Thursday, January 27, 2005

NORFORK ISLAND PINE

The Norfolk Island pine is a unique pine which performs well as an indoor houseplant and can double as a live indoor Christmas tree. Its lush green branches of soft needles provide a lovely backdrop for festive holiday ornaments or simply as a great indoor houseplant. A close friend has traditionally decorated their Norfolk Island Pine in Christmas attire for the past five years. Greenscape Gardens has an assortment, ranging from compact desktop plants to large floor plants. In Florida, the Norfolk Island Pine will grow to a height of 30 feet or better. Normally as an indoor houseplant, you may attain a height of six to eight feet, however, I have seen Norfolk Island Pines in shopping malls attain 30 feet of height.

Unlike most pines that are familiar in the St. Louis area, the Norfolk Island pine is far too tender to plant outdoors. However, it's 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, I recommend rotating the plant a quarter turn weekly to keep it from tilting toward one side.

When the plant is actively growing, feed it with a fertilizer formulated for indoor foliage plants. The plant usually rests during the winter months, at which time there is no need to fertilize.

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 requires. 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. During the winter months we manually mist the Norfolk Island Pines several times a week. This also keeps dust from accumulating on the needles.

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.

Insects are seldom a problem for Norfolk Island Pines. A thorough inspection of the Norfolk Island Pine on a weekly basis will reduce any potential problems. When insect or mite activity occurs, apply according to label recommendations.

1 comment:

Paul in Alabama said...

We have 3 NIP in pots, all 6 to 8 ft tall and they are outside and doing well. I'm wondering i should start planting them in the ground as they are all multi trunked and need more root space. I live in extreme south alabama 1 mile from Mobile Bay.
Any help would be appreciated, thanks, Paul