How To Care For and Grow Norfolk Island Pines

Norfolk Island Pine is an ornamental, evergreen tree with delicate symmetrical leaves. It originally comes from Norfolk Island which is a South Pacific Ocean Island that lies between Caledonia and New Zealand.

It’s also known as Araucaria heterophylla, which is pronounced as [air-ah-KAIR-ee-uh] [het-er-oh-FIL-uh].


Unlike its name, Norfolk Island pine isn’t considered a pine tree. It comes from the ancient Araucariaceae family of conifers. 

It’s often referred to as :

  • House Pine
  • Norfolk Pine 
  • Star Pine
  • Triangle Tree
  • Living Christmas Tree
  • Polynesian Pine

The trunk of Araucaria heterophylla stands elegantly upright, while its delicate narrow foliage points towards the sun. The graceful pyramid arrangement of its branches gives it its distinctive pine shape.

Despite being a popular holiday plant, The Norfolk pine is a non-toxic perennial tree meaning that you could enjoy its beauty for a very long time. It also ranks among the top 50 houseplants for cleaning the air.

To enjoy the everlasting beauty of a living Christmas tree, learn more about Norfolk Island Pine care through this guide. 

Norfolk Island Pine Care

Size and Growth

In its natural habitat, Araucaria heterophylla can grow up to 200 feet and its trunk can stretch up to 60 feet. It could also live for over 150 years in subtropical climates.

However, growing it indoors is another story, when well-kept, it could grow from 6 to 20 feet maximum depending on the size of its pot.

Araucaria heterophylla is well-known for its slow growth process, as it only grows about two feet per year. That growth rate is further slowed down when grown indoors.

Growing it in a hanging pot would allow its roots to grow deeper into the soil and increase its growth rate.

Flowering and Fragrance

Like pine trees, the Norfolk Island pines are non-flowering trees. They reproduce by bearing woody cones.

They are often grown for their unique structure. Their branches are arranged in a star-like structure that earns them the common name Star Pine. Their pointy leaves are soft to the touch and have the fresh fragrance of a pine tree.

Light and Temperature

Although Norfolk Island pine is originally an outdoor plant, placing it in bright direct sunlight will burn and damage its leaves.

A perfect placing position is next to a bright southern window or in a semi-shade area. You could also place it indoors close to a bright nursery light.

When placed in a narrow area where light only reaches the plant from one side, regularly rotate the plant every few days to maintain equal distribution of light. 

Although Norfolk pine is sold as a living Christmas tree, it is a tropical plant that can’t handle cold temperatures below 50 Fahrenheit.

The great news is that regular room temperatures are within 68 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit, so your plant is safe within the indoor parameters.

Another thing to keep into consideration is the high humidity level that the tree requires. To keep a healthy Norfolk pine, avoid placing it in dry or low humidity areas around your house.

Watering and Feeding

Like many durable household plants, Norfolk pine doesn’t require frequent watering. You only need to water it when the soil is almost dry, so check the soil for dryness every week.

A good method to test the amount of water in the soil is by sticking an inch of your finger within the soil. If your finger comes out without soil crumbs, it means that the soil is dry and in need of watering.

Norfolk pine could last for a long time without any fertilizers. However, if you want your plant to grow bright green needle-shaped leaves, feeding it monthly would ensure its fast healthy growth.

Soil and Transplanting

Araucaria heterophylla should be planted in well-drained soil. A soil mixture that drains water too quickly or keeps the water for a long time will subject the plant to disease and pests.

A soil mixture that is half sand and half clay with a small amount of gravel is a perfect mixture for good drainage.

If you want to have a large Norfolk pine tree, placing it in a large pot is a good choice. You could also plant them in smaller pots, but that would hinder their growth and sometimes even stop their growth completely.

It’s recommended to replant the tree every four years in a bigger pot with a similar soil mixture.

Grooming and Maintenance

Norfolk Pine requires low maintenance which means that as long as you keep it in favorable conditions, you won’t need to do a lot of work.

It’s a durable tree with strong branches, so it could be kept in areas with high traffic around the house. They also don’t need pruning.

How To Propagate Norfolk Island Pine

Although a bit tricky, you could propagate a Norfolk Pine through two methods:

  • Sowing: when mature plants produce cones. You could extract the seeds from those cones and plant them in moist compost with potassium fertilizers.
  • Cuttings: replant clipped branches after leaving their stem to dry a little in a good soil mixture.

Notice that the cutting method isn’t always the most effective method for propagation, as the branches often wilt and die before they grow roots. You could use the central leading tip to propagate the plant again but that would inhibit the growth of the main plant.

Norfolk Island Pine Pests and Diseases

Although Norfolk Island Pines are very durable and withstand many unfavorable conditions, they could be subjected to multiple diseases due to lack of care.

  • Anthracnose
  • Branch Droop
  • Root Rot
  • Yellowing

Many of these diseases are easily avoided if you follow these simple instructions: 

  • Don’t water the surface of the foliage.
  • Avoid placing the plant in areas with low light intensity.
  • Maintain evenly moist soil and apply fungicide every month.

Uses of Norfolk Island Pine Indoors and Outdoors

Indoors, Norfolk Island Pine is often used for decorative purposes. You could use it as a Christmas tree, or a beautiful ornamental plant.

Outdoors, the wood of the tree is used in construction, shipbuilding, and even furniture.