Jul 20, 2010

Norfolk Island Pine 101

You might've seen a Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla) for sale at your local grocery store around Christmas or Yule time. They are often sold as miniature Christmas trees - some people even decorate them in place of a full sized tree! I bought my Norfolk at the nearby Kroger. I saw them, and I couldn't resist having one. They make a great addition to your plant collection, and help to put you into the spirit of the season. However, they can be a little tricky in the care department.

Water. Norfolks like to be kept lightly moist at all times. Make sure the pot allows for good drainage. Letting the soil dry out even just a little is a bad idea - the plant will shed its needles and they won't grow back! Make sure to water when the top 1/2" feels dry to the touch.

Light. Give Norfolk a bright location, but avoid full sun. A West or East location should do nicely! Avoid long exposure to extreme cold, heat, or wind.

Humidity. Mist the plant regularly to prevent yellowing of leaves and keep them green. Yellowing of older leaves at the base of the stem is normal - trim away dead leaves with scissors or pinch between thumb and index, lightly pulling until the leaf comes free.

Pot types and sizes. The best kind of pot for Norfolks is plastic, since they are versatile, durable, and come in attractive colors. If you'd prefer something in the glazed category, there's a better selection to be had as far as designs on the pot itself. Glazed pots are heavier, and will accommodate larger plants if you have them for a long time. I would definitely avoid a terracotta pot, due to their reputation for drying out quickly. If you repot the plant when you get it home, a little broken pottery or stones on the bottom of your pot will help greatly improve drainability.

Display Tips. If you find a small tree at the grocery store and decide to decorate it for the holidays, be mindful of the branches - they can break if too much weight is put on them! A small string of lights, a garland, and maybe a few small ornaments should be ok...just don't overdo it! Norfolks make a nice centerpiece on a mantle, end table, or kitchen table anytime of the year. Their simple elegance will add charm to any room in the house!

The #1 thing to remember when you buy a Norfolk: on the way out the door with your brand new plant (in the middle of December), remember to cover the plant with an extra bag! Arctic weather is a sure way to kill your plant! Oh darn!

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