Norfolk Island Pines Houseplants for Holiday and Year Round Decor

They can serve as both a Christmas tree and a pretty indoor plant afterwards.

One way to keep the holiday spirit going all year round is to bring home a Norfolk Island pine to add to your festive decor. You've probably seen these small trees around at grocery or home improvement stores, perhaps done up with red bows for the yuletide season. Because they look like tiny Christmas trees, they're perfect if you're short on space or want to have a few extra trees around the house. And when it's time to put away all your decorations, these pretty plants will still add welcome greenery to your indoor garden without requiring much care.

norfolk island pines
Helen Norman

What Is a Norfolk Island Pine?

Unlike the evergreen varieties of pine (Pinus spp.) you may be familiar with, the Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) isn't actually related. In fact, it's a tropical plant, thriving in more temperate climates. It originates from Norfolk Island, close to New Zealand. That's why they work well as indoor plants. They can be kept as a potted accessory in your interior design for years, almost becoming another family member.

"These small trees are always in demand around the holidays," says Erin Marino of The Sill, an online houseplant shop with physical locations in New York and California.

"We're seeing people purchase Norfolk pines as gifts. Maybe there are loved ones you're not going to be able to see this holiday season, and this is a fun thing that you can send them, and they can decorate it," Marino says. Plus, she's noticed people buying the trees for themselves because they "want to explore a sustainable tree or a tree that they'll keep past Christmas, and hopefully keep alive and enjoy for years to come."

norfolk island pine plant red pot
Dean Schoeppner

Decorating Your Norfolk Island Pine

When decorating your Norfolk pine, you may struggle a little with hanging heavy ornaments because the branches are weak and flexible until they mature. If your tree came with red bows as ornaments, you might want to save them for decorating each year.

Shirley Barnes Beuth, a landscape gardener for Fleurs Inc. based in Wyoming, Rhode Island, suggests letting kids "make little ornaments that would be lightweight, like paper snowflakes to put on it."

Young Norfolk pines can average 12-15 inches tall in their youth and grow slowly indoors up to five or six feet. That means they can serve as fun mantelpieces or tabletop trees, with or without ornaments, especially if you place them in decorative containers.

How to Care for Norfolk Island Pines

A Norfolk Island pine will stick around with you through the years if you water the plant only when the soil is dry. You should keep it by a window where it can get at least a couple hours of direct light, then indirect light for the rest of the day.

Barnes Beuth points out that temperature and humidity are also essential to pay attention to. "[A Norfolk pine] doesn't want to freeze, certainly, but it doesn't like to have drying heat either. When heat comes out of the register, there's no humidity to it. It's just bone dry," Barnes Beuth says. She suggests placing your potted plant on top of a large saucer filled with pebbles, then adding water to the saucer. This will evaporate and create a more humid microclimate around your tree. Plus, when you water your plant, this setup will help the excess drain away to avoid keeping the roots too wet.

If you keep up with caring for your Norfolk Island pine houseplant once the holidays are over, you can enjoy it all year round. "I think that it's just a really attractive houseplant that doesn't get as much credit as the fiddle leaf fig or some of the other plants out there," says Marino. "But it is really gorgeous as it matures."

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