Linda Geist

NEVADA, Mo. – If you don’t have time or space for a large Christmas tree, consider a Norfolk Island pine.

“Many stores sell these evergreen houseplants during the holidays,” says University of Missouri Extension agronomist Pat Miller. “These easy-to-grow plants often come decorated and are perfect for gift-giving or to keep for yourself.”

Norfolk Island pines grow slowly and seldom need repotting, she says. An extremely tolerant plant, it prefers diffused sunlight or partial shade with full sun in the winter. However, it will survive in cool, warm, light and dark locations. Branches droop in low-light conditions.

Keep the soil uniformly moist but not wet, Miller says. Fertilize lightly every one to two months.

Miller says many Norfolk Island pines come with several stems in a pot. They can be pruned at soil level to one stem. As they grow, the lower limbs will drop off. “This is normal, so don’t be concerned when this happens,” she says.

A newly acquired plant needs time to adjust to its environment. Immediate repotting can stress the plant. Many do not require potting for some time. Pot-bound plants—in which roots are too extensive for the pot—require frequent watering and grow poorly. Repot in a mixture of three parts sphagnum peat, one part vermiculite and one part perlite, or choose a commercially available “peat-lite” mix. In most cases, adding soil to a potting medium leads to poor drainage, overwatering and root diseases.

To avoid damage to the root system when repotting, firm the soil gently around the root ball. Avoid pressing so hard that the soil becomes compacted. Allow space for water at the top of the pot. Water newly potted plants thoroughly, drain and do not water again until necessary.

“With minimal care, the Norfolk Island pine can provide you with not only a small Christmas tree but an interesting evergreen houseplant year-round,” says Miller.

For more information, contact Miller at 417-448-2560. She also recommends the free MU Extension guide “Caring for Houseplants” (G6510), available from county extension centers and online at