The Norfolk Island Pine, also called by its formal botanical name Araucaria heterophylla, is quite literally a staple of the commercial nursery scene come the holiday season each year. These small, cone-shaped, spiny, short trees resemble their giant light-decked cousins, but come in a miniature version perfect for small apartments, office buildings, and gift giving. Norfolk Island Pines are big business each Christmas, but many recipients do not know how to care for these lovely evergreen miniature pine trees once the holidays have passed. This often leads to the failure of Norfolk Island Pines to thrive after the holidays are over. Follow these simple hints and tips to continue experiencing the delight and beauty of your Norfolk Island Pine not just during the holidays, but all year long.
Norfolk Island Pine Tree Growing Conditions
Norfolk Island Pines require moderate temperatures and bright but indirect sunlight in order to thrive. Any sudden temperature or lighting changes are likely to have a detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of these tiny pines. For best results, select an indoor or outdoor location with temperatures that average between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and bright indirect light in the spot in which the Norfolk Pine will be located. Norfolk Island Pines can be maintained equally successfully whether indoors or outdoors as long as these conditions continue to be met. If temperatures rise above 70 degrees the Norfolk Island Pine is likely to continue to do well as long as watering needs are adjusted accordingly. When temperatures drop below 50 degrees, however, Norfolk Island Pine will start to suffer.
Planting a Norfolk Island Pine Tree
When repotting or planting a Norfolk Island Pine in free soil outdoors, ensure that planting conditions adhere to the guidelines stated here. Norfolk Island Pine seldom reach above 24 inches in height at maturity if they are not repotted. Repotting will encourage additional growth. Most Norfolk Island Pines are sold in six inch pots, which will maintain their height at 24 inches. Repotting in a larger eight inch pot will encourage approximately another foot of growth. Repotting again in a larger pot will encourage another foot of growth and so on. Norfolk Island Pines can reach tree heights of 12 feet or higher, so deciding where to plant - indoors or outdoors - will also factor into how much encouragement a Norfolk Island Pine should be given to grow. Since Norfolk Island Pine Trees do not take well to being repotted often or at all, this process should be kept to a minimum of once every three to four years, if at all.
Caring for a Norfolk Island Pine Tree
Norfolk Island Pine Trees thrive with adequate hydration and especially enjoy frequent misting with cool water. Norfolk Island Pine Trees can be damaged by chemicals added to water from the tap, so allowing water to stand for two or more days prior to use can add a protective element to the plant's life cycle. Norfolk Island Pines can also be watered from their roots as often as needed once topsoil feels dry to the touch. Misting and watering are very important as Norfolk Island Pines will respond to a lack of moisture in the air and soil with brown tips, falling needles, and lower branch that die and fall off the trunk.
Pruning a Norfolk Island Pine Tree
It is not ever advised to prune a Norfolk Island Pine Tree, unless this becomes necessary due to unusual growth or damaged or diseased branches. Additionally, pruning away brown tips will not encourage new growth. Once tips have turned brown from any cause they will not grow further. Additionally, like most needle producing trees, as the Norfolk Island Pine Tree ages, needles will begin to reach their maximum lifespan, brown, dry, and drop off, and will not be replaced by the tree. This will leave bare inner patches on branches where needles used to be and this is normal in the lifecycle of the Norfolk Island Pine Tree, if not especially attractive visually.
Decorating the Norfolk Island Pine Tree
While it is quite common to decorate Norfolk Island Pine Trees for the holiday season, for the health of the tree decorations should be removed as soon as the holidays have ended. Leaving decorations on a Norfolk Island Pine Tree all year round can impact the health of the tree and its ability to grow and thrive. Decorations can cramp or impact branch and needle growth and dry the sections of the branches that are hidden under the decorations.