NDSU Extension - Dickey County

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Norfolk Island Pine Care Tips

Breana Kiser, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent


1-10-19 Norfolk PineNorfolk Island pine are delightful living Christmas trees that add a dose of holiday cheer to your home or office. They last longer than poinsettias and can keep growing beautifully for years. They are also a lot easier to deal with than traditional living Christmas trees, especially if you live in our colder climate. These cute holiday plants are pretty inexpensive and make them an excellent gift. If you were gifted with a Norfolk Island pine like me or bought one to help make your house more festive this year, are some interesting facts and care tips to keep your pine alive for the next holiday season. A great benefit of having the pine indoor isn’t just for its beauty but also because this plant helps purify the air by removing volatile organic compounds from the air you and your family breathe.

Norfolk Island pine is a tropical tree and doesn’t like frosty weather, so don’t put it outdoors. These trees need a hardiness zone of 9 and up, so best suited to subtropical areas, such as South Florida or Hawaii.  This new addition to your home will be a houseplant but can spend the summer outdoors which will reward you with faster growth!
In the tropics, these pines can grow more than 200 feet tall in time. But for your indoor houseplant, don’t worry about it busting through your ceiling anytime soon. They are not particularly fast growers. With good care over the years, they can eventually reach 6 feet tall or more.

Now taking care of your pine indoors, this plant tolerates low, medium or bright light, but does best in brighter spots. Another cool fact is that this plant doesn’t need sunlight to grow and thrive, florescent lights are just fine.

Water the plant only when the top inch or so of the potting mix dries out. When testing the soil, just push your finger into the soil until your first knuckle, if the soil is dry then you will need to water your pine. Avoid keeping the soil wet all the time, this can encourage root rot. Keep the soil damp not wet. The pine are fussy or temperamental plants, but they will drop their lower branches if they get dried out too much or are grown in a spot that doesn’t have enough light to support them.

As an indoor plant, you don’t have to worry about fertilizing your pine. Ones or twice a year will be fine, unless you want it to grow faster than you can fertilize the pine more often. Any general-purpose houseplant fertilizer will do the trick.
Some folks like to grow Norfolk Island pines outdoors in a shaded or partly shaded spot for the summer. They love this and usually reward you by putting on a big burst of lush, new growth. If you want to move your tree outdoors, wait until after all danger of frost has passed and avoid moving it directly from inside to afternoon sun. Like with people, the needles can suffer from sunburn when first put out.  

While these trees tolerate average household humidity, they really thrive with a little extra moisture in the air than you typically find indoors, especially during the winter. You can boost humidity for yours by growing on a wide tray of sand or pebbles and water (so the pot sits on the sand or pebbles, above the water). That way as the water in the tray evaporates, it humidifies the air right around your plant. You can also add humidity for Norfolk Island pine indoors by growing it with other houseplants as most plants release a small amount of moisture into the air as they breathe.  Beautiful Norfolk Island pines hate hot or cold drafts when grown indoors. So protect your plant from heating or cooling vents, and don’t keep them next to drafty doors or windows.

It is normal for the Norfolk Island pine tree to have some browning on the bottom branches. But if they brown branches seem to be high on the plant or if they can be found all over the tree, this is a sign that the plant is either overwatered, under-watered, or not getting enough humidity.

Enjoy your new beautiful indoor plant. My goal for the year is to keep is alive and thriving for the next holiday season, I hope you can achieve this goal with me.

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