Araucaria heterophylla
Common Name: Norfolk Island pine 
Type: Needled evergreen
Family: Araucariaceae
Native Range: Norfolk Island
Zone: 9 to 10
Height: 100.00 to 200.00 feet
Spread: 20.00 to 25.00 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11. When grown outdoors, this tree prefers deep, porous, moderately fertile, reasonably moist soils in full sun. Tolerant of some dry soil conditions however. Also tolerant of windy conditions. May be grown from seed sown in moist, sandy, peaty soils, but seed-grown trees typically have widely-spaced tiers of leaves that are less ornamentally attractive than the leaves found on trees raised from terminal cuttings. Best growth generally occurs in sub-tropical regions.

For indoor use, this tree may be grown in containers or tubs in fertile, porous, sandy, peaty, slightly acidic, well-drained soils in fairly cool conditions (55-65 degrees F). Full sun is normally best for developing compact symmetrical growth, but some light afternoon shade may be needed to avoid possible foliage bleach (yellow tints). As a houseplant, it will generally adapt to the warm, dry atmosphere found in most offices and homes. Consider weekly or biweekly applications of dilute liquid fertilizer from spring through fall. Avoid soils that are too wet or too dry.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Norfolk Island pine is a pyramidal to columnar, coniferous, evergreen tree with a symmetrical form that features whorled, horizontal branches (typically 5 branches per whorl) in tiers radiating outward from a strong, single, upright trunk. Secondary branches in two rows spread horizontally or droop slightly. It is native to Norfolk Island off the coast of Australia where it typically grows on basalt sea cliffs and interior rain forests, sometimes reaching majestic heights of 200’ or more with trunk diameters to 6’ or more. It was discovered on Captain Cook’s second voyage (1772-1775), and was subsequently introduced into cultivation in 1793. It is now widely planted throughout the world in subtropical regions, often in coastal areas. It is common in Hawaii, parts of southern Florida and parts of southern California up the coast to the San Francisco Bay area.

Needle-like, awl-shaped juvenile leaves (each to 1/2” long) have incurved sharp-pointed ends. Scale-like adult leaves (each to 1/4” long) are lanceolate to ovate-triangular, overlap each other and are closely arranged along the shoots pointing toward the shoot ends. Cylindrical male pollen cones grow to 2” long. Nearly globular, spiny-scaled, female seed cones grow to 3-6” in diameter.

Norfolk Island Pine is now the most popular species in the genus in North America where it is commonly grown in pots and tubs as a decorative indoor plant.

In St. Louis, it is grown as a container/tub plant, typically in the 3-6’ tall range. It grows slowly, and in proper growing conditions has a long life. It looks like a pine with horizontal needle-like branches, but it is not part of the pine genus.

Genus name comes from the Araucanian Indians of central Chile to whose territory Araucaria is native.

Specific epithet comes from Greek meaning variously leaved.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for spider mites or scale. Mushroom root rot may occur. For more information see: Problems Common to Many Indoor Plants

Garden Uses

Lawn specimen. Tropical accent. Houseplant for colder climates.