THE NORFOLK ISLAND PINE
By Dr. Leonard Perry Extension
Greenhouse and Nursery Crops Specialist
University of Vermont
If you want to invest in a houseplant
with a future, buy a Norfolk Island pine. It requires
minimal care, and because it grows slowly will remain
small and attractive for many years indoors.
To be honest, the Norfolk Island Pine
(Araucaria heterophylla) is not really a pine at all.
It’s a narrow-leaf evergreen plant with many short needle-like
leaves arranged along the stems. The side branches radiate
from the central stem at a wide angle giving the plant
a layered look.
This coniferous (cone-bearing) evergreen
is a native of Norfolk Island, which is located between
New Caledonia and Australia in the South Pacific. It
can reach a height of 200 feet and a diameter of nine
or ten feet in its native habitat, but don’t worry,
it takes many years for it to achieve those dimensions.
For best growth and foliage quality, keep
this plant in as much light as possible, preferably
a spot within four feet of a large south-, east-, or
west-facing window. The plant should receive about 200
foot-candles of light a day. A foot-candle is the amount
of light given off from a candle when measured from
one foot away. (A reading lamp is usually 40 to 60 foot-candles.)
If you must keep your plants in a slightly
darker location, compensate for the lower light levels
by keeping the room light on for longer periods of time.
Generally, 16 hours of light will be effective in keeping
the plant in good condition for several years.
Norfolk Island pines will be at home in
most temperature ranges suitable for people. Avoid extremes,
both hot and cold. In the winter, a temperature of 50
to 55 degrees F at night is the minimum this plant can
stand without injury. However, it will do better if
night temperatures are about ten degrees cooler than
Soil around the roots should be moist,
but never wet. Wet soil as well as age may cause lower
limbs to drop off. Remember, soil moisture, pot size,
pot type, plant size, average room temperature, room
lighting, and humidity will all influence the amount
and frequency of watering required.