You see a lot of them during the holidays since these plants are perfect for Christmas trees.
But, while a lot of people may throw them in the trash after the new year, you can actually keep enjoying these beautiful trees indoors or outside.
Here’s how to grow and care for Norfolk Pines.
About Norfolk Pines
Norfolk pines, which are also called Norfolk Island Pines get their name from where they originate, the Norfolk Islands in the Pacific.
However, they are not pine trees but evergreen trees. As such, while they look like your regular pine tree, they are not as hardy and have different characteristics.
That said, you’re likely familiar with these popular plants because they’re often sold in nurseries as little Christmas trees. So, if you’ve bought one of those before, you’ve likely decorated and celebrated the holidays with this tree.
Besides being uses as a Christmas tree stand-in, they’re also common foliage plants because of their lovely horizontal branches which are lined with soft needles.
When it comes to growing them, you have the option of doing so indoors or outside.
In their natural environment, they can grow up to 200 feet tall. They won’t grow that big in your garden. But, you’ll need to give them a lot of space nevertheless.
In contrast, they’ll only get to about 5 to 8 feet high when grown indoors.
You can likewise keep them in small containers to limit their size to about 3 feet tall.
Norfolk Pines Plant Care
Norfolk pines like getting plenty of bright light. They need at least 1-2 hours of direct sunlight daily. But, prefer several hours of it each day.
This is less of a problem outdoors. But, if you grow them in a container indoors, abundant sunlight may not always be accessible.
If that’s the case, you can position them in where they receive bright, indirect light. But, do watch them to see if they start stretching. This is a sign they need light.
It can also happen if you feed them a lot of fertilizer while not giving them enough bright light. If that’s the case, then it’s a good idea to scale back on the fertilizer and reposition them where they can get more hours of direct sunlight.
Ideally, they do best in south and west-facing windows. These are where the sun shines brightest, with the south being able to give you more hours of exposure.
You can likewise set the containers on your deck or porch if you prefer to leave them outdoors.
Either way, do rotate them regularly. This helps them grow evenly allowing each of the sides to receive sufficient light.
Temperature & Light
Norfolk pines are hardy to USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. As such, you can grow them outside in your garden if you live in these regions.
But, do make sure to give them enough space since they can grow into huge trees. While they won’t get anywhere near the 100 to 200 feet height they achieve in their natural habitat, they’ll still be fairly formidable for any backyard.
That said, these trees thrive when the temperatures stay between 55 and 75 degrees. They enjoy fairly cool conditions. and, they’re not hard to cold weather.
As tropical plants, they’ll have problems when the temperature drops under 35 degrees. Thus, if you live somewhere where winters are frosty, it’s a better idea to keep them in containers.
That way you can keep them indoors as houseplants. Or, bring them out during the summer and keep them inside when the cold months arrive.
Besides the cool temperature, these lovely trees also enjoy high humidity. If they don’t get enough of it, you’ll notice their needles start turning brown.
Regular weekly misting them with a spray bottle helps prevent this. Or, for a more hands-off approach, you can keep it over rocks on a pebble tray.
While they are drought-tolerant, Norfolk pines need regular watering during its growing season in the spring and summer. During this time, it is best to keep the soil moist.
More importantly, don’t overwater them. Like most plants, they’re more susceptible to damage from too much water than they are dry periods.
But, do check on the plant’s needles every once in a while. If they start to turn yellow, it’s a sign that they need more water.
Alternatively, if its branches start becoming limp, it’s a sign that they’re receiving too much water.
Thus, allow the soil to slightly dry out between waterings. And, scale back of moisture when winter comes around as they go into dormancy.
Norfolk pine likes well-draining, slightly acidic soil. Although, they’re less picky about the latter.
In their native habitat, they live in sandy soil. As such, making sure that the soil doesn’t retain a lot of moisture is essential.
Norfolk pines are known for their weak root system. This is especially true when they’re young. Add to that they face that they grow tall makes it a bigger problem.
As such, regular fertilizing goes a long way in helping its roots get stronger. Also, you can stake it for extra support so that it doesn’t have to bear all the brunt of the weight and balance itself at the same time.
Apply fertilizer every 2 to 4 weeks during its growing season which runs from March all the way to September. You can halt during the fall and winter when it isn’t actively growing.
A good balanced fertilizer works just fine.
These trees don’t need any cosmetic pruning. Instead, trim back the dead and dying branches and foliage.
Similarly, you can also prune tips that have turned brown.
As it grows, you’ll also notice that it will lose some of its lower branches, this is normal and nothing to worry about. But, do take notice if too much of them do.
That’s often a sign of a distressed tree, which means you need to find out what’s causing the problem and fix it.
As always, use sharp pruning shears that have been sterilized.
Unfortunately, Norfolk pines are not practical to propagate at home. They grow from seeds that take years to get to where you want them to be.
As such, the time and effort put into it don’t make sense for most home growers.
Thus, making buying a plant a much better option.
These plants are fairly slow growers. So, you may not need to repot every year. In some cases, you may only need to do so every 3 years.
While you can generalize based on the number of years, a better indicator is to check the plant itself. That’s because depending on the conditions you give it, the tree will grow at a different pace compared to those other people have.
Once the roots start to sneak out the bottom of the container, that’s your sign to repot.
When you do, make sure to use a large, deep pot that will bear the brunt of its weight. This way it won’t tip over as it grows. Indoors, you can expect it to get up to 6 to 8 feet high. So, having something stable with a low center of gravity prevents it from getting too top-heavy.
The best time to repot is during the spring.
Norfolk pines are not toxic to humans. Although some peoples’ skin is sensitive to them. So, it’s a good idea to take extra care when handling them.
If you notice that they irritate your skin, then you can use gloves or long sleeves when pruning, propagating, or repotting them.
That said, if you own pets, including cats and dogs, you’ll want to keep them away from the plant. It is toxic to them can cause mouth irritation as well as stomach issues like vomiting.