Norfolk Island Pines (Araucaria heterophylla) come from a small island between Australia and New Zealand in the South Pacific. Its sort of tropical setting is what they need to grow successfully outdoors.
This tree is also commonly known as Star Pine, but it is not really a pine.
Although these trees can grow in tropical settings away from their native territory, it may not be a good idea. In non-native tropical settings, these trees can be a nuisance.
In this article, we discuss the care and uses of the Norfolk Pine.
What Are Norfolk Island Pines?
Norfolk Pines are fast-growing tropical trees often sold at Christmas time as live Christmas trees. Because they are tropical, they do well in an indoor setting and will thrive in most climates when kept as houseplants.
Captain James Cook first documented the Norfolk Island Pine in 1774 when he saw it on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific.
In native Norfolk Island, they grow to be 200′ feet high, full and lush. In non-native tropical settings, they may grow to be tall, gangly, lopsided, and unstable.
This can be a real problem in tropical settings such as southern Florida, prone to hurricane activity. The tall, shallow-rooted, non-native trees tend to snap and tumble easily and can cause a great deal of damage during hurricane season.
Is It Ever Safe to Grow Star Pine Outdoors?
If you live in USDA hardiness zones 10 through 11 and do not live in an area subject to high winds and hurricanes, Norfolk Island Pine may grow in your landscape. Otherwise, it’s better to keep this tree as a houseplant.
How Do You Grow Norfolk Island Pine Plants In the Landscape?
Once established, Norfolk Island Pines are easy to care for in the landscape in the right circumstances. They thrive in USDA hardiness zones 10 through 11 and are not considered invasive. If done right, they don’t have to be a nuisance.
Follow these steps:
Choose a Safe, Warm, Bright Location
To grow this tree outdoors choose a location well away from structures that receive plenty of bright light. Lower light is also acceptable and will mean that the tree will not grow as high and will grow to be denser. This can be a positive.
As an indoor plant or outdoors, bright, indirect sunlight is the best choice for this plant. When potted too much sun can overwhelm it and dry it out. Too little sun causes drooping branches.
NOTE: These plants want plenty of light.
Protect your plant against temperatures lower than 55° degrees Fahrenheit. If temperatures drop below freezing, your Star Pine’s roots may survive. The tree may die back to the ground and return from the roots during the following growing season.
Provide a Combination of Scrabbly Soil, Lots of Water, and Few Nutrients
Norfolk Pine needs slightly acidic, sandy, well-draining soil, and ample water.
In its native environment, the Norfolk Pine can thrive with only rainfall. In hot, dry settings, you will need to irrigate frequently.
Keep a close eye on moisture levels. It’s a good idea to use a moisture meter to prevent having the soil dry out completely during times of drought.
Take care never to allow your Star Pine to stand in water or to have soggy soil. Root rot is sure to ensue.
These trees do not need fertilizing and do quite well in poor soil. When kept as a houseplant, you will need to fertilize your Norfolk Pine.
Set and forget
When grown outdoors, in an area that is not subject to high winds, you won’t need to prune often or at all.
In their native settings, these trees grow to be 200′ feet tall. In non-native tropical settings, they may grow to 100′ feet with a spread of approximately 60′ feet.
Damaged or broken branches don’t grow back. These trees are not suitable for growing outdoors in high wind or hurricane-prone settings.
Can You Keep Norfolk Pine Tree Outdoors in a Container?
Even in a tropical setting, it’s best to keep this plant as a house or container plant. Being in a container prevents your tree from becoming a nuisance and an eyesore.
In colder settings, you can move it outdoors to enjoy bright, indirect sunlight during the warmer, spring, and summer months.
Follow these tips:
If you keep your plant in a container outdoors, pay very close attention to moisture levels. Container plants will dry out faster than those planted directly in the soil.
Allow the top couple inches of soil to dry out completely before watering well.
When planted in the soil, your Norfolk Pine will not need fertilizer. But if kept in a container outdoors, nutrients tend to wash out with more frequent watering.
For best results, use a light concentration of an all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer with an NPK rating of about 24-8-16.
Apply it a couple of times a month throughout the growing season. During the winter, refrain from fertilizing.
The fact that broken or pruned branches do not grow back is beneficial when keeping Star Pines as container plants.
It is easy to control their size and shape through careful pruning using a sharp, sterile blade. Norfolk Pines are an excellent choice for indoor or outdoor bonsai projects.
Guard Against Cold
Norfolk Island Pines grown outdoors in containers need protection against the cold at all times.
If temperatures drop below 40° degrees Fahrenheit, cover your container trees or bring them indoors.
Araucaria Heterophylla is Carefree With the Right Care
These tropical plants are resistant to pest and disease problems. The most common problem stems from overwatering and poor positioning.
Your Norfolk Island Pine is sure to survive and thrive if planted in an area with:
- Good ventilation
- Well-draining soil
- Ample bright sunlight
Poor ventilation, soggy soil, and too little light will lead to fungal infections such as anthracnose. Stressed trees may also be subject to infestation by mealybugs or scale insects.
Because these trees can grow to such large sizes when planted outdoors, it’s good to keep these pests under control. Let professional pest management services handle heavy infestations of scale or mealybugs on large trees.