ALL THINGS OLD become new again and this certainly applies to the Norfolk Island pine. It was the traditional winter holiday plant for as long as I can remember but had slowly slumped in popularity with the decline in the houseplant trend. Fortunately, house plant popularity is on the rise again, so the formerly favored Norfolk Island pine is back.
It is easy to grow as a houseplant. It prefers medium to bright light, but can tolerate low light for a period when properly acclimated. It is best planted in a porous potting medium that retains moisture but drains easily. If it is allowed to get dry, its needle tips will brown; if it stays too wet, entire branches will die off.
In a positive indoor environment it grows slowly, typically only 3 to 6 inches a year. If it is in an area with too little light, it will get weak and spindly. It’s a good idea to place it in a partly shaded area outside in the summer until October when cold weather returns. Don’t rush it inside; letting it experience cooler weather helps it slow its growth and prepare for its time indoors. Bring it inside once the nighttime temperature begins to dip below 50 degrees.
Because it is a true low maintenance houseplant, the Norfolk Island pine needs to be fertilized only once in late spring and again in mid-summer. Too much fertilizing and it will quickly outgrow most indoor environments.
SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.