Q: I have a large, four year-old Norfolk pine in a pot. Can I plant it in my yard? The trunk is more than an inch thick and it’s over six feet tall. It’s big and beautiful but it needs a bigger place in which to grow.
A: Along with dawn redwood and ginkgo trees, Norfolk Island pine is considered by some botanists to be among the most primitive living plants still with us. This common indoor plant has been found in fossils nearly sixty million years old. Further, it is not a pine but a tropical plant found originally on Norfolk Island, near Australia. In the wild, it can grow to a whopping 200 feet tall!
The Chinafir tree, Cunninghamia lanceolata is first cousin to the Norfolk Pine and is sometimes successfully grown outdoors in Atlanta in a warm, protected spot. Your plant, though, must be kept indoors in winter.
As a houseplant, the Norfolk pine can live happily in a home for many years. A common problem is lower branches which turn brown and fall off. Prevention is to provide plenty of light – a sunny bay window is an excellent placement. The plant won’t do well in the corner of a dark room. In addition, cool temperatures (around 65 degrees) will contribute to long life. Although the plant can grow in dry-ish soil, keeping the roots slightly moist is much better.