GardenSMART :: Get Ready for the Holidays with Norfolk Island Pine
Get Ready for the Holidays with Norfolk Island Pine
By Karen Weir-Jimerson, Costa Farms
Photographs courtesy of Costa Farms
A Norfolk Island pine looks like a Christmas tree in miniature, so many people use these floor and tabletop plants as holiday trees. They look great in every room regardless of season and are easy to grow so they are perfect for plant newbies. As an added benefit, they purify your home's air.
Their name and appearance may suggest that Norfolk Island pines are pines. They look like conifers, and have soft, evergreen needles. But Norfolk Island pines aren't pine trees. Botanically, they are Araucaria heterophylla; pines are Pinus spp. They originate from Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and New Zealand.
Choosing the Right Norfolk Island Pine
Select a size. Norfolk Island pines come in several sizes. Choose the size of plant that fits your space. There are small tabletop sizes as well as larger floor-size plants. Indoors this plant can grow 6 feet tall. (In their native warm climate, they can grow 40 feet tall or more.) Small, young Norfolk Island pines are perfect for decorating mantles, tabletops, and desks. Floor-size plants can be used to fill bright corners, flank furniture, or stand alone as a stunning focal point. Norfolk Island pines are slow growing, so your plant won't overtake its space quickly.
Shop for a healthy plant. Touch the branches; they should feel supple. The needles should be soft – if they aren't, the plant may be drying out. Pay attention to the color, too. They should be dark green. Some plants, especially those sold around the holidays, may have glitter added to the branches to make them look festive. Avoid buying plants with browned leaves or branches.
Tips for Growing a Healthy Plant
Light. Grow your Norfolk Island pine in medium to bright light. The less light it gets, the slower the plant will grow. But avoid very low-light situations. If it doesn't get enough light (natural or artificial), your Norfolk Island pine will grow spindly.
Water. Moist, but not wet, soil is best. Avoid keeping your Norfolk Island pine in soggy conditions. The roots of this plant will rot if they stand in water. If the plant stays too dry, the tips of its branches will turn brown and crispy. Boosting humidity with a pebble tray or small humidifier can help.
If your plant is sold with a colorful outer pot cover or sleeve, remove it when you water. Pot covers trap excess moisture around the roots and can cause rot.
Feeding. Norfolk Island pine can be fed once or twice during spring and summer; fertilize more often if you want your plant to grow faster.
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By Nancy Buley, J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co., Wholesale Tree Growers
Photographs courtesy of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.
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