The Q&A Archives: Norfolk Island Pine

Question: We have had a norfolk pine in our house for many years, but we have never been able to keep the lower branches alive. Recently, some relatives moved to England for three years and asked us to keep their Norfolk pine. It is very full with lots of branches on it from top to bottom. Recently it started losing its lower branches and becoming brown. Is there anything we can do to keep it as full as it is now?

Answer: It's always a little nerve-wracking taking care of someone else's houseplants--especially when they have such a perfect specimin. Here are a few reasons that Norfolk Island pines (Araucaria heterophylla) lose their lower branches: humidity is too low, temperature is too high, light is too dim. The plant prefers a spot where it will received filtered light with some direct sun in early morning or late afternoon. The plant adapts well to summers outdoors, again in a spot with filtered shade. (If you do decide to put the plant outdoors in the summer, just be sure to slowly acclimate it to its summer home by placing it outdoor for just a few hours a day for the first week, and increase the time outdoors over a two or three week period, just to be sure it's "settled", and remember that it may need more frequent watering.) Interestingly, the plant becomes a 100-foot tall tree in its native Australia! Hope this helps.

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