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 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., 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 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. 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.
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.