Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai Care [Araucaria Heyerophylla]

The Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai is an airy conifer native to the South Pacific; specifically on an island. This 13-square foot island lies within the pacific ocean that connects New Zealand, New Caledonia, and Australia.

The tree is characterized by its light green leaves that turn dark as they mature. It is popular among Bonsai growers for its spaced branches and triangular outline; they can grow up to 200ft in the wild, but if used for Bonsai specimens, it can be trimmed down to about 10 feet.

Just like every other Bonsai, the Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai also require some special treatments before they can grow to form that Bonsai specimen you desire; read this article for details on how to go about it.

Scientific NameAraucaria heterophylla
FamilyAraucariaceae
Average Height100 to 200 feet
Average Spread20 to 25 feet
Origin CountriesNorfolk Island
LeafEverygreen
WaterMedium
SunlightPart shade
MaintenanceMedium

Can I Bonsai we Bonsai a Norfolk Island Pine tree?

My Norfolk Island Pine Forest, The Bonsai Zone, Jan 2021

Yes, you can Bonsai a Norfolk Island Pine tree. However, Norfolk island pine trees used for a Bonsai specimen usually display certain unusual traits that you should be aware of.

Norfolk Island trees are grown as bonsai usually find it difficult to produce secondary trunks from branches. This means that if at some point, you have to cut off the trunk in a particular spot, you will have to wait until the bud in that spot develops; instead of just having to wire a branch that will form a new trunk. The new buds will develop new trunks, you can cut off the ones you think are not necessary.

Secondly, weak Norfolk island Bonsai branches ( those sparsely scattered branches at the bottom) don’t grow secondary branches. Therefore, to encourage stronger branches that will continue to produce more branches, it is necessary that you cut off those weak branches and wait until new buds emerge. The new buds will produce more branches.

Also, it is common to see long internodes linking different branch whorls, those internodes can be shortened by cutting off the trunk. As usual, wait for the new buds to start developing new trunks. The first sets of branches produced by the new trunks will be close to one another. As long as you continue to shorten long internodes, the branches of your tree will always form a nice pattern.

Lastly anytime you want to cut off any trunk, see to it that there are some green branches at the spot where you intend to cut. This will prevent you from killing the tree because Norfolk island Bonsai don’t usually survive complete defoliation.

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai History

Capt. James Cook discovered the Norfolk Island Pine tree on his 2nd expedition which took place between 1772-1775. After its discovery, the tree was widely cultivated shortly after and has maintained its popularity among growers till today. Nowadays, grocery stores and nurseries sell Norfolk Island Bonsai in commercial quantities because of its striking semblance to a miniaturized Christmas tree. Some people take this practice a notch further by decorating the branches of the tree with garlands and small ornaments.

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai scientific name

The scientific name of a Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai is Araucaria heyerophylla

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai care

Norfolk Island Bonsai has some unusual traits that make its cultivation a bit challenging; and if care is not taken, they may die or suffer deformity. However, when they are properly cared for, they turn out to be one the most charming and vigorous Bonsai specimens.  Check below for details on how you can treat your Norfolk island in the best way.

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai Temperature

Unfortunately, unlike some Bonsai species, Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai is not cold-hardy in any way, and therefore, they must be protected at all cost from being exposed to any temperature level below 50°F. On a similar note, they also cannot tolerate exposure to extremely hot weather. The best daytime temperature for a Norfolk Island Bonsai is any level of temperature between 65°f to 70°f. Likewise, the best nighttime temperature for them is 60°f.

During summer, they can survive outdoors as long as the temperature remains moderate and they are not placed where they will be exposed to too much wind. Overexposure to excessive wind will cause the tree to dry out, which will lead to breakage. The prevailing temperature in the natural habitat of Norfolk Island Bonsai usually remains at about 70°f.

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai fertilizer

When a Norfolk island tree is kept as Bonsai, it is best to apply fertilizers periodically. Fertilizers should be applied during the active growing season of the tree all through summer and spring. It is not advisable to fertilize a Norfolk Bonsai tree during its dormant period (winter). And also, after repotting, do not fertilize your Norfolk Island Bonsai until after 3 to 4 weeks.

The best fertilizer to use for a Norfolk Island Bonsai is a water-soluble fertilizer and is to be applied on the foliages of your plant. Use a balanced fertilizer in the ratio of 20-20-20. Make sure it is applied according to instruction. Fertilize every month starting from either April or May to September.

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai pruning/trimming

Pruning My Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai Forest, The Bonsai Zone, Dec 2019

If a Norfolk Island tree is left to grow, it can grow up to 61m tall; hence, the more reason they have to be pruned to keep their miniature. The best time to trim this tree is during spring. And should be done when the color of the new growth is still light green.

How to prune/trim a Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai

Trim or pinch back new growths to their safest points. The tree cannot tolerate complete defoliation, hence, you must refrain from cutting all the new growths. You must keep some new growth so that the shock (from defoliation) will not be too much for the tree to handle.

