet (60 meters), and the trunk can be as large as 10ft (3 meters) in diameter. As a houseplant, a Norfolk Pine can be small enough to sit on a table or big enough to fill the corner of a large room with tall ceilings. When grown indoors, it rarely gets taller than 9ft. When purchasing a Norfolk Pine, try to find a plant with multiple trunks so that it will stay bushy and full season after season. The branches are arranged in a perfectly symmetrical design and the trunks grow straight up. A mature Norfolk Pine has tiered, almost triangular branches covered in hundreds of bright green, needle-like leaves. A healthy plant, grown in bright light, has branches that are densely foliated, over lapping each other in a whirled pattern. Keep in mind, you can’t trim a Norfolk Pine or make it shorter without the tree losing its symmetrical shape. The nickname, Star Pine, comes from the way new growth develops at the top of the stem, emerging as a perfectly shaped star.
Quick Care Tips for a Norfolk Pine
Provide bright indirect light and turn frequently for a compact, symmetrical-looking plant
Cool temperatures between 60-70°F (15.6°-21.1°C).
Never allow the soil to totally dry out.
The major problem a Norfolk Pine experiences as a houseplant is leaf drop and bottom leaves dying. This is caused by the soil drying out too much, little or no light reaching the bottom branches, or hot, dry air. Keep your Norfolk Pine root bound if you want to restrict the size. These plants are not considered poisonous; however, 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.
How much light for a Norfolk Pine: A Norfolk Pine requires very bright light, even some direct, morning sun. Bottom branches die and fall off when the plant doesn’t get enough light. Turn the plant weekly so all parts of a Norfolk Pine are exposed to bright light and the plant grows symmetrically.
How to water a Norfolk Pine: Keep the soil of a Norfolk Island Pine barely moist at all times. Yellow needles indicate that the soil is either too wet or too dry. If the soil of a Norfolk Pine completely dries out, entire fronds turn gray, brittle, and fall off.
How to fertilize a Norfolk Pine: Feed every other week during the spring, summer, and fall. Use a well- balanced, liquid fertilizer for acid loving plants diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. Do not feed a Norfolk Pine during the winter.
Best temperature for a Norfolk Pine: A Norfolk Pine prefers cool temperatures between 60-70°F (15.6°-21.1°C) but will survive temperatures as low as 40°F (4.4°C) for brief time. Keep the plant away from cold drafts, air conditioning vents, and heating vents.
Humidity for a Norfolk Pine: High humidity is important. Dry air causes the needlelikeyeaves to drop off.
Norfolk Pine plant pests: The main insect to look out for is the Mealy Bug. You can recognize the problem by the white, sticky, cottony, residue these pests leave on the plant. Other insects that can infect a Norfolk Pine are scale, spider mites, Aphids, and whitefly. Read more about each of these plant pests and how to identify and treat them in the Glossary of the website.
Norfolk Pine plant diseases: When overwatered, a Norfolk Pine develops roots rot. The branches of the tree turn yellow or brown. If the watering problem is not immediately fixed, the plant will die. n bright indirect light, and keep the soil barely moist at all times.
Best soil for a Norfolk Pine: Use an indoor potting soil that retains moisture but still drains well for a Norfolk Pine. If the soil does not contain peat moss, add some.
Best pot size for a Norfolk Pine: Don’t be in a rush to repot a Norfolk Pine; they like to be root-bound. These plants are slow growers and usually need a larger container about every 2-3 years when their roots have filled the container they are in. The best time to repot a Norfolk Pine is in the spring.
How to prune a Norfolk Pine: A Norfolk Island Pines does not need to be shaped. Remove any dead branches from the bottom of the tree as soon as they appear. Do not cut off the growing point at top of the stem; doing this will destroy the beautiful. symmetrical shape of the plant.
How to propagate a Norfolk: A Norfolk Pine can be propagated using seeds but it is quite difficult. If your plant is thin and straggly and you to get rid of the old plant and start a new plant, cut 4″ off the top of the stem. This includes the star shaped foliage that gives the tree its nickname, Star Pine. Plant the cutting in a small container of rich potting soil, place the pot in indirect light, and keep the soil barely moist at all times.
A Norfolk Pine makes a wonderful living Christmas Tree. If you put lights and decorations on the tree, check the soil frequently since Christmas lights make the soil dry out faster.
Poisonous Plant Info
Although not considered poisonous, if the needles of a Norfolk Pine are ingested by pets or children, they cause severe stomach irritation. I’d recommend keeping this plant far away from children and pets especially around Christmas when things are hectic and accidents happen.
The bottom branches of your Norfolk Pine are dying from lack of light. As the plant grows, the large upper branches shade the lower ones. Move your Norfolk Pine to a spot where the bottom branches are in the sun part of the day. Sadly, the bottom branches will never grow back once they have fallen off.
Cutting off the top few feet of your Norfolk Pine will destroy the beautiful symmetry of the tree. My best suggestion is to cut off the very tip of the new growth, where the star cluster of foliage is, and four adjoining inches of trunk. Plant the cutting in a small pot, moisten well, and place it in a plastic bag for a few weeks while it develops roots. Your existing Norfolk Island Pine will never look quite as good again, but you will have a new plant to eventually replace it.
Norfolk Pines are a type of evergreen, but can only be planted outside under very specific conditions. They need a very bright sunny spot where the temperature never goes below freezing and the humidity is very high.
The needles on the branches of a Norfolk Island Pine usually turn brown when there is not enough humidity and the air is very dry. These plants grow much better in high humidity. Try grouping your Norfolk Pine with other houseplants. Grouping plants together creates a mini greenhouse effect. You can also place a cold air humidifier nearby to increase the humidity. Don’t try to solve the humidity problem by allowing your Norfolk Pine to sit in water.