The Q&A Archives: Norfolk Pine

Question: Can it be planted outside I received as a gift

Answer: Planting outdoors isn't a good idea. Norfolk Island pines are tropical and native to islands in the South Pacific and will not survive a winter outdoors. These majestic beauties are the only evergreen conifer that will grow happily indoors. Botanically they are Araucaria excelsa and they are commonly called living Christmas trees. They have the potential of growing over 100 feet tall, but usually stay 10 feet or less when grown indoors. In the days of yore, sailing ships regularly scouted the islands for these pines to use as masts. Indoors, it is prized for its soft, airy foliage and the unique layered branching.

To grow successfully indoors, Norfolk Island pines like bright light but prefer not to be in the direct afternoon sun, especially in summer. While they will tolerate shade for short periods, they tend to thin and begin leaning toward the light if kept in low light more than a few weeks.

They like to be kept slightly damp to almost dry. If you can press on the surface of the soil and still feel moisture, wait another day or two and check again. Don't let water sit in the saucer for more than an few hours. To avoid a chemical build up in the soil, use distilled water. The water from your dehumidifier is perfect.

Whenever possible, keep them in a cool location (50-60?). They can tolerate temperatures as low as 40? and will summer successfully outdoors in your area (out of the direct afternoon sun). During periods of excessive heat they tend to droop.

During late spring and early summer while they are doing most of their growing, feed them twice a month with a water soluble or liquid plant food. Mix the fertilizer at 1/2 the recommended rate. During the winter, feed once a month with an acid formula. The rest of the year they should be fed monthly (at half strength).

As they grow, you will have to trim off a few branches from the bottom of the plant. It is in their nature to shed the lower layers as they grow. When they get a little dusty looking, you can put them in the shower and rinse off the foliage.

Best wishes with your new Norfolk Island pine!

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