Norfolk Island pine trees (Araucaria heterophylla) are commonly used as those cute little houseplant Christmas trees that you can buy around the holidays, but then the holidays end and you are left with a seasonally dated, living plant. Just because your Norfolk pine is no longer needed as a holiday plant doesn’t mean that you need to abandon it in the trash. These plants make wonderful houseplants. This leads people to ask how to care for a Norfolk Island pine houseplant.
Care of a Norfolk Island Pine Plant
Growing a Norfolk Island pine as a houseplant starts with realizing a few important things about Norfolk pines. While they may share the name and even resemble a pine tree, they are not true pines at all, nor are they as hardy as the standard pine tree that people are accustomed to. In terms of proper Norfolk pine tree care, they are more like a gardenia or orchid than a pine tree.
First thing to keep in mind with the care of Norfolk pines is that they are not cold hardy. They are a tropical plant and cannot tolerate temperatures below 35 degrees F. (1 C.). For many parts of the country, the Norfolk Island pine tree cannot be planted outside year-round. It also needs to be kept away from cold drafts.
The second thing to understand about indoor Norfolk pine care is that, being a tropical plant, they need high humidity. Paying attention to humidity is very important in the winter when the indoor humidity normally falls significantly. Keeping the humidity high around the tree will help it thrive. This can be done by either using a pebble tray with water, using a humidifier in the room, or through a weekly misting of the tree.
Another part of the care for a Norfolk Island pine plant is to make sure that the plant gets enough light. Norfolk pine trees prefer several hours of direct, bright light, such as the type of light that can be found in a south-facing window, but they will also tolerate full indirect, bright light as well.
Water your Norfolk Island pine when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. You can fertilize your Norfolk pine in the spring and summer with a water soluble balanced fertilizer, but you do not need to fertilize in the fall or winter.
It is normal for Norfolk Island pine trees to have some browning on the bottom branches. However, if the brown branches seem to be high on the plant or if they can be found all over the tree, this is a sign that the plant is either overwatered, underwatered, or is not getting enough humidity.