Learn how to care for most varieties of Norfolk Island Pine!
The Norfolk Island Pine hails from Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and New Caledonia. Norfolk Island is an extremely important place for botanists because it is one of the only islands left in the world with a number of surviving fossil species. Over 50 of the Island’s native plants are endemic, meaning they exist nowhere else in the world, and almost half of those are threatened.
This ancient lineage of trees would have been lost to history during the Cretaceous Extinction Event, the same one that killed the dinosaurs and 75% of life on Earth, if it were not for a few members of the species surviving on Norfolk Island! Their propensity for growing in perfectly geometric shapes and patterns have given them the nickname "monkey puzzle trees," but it is no puzzle why these cone-bearing trees are great houseplants: their resilience, vigor, and ability to survive mass extinctions. Just give them plenty of natural light!
Strangely enough, the Norfolk Island Pine is not even a pine at all, but rather part of a more ancient lineage of cone-bearing trees in the family, Araucariaceae. Although most cone-bearing trees like pines are better adapted for cold conditions, Araucaria heterophylla is actually a tropical plant. Norfolks have been on the earth for millions of years before pines even evolved. Its quirky yet symmetrical shape have make it a fun, alternative option to the usual holiday tree.
As an added bonus, Norfolk Island Pines have evolved to be salt tolerant from growing on tropical islands with frequent ocean flooding. This is unusual amongst plants, and makes the Norfolks a potential plant for genetic study for identifying salt-tolerance mechanisms. Scientists study salt tolerance genes to help improve crops to grow in poor or previously-ocean-flooded soils.
Norfolk Island Pines make excellent houseplants, as they are low-light tolerant, and help clean the indoor air from pollutants.
Thrives in medium-bright indirect light with several hours of direct sun.
Water weekly, adjusting the frequency depending on the light levels provided. Allow potting mix to dry out before watering (can tolerate drying out, but not for long). Soil about 1-2” down should be dry to touch. Water more frequently during warmer months and fertilize during growth. Do not overwater or keep the soil wet for too long, as this will encourage root rot. A coarser potting mix that drains well may be necessary, as they do not like to sit in water, but do like to be kept moist (i.e. frequent, well-drained waterings).
Likes higher humidity. Normal room humidity is fine, but prefers more, if possible.
65°F-85°F (18°C-30°C). It’s best not to let it go below 60°F (15°C).
Sensitive to humidity, so keep soil on the moist side, and keep in a humid place during the winter. Should this plant get spider mites, treat insects as soon as they appear with weekly sprays of horticultural (or neem) oil and regular wash-downs of the plant until infestation is gone.
SYMPTOM: Needles turning brown and crispy at edges.
CAUSE: Underwatered or low humidity
SYMPTOM: Yellowing, possible black stems and/or needle drop
CAUSE: Overwatering or too little
Toxic to cats and dogs if consumed. Best practice is always to keep houseplants out of reach of small children and pets.
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