The Q&A Archives: Norfolk Island Pine

Question: I am hoping that there is an answer for this tree. I was told that the Norfolk Is. Pine is not happy in the Pacific Northwest-Eugene,Oregon. I purchased it in Dec of 07 and it has been receives filtered morning light(if the sun is out). How do I completely care for this tree..the bottom( guess that you would call them branches)are drying up and becoming brittle.Can this tree ever be put outside permanently..or will if need to be inside? What is the proper way of caring for it. This is my first attempt in Oregon so I will probably be back. Thanks for you help. By the way, I am an older lady who will be doing most of the work so take it easy on me.

Answer: Your Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla) is native to Norfolk Island in the southern Pacific Ocean, east of Australia. It is not hardy outdoors in the Pacific Northwest so you'll need to grow it indoors. Fortunately, it is rather slow growing so it shouldn't outgrow its space indoors for quite a few years.

The ideal indoor climate for this species is cool and bright; it responds well to daytime temperatures ranging from 60-70 F and slightly cooler at night. Although the Norfolk Island pine will adapt to bright indirect light, the plant will look its best with a couple of hours of direct sunlight daily. If the light source is coming from just one direction, you'll want to rotate the plant a quarter turn weekly to keep it from tilting toward one side.

When the plant is actively growing, feed it with a fertilizer formulated for indoor foliage plants. It is not unusual for the plant to be in a period of rest during the winter months, at which time there is no need to fertilize.

Water the plant when the top inch or so of the soil in the pot feels dry. Use enough water to allow a little excess to escape through the bottom drainage holes. Discard remaining drained water after about 15 minutes.

What is most challenging for the typical home gardener is giving this plant the high relative humidity it needs. Norfolk Island pine thrives at 50 percent relative humidity, yet it is not unusual for the average house to drop to 15 percent during the winter heating season, unless steps are taken to increase moisture in the air. Running a humidifier will increase both people and plant comfort and is the most effective way to adequately raise the humidity.

It is not unusual for a few needles on the lowest branches to turn brown and drop. If this happens slowly over time, it's likely just normal aging of the branches or possibly from lower light availability. However, if many needles are browning, or if the problem appears more widely distributed among the branches, look to problems of either too much or too little water or too little relative humidity.

I hope this information is helpful!

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