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Problem With Norfolk Pine

Question:

I'm having a real problem with a Norfolk pine. It seems to have signs of both too much water and not enough water. It was beautiful when I bought it in November, but is starting to look bad. The lower branches are getting shriveled and the needles are hard and falling off. The upper branches look fine, but it also has yellowish/brown areas that fall off easily.

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The drainage is good, I mist it several times a week, and give it about a pint of water per week. It seems to dry out in the week period. Also, there isn't any place in the house where it will get much direct light. Thanks for any help!

Gary from Oregon City, OR

Answer:

First off, you said your Norfolk pine doesn't get much direct light. Direct sunlight isn't necessary, in fact it's not recommended for Norfolk pines, but good light is important. Put your tree in the room in your house that receives the best light.

Once it warms up, set it outside in partial shade (like under a tall tree). Norfolks really appreciate spending time outdoors in the summer. Just make sure to watch moisture levels carefully and continue to mist them so they don't dry out.

In the winter, it's usually fine to let Norfolk pines dry out a little between watering. However, when the tips start to turn brown and the lower branches drop off, it's a sign that the air around your tree is too dry and/or it isn't getting enough water.

In their natural environment, these trees thrive in 50% humidity. Instead of misting a couple of times a week, try doing it daily and see what happens. Leave a spray bottle next to your tree and give it a good misting each day when you walk by. (I mist my two Norfolk pines first thing each morning on my way to the kitchen). Don't be afraid of using cold water. Unlike most houseplants, Norfolk pines prefer cool water misting to water that is room temperature.

Depending on how large your tree is, a pint of water a week may not be enough. Now that the active growing season is here, the soil should never be allowed to completely dry out. Keep it moist, but not wet. Water as soon as the top 1-inch of soil is dry. I water my Norfolk pines (and all of my houseplants) about once a week. I set them in the kitchen sink (or bathtub) and give them a good soak-leaving them there until water stops running out the drain hole.

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As for your brown branches, prune them as necessary, but only if you're sure they are dead. If you are not completely sure they are gone, leave them be. They will eventually drop off on their own.

Good luck!

Ellen

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.

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