Celebrate the Seasons with a Norfolk Island Pine
If Santa Claus lived in the southern hemisphere instead of North Pole, he might decorate with a Norfolk Island pine for Christmas. That’s because Norfolk Island pine, Araucaria heterophylla, isn’t really a pine, but a tropical tree that evolved on Norfolk Island, a speck of land in the South Pacific nestled between Australia, New Caledonia, and New Zealand. Unlike traditional Christmas trees such as balsam fir or Scots pine, Norfolk Island pine doesn't tolerate cold weather, so it’s grown as an indoor plant that can be enjoyed in your home long after the holidays have ended.
Treasured for its dark green “needles,” pyramidal branching habit, and well-spaced branches, Norfolk pine is a dream to decorate. The plant’s foliage is soft to the touch and there’s plenty of room for twinkling lights and lightweight ornaments.
Norfolk Island pine is easy to care for. All it requires is thorough watering whenever the soil feels dry to the touch. Although it’ll survive almost anywhere, it prefers a moist atmosphere, so mist it often or place it on a pebble-filled tray with water.
Although Norfolk Island pine can tolerate partial sunlight, it does best where it gets a few hours of direct sun a day. Lower branches are also less likely to die back if the sun shines on the entire tree. Turn your plant weekly to prevent it from leaning towards the light.
During the summer, Norfolk Island pine can enjoy a vacation outdoors. Place it in a protected spot where it isn’t cooked by the direct sun and water at least once a week. If your plant gets too big for its container, summer is also a great time to transplant to a larger pot. Use a quality commercial potting soil and be sure the new pot has adequate drainage holes in the bottom.
Four-Season Decorating Ideas
Christmas isn’t the only time of year when you can decorate with Norfolk Island pines. Here are some ideas for four of our favorite times of year.
WINTER: This Christmas, instead of putting your gifts under the tree, why not decorate with them? Hang colorful, dangly earrings as ornaments and let guests choose their own gifts. Lightweight costume jewelry makes excellent ornaments. Use a strand of glittery eyelash yarn as a garland.
SPRING: To celebrate spring, attach lightweight bird ornaments to the branches of your Norfolk pine. Wrap the pot with a vintage linen tablecloth, and scatter colorful plastic eggs, bird’s nests, bunnies, and lambs around the base. Insert a “welcome” card to make visitors feel right at home when they come through your front door. Use a strand of Bunny Tail yarn as a garland.
SUMMER: Make your Fourth of July parties extra special with a Norfolk Island pine dressed up in America’s finest. Put your pine in a red metal bucket and use it as a bold centerpiece on your drink or dessert table. Attach flag pins and starry decals to capture the holiday spirit.
FALL: In fall, create a warm, woodsy look with Norfolk Island pine. In this large red pot, two Norfolk Pines are showcased on a fieldstone hearth. (NOTE: Always keep your plants away from the heat of the fire.) The soil beneath the pines is camouflaged with a mulch of pinecones harvested from the nearby forest. Brightly colored gourds finish off the scene.