Norfolk Island Pine – Araucaria heterophylla

The Norfolk Island Pine is an elegant evergreen conifer. It is one of the few coniferous trees that can be grown successfully indoors.

The plant takes its common name from the South Pacific island on which it was discovered in the late 1700s. The name of the plant group and the family to which it belongs are derived from the Chilean province of Arauco, where some of its close relatives are found. One of the best known of these is Araucaria araucana, commonly called the Monkey Puzzle Tree or Chile Pine.

At the beginning of this century the plant was very popular as a house plant, but it later fell out of favour. It is now regaining its popularity.

The Norfolk Island Pine is an easy plant to care for; it is quite undemanding as long as it has a cool position. If given enough room it will develop into a beautifully-shaped tree.

The branches of this tree radiate from the main trunk in regular tiers. Its needles are dense and lacy, and the young ones very are bright green. The lowest parts of the stem become brown with dried needles, but the upper parts are always green.Norfolk Island Pine - Araucaria heterophylla

Give your Norfolk Island Pine a bright position, but make sure it is shaded from strong sun at mid-day.

The tree grows slowly, and indoor plants seldom grow taller than 90-180cm (3— 6ft). It produces a new tier of branches each year.

Display ideas

The tree looks best when grown as a specimen plant. It can also be used as a traditional Christmas tree, but if you use it for this purpose do not use electric lights, as these may burn the needles.

Growing from seed

Sow seeds in March. Use a sandy seed compost and sow the seeds thinly in a seed tray. Cover with a layer of compost about lcm (½in) deep, water well and place the box in a warm position at 10— 13°C (50-55°F). Check occasionally for fungus attacks.

Allow the plants to grow on in the seed tray for at least a year, then plant out into 8cm (3in) pots, in peat mixed with one-quarter part sharp sand and a little added loam.

Pot on into larger pots the following year.

Looking after your plant

To grow the Norfolk “ Island Pine successfully you must keep it in cool conditions. If it is kept too warm the needles over the entire plant will dry out and fall. However, even in ideal conditions, older plants naturally lose needles from their lowest branches. To improve the appearance of your plant, cut these branches off as close to the trunk as possible. Apply sulphur to the cut surface to prevent fungus infection; if sap runs from the wound, dab some vaseline on it.

Pests And Diseases

The branches, including the tips of the shoots, droop if the plant is not given enough water or food.

Prevention: Remember to water the plant regularly and feed it once every 2 weeks in the summer.

Needles turn yellow and dry and then drop off. This is probably the result of too much warmth, especially if it happens over the entire plant. However, in older plants it is quite natural for the needles to drop off the lower branches.

Treatment: If the plant has been kept too warm, mist it with cool, lime-free water and move it to a cooler position.

White woolly patches on the leaves or stems are caused by mealy bugs. Treatment: The best way to deal with this is to remove the mealy bugs with a cotton bud dipped in diluted methylated spirit. Repeat after 2 weeks.

PLANT CARE

This is a very easy plant to care for if it is kept in cool, light conditions. Any unsightly branches should be cut back right to the trunk.

  • Potting: Repot every 3-4 years in early spring, using three parts peat, one part sharp sand and one part soil-based compost. With mature plants, renew only the top layer of compost.
  • Water moderately in summer. In winter, water only sparingly, keeping the compost just moist and allowing it to dry out between applications. Use rainwater whenever possible, and never allow excess water to stand in the saucer under the pot.
  • Feeding: Feed every 2 weeks in summer with a dilute solution of a standard liquid fertilizer.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: The plant likes a good light position, but shade it from mid-day sun in the summer.
  • Temperature: In summer, keep at 15-17°C (60— 64°F); in winter, maintain a minimum temperature of 5°C (41°F). The plant can be put outside in a sheltered position from June to September.

Buying Tips

  • Norfolk Island Pine plants can be bought throughout the year. If you cannot find one locally, try a specialist nursery.
  • Choose a plant with compact growth and fresh green needles. Do not buy any plant that has a dry, dusty or bedraggled appearance.
  • Given a cool but light position, your Norfolk Island Pine plant should live for many years.

The Norfolk Island Pine is a very attractive conifer that develops into a small tree when grown as a house plant. It dislikes warmth and must be grown in a cool position.

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