Thursday, December 8, 2011

Norfolk Island Pines: Living Christmas trees

Norfolk Island Pines(Araucaria heterophylla) is not a true pine but it is a tropical conifer belonging to the genus Araucaria which is represented by 19 species endemic to many Pacific Islands, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. The Norfolk Island pine is native to Norfolk Island in the Pacific ocean located between Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. Sapling Norfolk Island pines are popularly sold as live Christmas trees and these plants can make excellent houseplants when small. They are also a popular landscape tree in warmer coastal regions of the United States, such as south Florida, coastal California, south Texas, and Hawaii. It is also a popular landscape tree in Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Brazil, Honduras, and South Africa. This tree is hardy in USDA zones 10-11 and possibly in zone 9 if it is planted in a protected microclimate. This species has high tolerance for salt and winds making it popular in coastal areas. This species when kept as a houseplant prefers moderate lighting. Never Keep this tree below 40 degrees F. Water once a week when the soil becomes dry. This species can be a bit challenging because it has relatively high humidity needs. When the tree gets to tall larger stems can be cut down and the tree will produce branching offshoots from the roots, or it can be replaced. This species is a slow grower and is moderately easy to grow. Overall this is one of my favorite houseplants to grow and makes a nice green houseplant and or a perfect live Christmas tree. I just picked up a seedling tree at Wal-Mart today. They are available around the holidays at most big box stores, supermarkets, and garden centers.