Norfolk Island Pine needs TLC
The Norfolk Island pine has grown in popularity as a live indoor Christmas
tree. Its lush green twigs of soft needles provide a lovely backdrop for
festive holiday ornaments. Garden centers and mass merchandisers had an
impressive selection, ranging from compact desktop plants to large floor
plants rivaling a traditional holiday tree!
Unlike most pines that are familiar to Midwesterners, the Norfolk Island
pine is far too tender to plant outdoors in our climate. But the good
news is that it makes an elegant houseplant when given proper care.
The ideal indoor climate for this species is cool and bright, responding
well to daytime temperatures ranging from 60-70 F and slightly cooler
at night. Although the Norfolk Island pine will adapt to bright indirect
light, the plant will look its best with a couple of hours of direct sunlight
daily. If the light source is coming from just one direction, you'll want
to rotate the plant a quarter turn weekly to keep it from tilting toward
When the plant is actively growing, feed it with a fertilizer formulated
for indoor foliage plants. It is not unusual for the plant to be in a
period of rest during the winter months, at which time there is no need
Water the plant when the top inch or so of the soil in the pot feels
dry. Use enough water to allow a little excess to escape through the bottom
drainage holes. Discard remaining drained water after about 15 minutes.
What is most challenging for the typical home gardener is giving this
plant the high relative humidity it needs. Norfolk Island pine thrives
at 50 percent relative humidity, yet it is not unusual for the average
house to drop to 15 percent during the winter heating season, unless steps
are taken to increase moisture in the air. Running a humidifier will increase
both people and plant comfort and is the most effective way to adequately
raise the humidity.
It is not unusual for a few needles on the lowest branches to turn brown
and drop. If this happens slowly over time, it's likely just normal aging
of the branches or possibly from lower light availability. However, if
many needles are browning, or if the problem appears more widely distributed
among the branches, look to problems of either too much or too little
water or too little relative humidity.