By Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Horticulturist
Photograph courtesy of Costa Farms
Norfolk Island pines have become ubiquitous around the holidays – you see these beautiful little trees at garden centers, home improvement centers, mass merchandisers, and more. Usually festooned with holiday decorations, they’re a cute way to add life and beauty to your seasonal décor.
Norfolk Island pine prefers as much light as you can give it, especially when grown indoors. A bright window with direct sun is typically no problem for this plant. If it’s not been exposed to direct sun in a while, it can experience some sunburn, so gradually letting it bask in the sun’s rays makes for an easier transition. Don’t have natural light? No worries – Norfolk Island pine does just as well under artificial light, such as fluorescent and LED bulbs.
Not sure how much to water a Norfolk Island pine? You’re not alone: It’s a common question. The best rule of thumb is to water when the top couple of inches of the potting mix become dry to the touch. How much and how often that is varies based on light, temperature, humidity, and other factors, so it’s impossible to give a one-size-fits-all guideline.
Norfolk Island pine is sensitive to drying out, especially if grown in low-light conditions, so take care to check regularly. It will turn brown and crispy from the bottom up if it dries out too much.
Norfolk Island pine likes the same temperatures we do indoors, between about 50°F (10°C) and 85°F (29°C). One thing it doesn’t like, however, is drafts. Keep it away from heating or air conditioning vents or old drafty doors or windows. Exposure to especially warm or cold air can cause the foliage to dry up prematurely.
Like most houseplants, it prefers average- to above-average relative humidity. If your home is desert dry thanks to your furnace or wood stove, grouping it with other houseplants can help. If your décor style doesn’t accommodate plant groupings (or you don’t have enough houseplants to place together), a humidity tray or small humidifier nearby can help until more normal humidity levels arrive in spring.
You may want to give your Norfolk Island pine a bigger pot every year or two. Up-potting as it becomes rootbound encourages the plant to put out healthy growth and helps make watering easier. (The more rootbound it is, the more frequently it tends to need watering.) Any general-purpose potting mix labeled for use on houseplants will do – Norfolk Island pine isn’t fussy and doesn’t need anything special.
Over time and with good care, your tree can grow from an adorable tabletop plant to an impressive six-foot-tall living sculpture.
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