Have you seen the cute little living Christmas trees that are sold complete with tinsel and decorations on them? Those are Norfolk Pines, or Norfolk Island Pines, depending on where you are from. Not really a pine at all, these tropical evergreens are a member of the Araucariaceae family and is related to the bunya-bunya tree and the monkey puzzle tree. Norfolk Pines live in temperatures between 40 degrees and about 85 degrees F, but thrive best in temperatures of 50 to 72. These trees are from the same island that was settled by Fletcher Christian and the other mutineers from the HMS Bounty, off the coast of Australia.
In their native habitat, these trees grow to be 200 feet tall. They are frequently planted outside in tropical climates such as Florida. However, as houseplants, they grow seven or eight feet tall and can be pruned to a lower height. Norfolk pines grow slowly, so it will take years for the small potted Christmas tree to become the eight foot tree.
To grow a Norfolk Pine, first remove the Christmas decorations. The trees can only handle those for a few days to a few weeks. Norfolk Pines are not particular about the soil they grow in and have very weak root systems. That means that they have a tendency to tip over when they get larger, and may have to be staked in their pots. It also means they must live in soil that is on the dryer end of moist but not soggy. Soggy soil will drown them.
In the winter, the branches of the Norfolk Pine should be misted daily to keep them from drying out in the dryer air of that season.
Norfolk Pines should be placed in filtered sunlight. That usually means placing them near a window. They do not like artificial light and while they will survive with it, they will not thrive. During summer months the Norfolk Pine may be placed outside in filtered sunlight. Be sure to bring it in if the outside temperature is more than 85 degrees, as that will kill the tree.
When it is time to move the tree into the house for the winter, gradually move the tree into less sunlight over a period of two to three weeks so it gets used to the lower light level in the house. Otherwise, the tree will shed branches from the shock of being moved indoors. Norfolk Pines really do not like to be moved so moving it should be kept to a minimum.
While Norfolk Pines are growing near a window, it is important to turn the tree a quarter turn every week so that it grows straight and not turn toward the light source.
Norfolk Pines should be fertilized with a water soluble fertilizer. Older plants need fertilization every three to four months. Newly repotted or newly purchased plants need fertilization every six months.
Norfolk Pines only need repotting every four years or so. Use a commercial repotting soil and the plant will do fine.