How to Care for an Indoor Norfolk Pine Tree
The Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) is a species of conifer native to Norfolk Island, located near Australia and New Zealand in the South Pacific. A popular living Christmas tree to give as a gift in the United States during the holiday season, it is not a true pine but rather an evergreen in the family Araucariaceae that is found only in the Southern Hemisphere.
Norfolk Island pine trees are only winter hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11. In colder climates outside of this range, they are grown as houseplants.
The Norfolk Pine Tree Indoors
While they are not true pine trees like those in the genus Pinus, Norfolk Island pines get their name in part because they resemble pine trees with their tiered branches as well as their narrow, evergreen leaves and pyramidal habit.
Norfolk Island pine trees can reach a height of up to 200 feet in their native habitat. However, indoor Norfolk Island pine trees have a typical height between 8 and 10 feet.
These plants are usually available for purchase as tabletop Christmas trees during the holiday season and can be decorated with lights and ornaments.
Indoor Norfolk Pine Growing Conditions
When growing a Norfolk Island pine tree indoors, choose a potting medium that is slightly acidic and amended with sand and peat moss. Well-draining soil is also necessary.
Indoor Norfolk Island pines grow best in full sun, such as from a south-facing window. However, you should provide some afternoon shade to prevent the foliage from turning yellow. Rotate the plants regularly to promote even, symmetrical growth. These tropical plants are best kept at temperatures between 55 and 65°F.
Norfolk pine trees indoors should be kept in a room with high humidity and temperatures above 50°F.
Norfolk Island pines also need high humidity, so consider placing them in a room with a humidifier. A lack of humidity can cause the lower branches to turn brown and drop, which is a common issue with this plant.
You can also place the potted Norfolk Island pine on a wet pebble tray, though this alone is usually not enough to provide the humidity these plants crave.
Norfolk Pine Indoor Care
Let's go over how to care for a Norfolk Island pine indoors.
During the growing season from spring to fall, fertilize your Norfolk pines with a diluted liquid fertilizer once a week or every two weeks. Avoid fertilizing these plants excessively, however, as it can result in branch drop.
Restrained fertilizing will also prevent these trees from growing so large that it becomes untenable to keep them inside.
Too much fertilizer can cause Norfolk pine trees to drop branches.
Norfolk pines should be watered regularly during the growing season to keep the soil moist. However, overwatering can cause root rot.
Therefore, make sure any pot you use has drainage holes. Reduce watering in the winter months.
Pruning and Repotting
Pruning Norfolk Island pine trees is generally not advisable, as it will not produce new growth. However, you can trim off dead branches as needed to maintain the plant’s appearance.
Repot Norfolk pine trees every three or four years once you can see the plant's roots on the soil surface.
- According to Hortchat.com, a Norfolk pine does best in areas of 50 percent humidity. If you live in a dry climate, you can help your pine by keeping it in a well-lit bathroom. It will enjoy the humidity of the shower. Or place it next to a humidifier, an indoor fountain or by supplementing the ambient humidity in some other manner, such as misting it with a spray bottle can also help.
Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.