Monday, December 16, 2013

Houseplant of the Week: Norfolk Island Pine

It's Christmas time and as you've been wandering aimlessly about, shopping for gifts for people who already have everything they need, you may have noticed this awesome plant that looks a lot like a little Christmas tree.  It almost looks like it could be a type of pine tree, but it's not, even though "pine" is in its common name.  The Norfolk Island Pine has been a favorite of houseplant growers for a long time, mainly because of its uniform needled foliage and the fact that it's one of the easiest plants to grow in the house.

Common Name: Norfolk Island Pine, Star Pine
Botanical Name: Araucaria heterophylla
USDA Hardiness zones: 9b-11
Size: In its native environment, it will grow to over 40 feet tall and 20-30 feet wide. Houseplants are available in much smaller sizes though, usually from about 1-3 feet.
Light Requirements: Bright indirect light
Water Requirements: In summer, keep moist but not soggy; in winter, let soil dry out between thorough waterings.
Soil Requirements: Fast-draining potting soil
Flower: Because it is a conifer, Norfolk Island Pines will produce cones, but as a houseplant, you're not likely to see this.
General Considerations: The Norfolk Island Pine enjoys misting with cool water, which will mimic its natural climate in New Zealand, where it originates.  If the air is too dry for too long, the tips of the needles will brown.  A home humidifier in heated winter homes will generally make them happy, as it will its human housemates.  Don't prune, as all growth will stop at the point of pruning.  Fertilize monthly during summer months with half-strength water-soluble plant food.

Where to Purchase: Commonly found in big box stores, garden centers and grocery stores, especially during the holidays.

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