Norfolk Island Pine Plant Care and Grow Guide


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You may wonder why you would want to grow a pine tree as a houseplant, but surprise! The Norfolk Island Pine is a houseplant that is most commonly seen during the holiday season.

You know those “miniature Christmas trees” that are sold every December? If you’ve seen them, or perhaps purchased one or received one, it was most likely a Norfolk Island Pine Plant, and you shouldn’t toss it in January.

This is a delightful festive holiday plant that offers a lovely pine fragrance all year long. Learn how to care for the Norfolk Island pine in this guide.

Norfolk Island Pine Overview

The Araucaria heterophyllais not actually a true pine tree despite its popular name, and they are not as robust as real pine trees. The Norfolk Pine has much more in common with an orchid or a gardenia than with a tree, pine or not.

A member of the Araucariaceae family, this tropical plant is native to South Pacific tropical regions and to Norfolk Island in the vicinity of New Zealand and New Caledonia.

In its native environment, it can grow as high as 200 feet tall. When cultivated indoors it can grow to eight feet tall. It is often found cultivated outdoors in USDA hardy zones 10 and 11. 

This plant also exhibits a certain tolerance for salt due to its growth on tropical islands surrounded by the ocean. It is even featured on Norfolk Island’s flag.

Norfolk Island Pine Care Guide

The Norfolk pine plant is a great houseplant, and one of the reasons is that they are tolerant to low light conditions. That makes them ideal for apartments or homes that have trouble getting a lot of sunlight exposure.

A comfortable temperature range for this plant is between 65° and 85° Fahrenheit. Lower than 60°F can harm the plant.

They also do not like drafts, so drafty windows, doors, hallways as well as heating and cooling vents are off limits.

Growing Medium for the Norfolk Island Pine 

The growing medium for the Norfolk Island pine should be porous and a bit sandy, so that it’s well-draining. You can use a basic potting mix, and add both sand and peat moss.  

Or you can create a mix of three parts potting soil with two parts peat moss and one part perlite.

The soil bed should be kept evenly moist, but never waterlogged. This plant likes slightly acidic soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5.

Light for the Norfolk Island Pine 

This plant will do exceptionally well in bright indirect light. It can adapt to lower light levels, but it will do best in bright light. You can also expose it to a couple of hours of direct sunlight daily if you’d like, but not much more.

The risk when cultivating it in medium to low light is that it becomes leggy and less full. To make sure you plant grows symmetrically when receiving natural light, turn it approximately a quarter every time you water it. That will allow the light to be exposed to the entire plant equally.

Water for the Norfolk Island Pine 

A weekly or bi-weekly watering should be sufficient. Let the soil bed dry out in between your waterings. If your home offers good bright light, you may have to water more often if the soil dries faster.

While the Norfolk pine plant can do fine in normal home humidity, it will be happier with a slightly higher room humidity. You’ll want to intervene if your home’s humidity level drops below 50%.

This can be accomplished with a humidifier or with a pebble tray underneath the plant’s container. Take care that the bottom of the container does not directly come into contact with the water in the pebble tray. Misting your plant can help, but not resolve a low humidity problem itself. 

Fertilizer for the Norfolk Island Pine 

Feeding should be administered approximately every six weeks during the plant’s growing season. Use a liquid fertilizer that is diluted to half-strength.

Fish-based fertilizers and seaweed fertilizers are also good options.

Repotting and Pruning the Norfolk Island Pine 

These particular plants are not fast growers, so you can most likely get by with repotting your Norfolk pine every second year. Once maturity sets in, the plant will grow a bit faster.

Repotting should be carried out at the beginning of spring in a container that’s one size larger. Add sand for both good drainage and to help to weight the plant and keep it upright. Staking it is a good solution.

To prune the Norfolk Island pine, first remove the lower branches once they are dead. Avoid topping the tree should it grow too much in height. You can cut the center branch to stimulate it to grow outward.

Any pruning you do will not adversely affect your plant’s overall well-being. Routine scheduled pruning is usually unnecessary.

