HOW TO GROW THE NORFOLK ISLAND PINE - Araucaria heterophylla

The Norfolk Island pine - Araucaria heterophylla

The Norfolk Island pine - Araucaria heterophylla is a distinctive, tall-growing and elegant conifer native to the Norfolk Island, a small Pacific Ocean island situated between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. Beside the monkey puzzle tree - Araucaria araucana, the Norfolk Island pine is the only other species from this family that is commonly grown in Europe, either as a houseplant in northern Europe or as an ornamental garden plant around the Mediterranean basin. Despite its common name it is not a true pine, although it's evergreen needles do give it a pine-like appearance.

Juvenile plants are pyramidal in shape, formed by a whorl of widely-spaced, horizontal branches, that ascend to its crown. Dark green needles surround the branches, changing their shape slightly in the upper branches as the tree matures - hence the species name 'Heterophylla' meaning variable leaves. The bark is grey and rough, and when the tree reaches maturity, its shape can become less symmetrical and more untidy. Mature indigenous specimens can reach up to 200 ft in height, but you are looking at only 100 ft elsewhere.

Araucaria heterophylla foliage
Its island origins make it an ideal coastal plant. It requires a position of full sun and has excellent tolerance to salt and wind. It will grow well in deep sand, so long as it is reliably watered as a sapling. Surprisingly the Norfolk pine does not fare so well away from coastal conditions and such it is not advisable to plant it too far inland.

The Norfolk Island pine will not survive in areas that are prone to extended periods of cold weather and are easily damaged by hard frosts. Be that as it may there are records of Araucaria heterophylla growing in the milder regions of Great Britain and northern Island where the coast line is warmed by the Gulf stream. Most notably they are found outside in the subtropical gardens of Tresco Abbey Gardens on the Isles of Scilly and on Valentia Island on the southwest coast of Ireland - their most northerly location.

The Norfolk Island pine as a houseplant

When grown as a houseplant, the Norfolk Island pine is far less vigorous reaching a height of between 3-6ft tall. Pot on every other year in March into a good quality compost such as John Innes 'No.2', but go no larger than a 10 inch container. Provide bright, well-ventilated conditions and a minimum winter temperature of no less than 5 degrees Celsius.

Water freely over the spring and early summer, but keep the roots just moist over the winter. Provide a liquid soluble fertiliser every two weeks from may until August. The Norfolk Island pine can be hardened off to live outside from June to October.

Main image credit - By thinboyfatter - originally posted to Flickr as Norfolk Island, CC BY 2.0,

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