Native to Norfolk Island, an isolated territory of Australia, the Norfolk Island Pine tree is a tropical plant that resembles an evergreen tree. Many people choose to decorate them as small Christmas trees, with lights and other ornamentation. In its natural environment the Norfolk Island Pine can grow to be 100 feet tall with a 50 foot spread, but will take decades to get there. When kept indoors these trees grow slowly during the winter season, but will grow considerably throughout the rest of the year. Below is our guide to care and selection of Norfolk Island Pines.
Selecting Your Norfolk Island Pine
The key to selecting a healthy Norfolk Island Pine is to look at the leaves. They should not have any brown edges, and if you shake the plant and any of the needles fall off, or if the plant is a pale green instead of a deep green, the pine has likely suffered damage from dry conditions or cold air. Norfolk Island Pines will not tolerate temperatures below 55 degrees. If you are picking one up from Merrifield and the temperature is below this threshold, we will wrap the plant in a sleeve to keep it safe from freezing temperatures, snow and ice, depending on when you buy the plant. If you’re planning on running errands after picking up your Norfolk Island Pine, we recommend not leaving the tree in your car for an extended period of time. It would be better to take it right home from the garden center rather than keeping it inside the car for too long.
Finding the Ideal Location
Norfolk Island Pines prefer warm temperatures and bright, direct light. Therefore, a south or west facing window, where it will receive at least one to two hours of direct sun per day, is an ideal location. With that said, if you want to decorate your small tree and place it in an area of the house where you don’t have direct sunlight during the Christmas season, it will tolerate a couple weeks without direct sun. After that, you should return it to a window that receives direct sunlight. This plant likes humidity, so it is best not to place them on heat vents or over fireplaces, which can dry out the surrounding air.
Watering and Fertilizing
Water your Norfolk Island Pine thoroughly when the upper third of the soil dries out. Do not allow the plant to dry out completely. To test whether the plant needs water, you can place your finger into the soil to about a depth of one inch. If the soil is dry, your plant needs more water. Give it a good soak, until water drains from the bottom of the pot. Do not allow the plant to sit in water. Your Norfolk Island Pine should be fertilized every 3 to 4 weeks from spring through fall.
Adding Humidity and Repotting
Norfolk Island Pines thrive when the humidity is 50% or more. In order to increase the humidity around your pine tree during the dry winter season, you can place the plant on a tray of pebbles with water in the bottom. The pot should not actually be touching the water, but should rest on the pebbles slightly above the water level. As the water slowly evaporates, it will increase the humidity level around the plant. If the plant has low humidity, this will cause the branch tips to turn brown. You can also add humidity by misting the plant frequently. In terms of repotting, you should think about going up a pot size if you see that the plant’s roots are coming out of the bottom of the pot or if you realize that you are watering more frequently than before.