Propagating the Norfolk Island Pine 

Propagating Norfolk Island pines are done with seeds. So it is not like other indoor houseplants with stem cuttings. This plant does contain both reproductive organs that are male and female making it a gymnosperm.

Norfolk Island Pine Blooms

As an evergreen conifer, it does not flower but will produce a type of cone. Male pines will drop the cones when the trees are over 50 years old. Females will start producing cones earlier at 15 years old.

Norfolk Island Pine Pests and Problems

Susceptible to typical houseplant infestations, be on the lookout for signs of spider mites, as well as aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, and whiteflies.

A weekly spray of an organic insecticide such as neem oil should resolve most pest problems.

These are other common problems you might experience with the Norfolk Island pine: 

  • If your plant experiences needle drop, it may be indicative of overwatering or too little light. Try moving it to a brighter spot.
  • Yellow stems or stems that appear rotted will be due to overwatering. Yellow needles also indicate overwatering.
  • If the plant’s needles appear crisp and begin to curl or if they turn brown, your plant is probably not receiving adequate water or the air may be too dry, so humidity will need to be increased.
  • Drooping trunk branches may be caused by an overly dry soil bed. You can soak your plant to revive it. Be sure you let it drain thoroughly after watering. Dropping brown needles or branch tips indicate need of more light.

Norfolk Island Pine Toxicity and Pets

Fortunately, the Norfolk Island pine plant is non-toxic to both cats and dogs, according to the ASPCA.

Norfolk Island Pine Care Final Thoughts

The Norfolk Island pine is a great low-maintenance houseplant. Don’t wait until the holidays to get one, but when Christmas rolls around, you can most certainly decorate yours.

Whatever you do, come January, don’t toss it. It will reward you with its lovely evergreen appearance and fragrance throughout the entire year.

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Here are more houseplant and tree care guides to check out: 

Norfolk Island Pine Care FAQs

Can I put my Norfolk pine outside?

Yes, you can put your Norfolk pine outdoors. When it’s outdoors, keep it away from too much direct sunlight as that could damage the leaves.If your area’s winter months are below 60°F, bring it indoors during the winter.

How long does it take for the Norfolk Island pine to bloom?

It takes about two years before the flowers bloom on the Norfolk Island pine. The blooming period lasts approximately three weeks.

How big does a Norfolk Island pine get?

The Norfolk Island pine can grow to heights up to 200 feet tall when outdoors. When grown indoors, it will usually only grow up to 8 feet tall.

Can I put my Norfolk pine outside in the summer?

You can place your Norfolk Island pine outside during the warmer seasons. You’ll want to be careful of it receiving too much direct sunlight though, so put it somewhere it gets partial shade. Just make sure to bring it back inside once temperatures dip below freezing.

Are Norfolk Island pines native to Australia?

Norfolk Island pines are native to Norfolk Island as its name implies. The island is a territory in the Pacific Ocean that’s located between New Zealand and New Caledonia. 

Are coffee grounds good for Norfolk pines?

Yes, coffee grounds are good for your Norfolk Island pine. They contain nitrogen which helps promote healthy growth because they like acidic soil. However, avoid using them every day because overuse can cause root rot.

Are Norfolk pines easy to care for?

Yes, Norfolk pines are easy to care for. All you have to do is provide proper lighting, fertilizer, and regular moisture levels.

Do Norfolk pines need sun?

Yes, Norfolk pines need bright indirect sunlight for healthy growth. If you live in a shady location, consider getting some artificial lights installed near where you plan to display your Norfolk Island pine. This way, you won’t have to worry about a lack of sunlight in its area.

Do Norfolk pines like to be root bound?

No, Norfolk pines don’t like to be rootbound. In fact, if you try to force roots into their pots or containers, they may die off. Best case scenario is they have stunted growth. Instead, let them naturally spread out through the potting medium and or ground. 

Are Norfolk pines toxic to dogs?

Luckily, Norfolk pines are not toxic to dogs, cats, and other pets. But if you’re worried about this, just remember to always wash your hands after handling any plant material. Also, since the Norfolk pine is usually a floor plant, place some barriers that will block the pets from eating the folliage.