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai repotting

Norfolk Island Bonsai don’t grow vigorous roots but have varying root systems: while some may have very small roots, the roots of some may be very short and shallow.

Start your Norfolk Island Bonsai cultivation with a 6-inch pot. This will help establish a root system that will encourage the tree to grow up to about 2tf tall. However, if you intend to have a tall tree, wait for a few years and repot in an 8-inch container or pot to encourage stronger growth.

The pot you want to use for your tree doesn’t necessarily have to ve tall, but rather, it can be shallow and heavy enough to firmly hold the height of the tree to prevent it from falling. For example, a Norfolk Island Bonsai planted in a large pot of let’s say 24 inches will grow up about 12 feet tall which is not an ideal height for a Bonsai tree. Repot your tree every 2-4 years, and mind you, Norfolk cannot handle root pruning because their roots are usually small.

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai pests and diseases

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai tree is vulnerable to the very common insects that affect most other Bonsai trees like; Mealybugs and Scales insects. They are also prone to attacks from pathogens Cankers and Needle Necrosis. Needle necrosis is a condition that causes plant tissue to die, this may be as a result of trauma, bacteria, or virus infection. Needle necrosis usually occurs in Norfolk Island Bonsai after a prolonged period of high humidity.

This infection can be easily recognized by the change of the tree’s foliage from healthy light green to reddish-brown, which may lead to the death of your plant. Unlike every other condition that can be remedied by just applying a specific insecticide, Needle necrosis can only be controlled by cutting off affected leaves.

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai soil

Plant your Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai in a commercial houseplant soil mix. Ensure the soil encourages drainage so that excess water can be easily drained off. To facilitate proper drainage, put pebbles of about an inch layer or more underneath the soil mix. This will endure effective drainage and also increase the weight of the pot.

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai watering

A typical Norfolk Island Pune tree loves it when its soil is moistened, however, like most other Bonsai trees, they may suffer root rot when their soil becomes soggy. Therefore, before you water your plant, make sure at least 1 inch of the top layer of soil dries out. Also, shallow pots dry out water faster, hence, you must check your tree every 2 to 3 days to prevent total dry out.

To water your Norfolk Island Bonsai in the best way, the pot should be placed in a sink, then pour water until you can see water draining out from the bottom. Return the plant to its original place after thorough draining. However, if it is impossible to move your plant about, water your plant the regular way and drain off excess water in a drain saucer using a tipping or turkey baster.

You can also water your plant with tap water, but make sure the plant has been placed outside for about an hour before watering. This will ensure that the water going into the soil is at room temperature and also ensure that a certain amount of chlorine in the water is dispersed.

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai Sunlight

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai can be planted successfully indoors, but it is best to rotate their positioning between outdoors and indoors every week because they require full sun to stimulate their healthy growth. Lack of enough exposure to sunlight will cause the trunk of your tree to bend. Your tree will also benefit from the partial shade as a way to protect them from frigid conditions.

Can Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai trees grow indoors?

Yes, a Norfolk island Bonsai tree can be grown outdoors. However, you should ensure they are placed where they can receive enough sunlight (full sunlight) daily. And if that is not possible, rotate the placement of the plant between outdoors and indoors. Sunlight is important for the survival of a Norfolk Island tree as they tend to have deformed trunks when they don’t have access to enough sunlight.

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai care indoors

Although every other care discussed in this article so far is germane to the survival of your Norfolk plant, but the best care you can give to them is enough sunlight as it affects them more.

Keep your Norfolk Island Bonsai indoors once the lowest temperature is at 45°f and also, no matter where you place your tree, make sure it receives at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day. You can either use artificial light or place the tree on the southern window.

How to propagate a Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai

The best way to propagate a Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai is through its seed. Although they can also be propagated by root cuttings your tree may have certain trait deformities. For example, a Norfolk Island pine tree propagated from cuttings may not have branch symmetry: a special feature that makes Norfolk Island trees attractive. After you have successfully harvested the seed from the spherical cone of a fallen Norfolk Pine tree, follow the steps below to guide you through the process of propagating a Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai.

  1. Pour a soil mix comprising of an equal amount of sand, loam, and peat in a 31(12 inch) deep pot or container.
  2. The pointed end of the seed should be pressed deep into the soil using your fingers. The circular end of the seed must be visible.
  3. Water the soil to keep it damp and place the pot on a shaded windowsill.

Bonus: Note that Norfolk seeds germinate at different times: while it may take about 12 days to germinate, it may take some about 6 months to germinate.

How to save a dying Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai

Water your plant with enough water so that excess water can be drained off from the bottom hole. When Norfolk trees are not receiving enough sunlight, they will respond by dropping off their lower branches.

Dropped branches of a Norfolk tree do not grow back, and therefore, you must eliminate all dead branches by pruning them. Give your increase your plant access to sunlight thereafter.

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