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How to Manage and ID Norfolk-island Pine

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Norfolk Island Coastline Norfolk Island Pine
Oliver Strewe/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Introduction:

Araucaria heterophylla or Norfolk Island Pine or Australian Pine is a southern hemisphere conifer (not a real pine) native to the Norfolk Islands and Australia. Norfolk Island Pine is one of the few conifers able to adapt to inside the home and is able to tolerate relatively low light levels. In its native habitat, this tree may reach 200 feet in height with 15 pound cones. The tree will grow outside in the United States but only in the semi-tropics.

Specifics:

Scientific name: Araucaria heterophylla
Pronunciation: air-ah-KAIR-ee-uh het-er-oh-FILL-uh
Common name(s): Norfolk Island Pine, Australian Pine
Family: Araucariaceae
USDA hardiness zones: South tip of Florida and California, zone 11
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: specimen, house plant
Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range

Pruning:

As Norfolk pine grows upward, the trunk thickens and the pine limbs increase in size. It is not recommended to cut their growing tips off. The lower branches and limbs can shed when dehydrated and will self prune. The dry needles will not come back. The only maintenance pruning to be done is removal of dead lower branches.

Comments from Experts:


Extension Nursery Specialist Dr. Leonard Perry: "If you want to invest in a houseplant with a future, buy a Norfolk Island pine. It requires minimal care, and because it grows slowly will remain small and attractive for many years indoors."

Horticulturist Rosie Lerner: "The Norfolk Island pine has grown in popularity as a live indoor Christmas tree. Its lush green twigs of soft needles provide a lovely backdrop for festive holiday ornaments."

Moisture:

Norfolk pines have distinctively flat branches and short soft needles. They enjoy humid environments. As they age, and with the lack of humidity, the needles along the trunk will fall off. Over watering results in sporadic bright yellow needle clusters that come off very easily, and don't come back. Check to see if the plant is standing in lots of water which is not good. These plants do best with consistency so stay on a watering schedule - not too much and not too little h2o.

Fertilization:

Norfolk Island pines don't require frequent fertilization. You can use any complete, soluble fertilizer, but be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations. Fertilize older plants every three to four months, and repotted or newly purchased plants every four to six months. Norfolk Island pines need only be repotted every three to four years using a commercially available potting mixture.

Culture:

Light requirement: tree grows in full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; loam; sand; acidic; alkaline; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate
Soil salt tolerance: good

In Depth:

Although Norfolk pines provide some shade, they are not suitable for patios or terraces because they are too large and large surface roots are common. In addition, columnar-formed trees generally cast limited shade due to the narrow crown. Many people forget how tall these trees grow. They often have an attractive pyramidal form (like a fir or spruce tree) when they are small, but they quickly grow too tall for most residential sites. They can live as a house plant for a long time if not overwatered.
Growing best in full sun locations, this tree thrives on a variety of soils and is moderately salt tolerant. Young plants should be watered well, especially during periods of drought. Be sure to prune out multiple trunks or leaders as they should be grown with one central leader.
Propagation is by seeds or cuttings of erect shoot tips only.

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