No holes in the roof please
June 25, 2007 4:59 PM   Subscribe

Help: My Norfolk Island Pine is about to grow through the roof.

Our Norfolk Island Pine is growing ever higher. We've had it for twenty years and it is now two inches from our eight foot ceiling. Soon I'll bring it down to our dining room where the ceilings are 6 inches higher, but I'm looking for a long range solution. We live in the Northeast so planting it outside is not an option. I have considered driving it down to Florida and planting it in the in-laws back yard. Is pruning an option? My long range goal is to keep it alive, where might I find someone with high ceilings to adopt it?
posted by Xurando to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
See here: Unfortunately, pruning is not an option when it comes to controlling the growth of this plant. Removing top growth is not likely to prompt side growth. It would result in a tree without its top, thus destroying its natural symmetry. I don’t believe you’d be happy with the results.
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:35 PM on June 25, 2007

I'm a little confused about your question. Mainly because my only experience with Norfolk Island Pines is as 20m-high trees planted outside. You've tagged this question "houseplants". I'm pretty sure that's not a houseplant. I'm pretty sure it would be happier in your garden, outside...
posted by Jimbob at 5:39 PM on June 25, 2007

Re-reading your question, outside isn't suitable. Fair call. Still, trying to grow one of these things indoors sounds like a bad idea. Euthanasia may be the only option.
posted by Jimbob at 5:43 PM on June 25, 2007

Run a "free to tall home" ad in local papers.

Regarding planting it in Florida, I'd worry about the stress involved in the long drive and planting it in a new climate.
posted by iguanapolitico at 5:55 PM on June 25, 2007

You should be able to move it if you prepare it suitably (ie harden it off a bit so it's reasonably dormant, protect the rootball etc). Nurseries ship trees all the time, I'd find a nice friendly local one and ask them to point you in the right direction.
posted by fshgrl at 6:03 PM on June 25, 2007

posted by mdonley at 6:06 PM on June 25, 2007

Jimbob: They're grown inside all over in northern climes.

Xurando: They grow outside in southern climes. They reach 200 feet. This site recommends, when you run out of room: At this time, it's time to test for winter hardiness. The winter hardiness test is simple. Leave your overgrown Norfolk Island pine on the patio and see if it'll survive an Arkansas winter. Of course it won’t, but you can appease any feelings of guilt by saying you were doing it in the name of science.

You could also, in the interest of science, go ahead and cut a foot or two off. It won't look bad, really.

Then, with the top part implement this solution from another horticultural site,

I life in the Boston Area. I have a Norfolk Island Pine tree that my wife gave me 30 years ago. It is getting too tall for my house. It is now about 5 ft tall. I keep it on my porch in the summer and the basement in winter. I'm not sure what to do with this plant when it gets too tall to move around and too tall for my house. Any sugesstions? I don't wnat to get rid of it.

Araucaria heterophylla, aka Norfolk Island Pine can be air layered or even grown from a terminal cutting. If successful you'd have two smaller ones, if not one smaller one. It is a slow process and a basement in Boston probably is not the spot to try it, wait till spring.
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I'm lost hre. What is "air layered" mean. Do I ct off the top and try to root it?

In brief, you make a cut in the thick stem of an overgrown house plant at the spot where you want the new "bottom" (roots) of the plant to be. You wrap the cut area with sphagnum moss, moisten it, and then enclose the area
with plastic wrap until roots grow. I don't recall if you use rooting hormone with some plants. Go to Google and search for "air layering norfolk island pine" - you'll get plenty of results.

posted by beagle at 6:17 PM on June 25, 2007

Apologies, I guess air layering means you form the roots and then cut later. Rather than the suggested Google search above, see here.
posted by beagle at 6:21 PM on June 25, 2007

Our similarly-aged Norfolk (which we bafflingly called "Fred") was put outside two autumns ago in northern Indiana, for similar height-related concerns. It's dead.

We did keep a few of its sprouts or offshoots or seedlings, whatever you want to call them, and gave some to friends and neighbors. Now we have Frederico in our living room.

One option we considered that wasn't feasible for us but you might want to think about was calling the local botanical conservatory to see if they had a home for it.
posted by kyleg at 7:52 PM on June 25, 2007

You can't prune the top of a conifer like the Norfolk pine. It will not create new trunks, and its ugly crownless torso will silently reproach you until you snap and heave it into the woodchipper.

(I know someone above said it wouldn't look bad, but here in NZ I've seen quite a few decapitated Norfolk pines whose suburban owners panicked when the tree outgrew the back yard. They look sad and ugly).

Just possibly you might manage to curb further growth by pruning the roots when you re-pot - that's the mainstay technique of bonsai.

Do not plant it in the in-laws' back yard if you want it to have a long life. They grow really, really tall, and if the climate is favourable, they're only suitable in the long term as specimen trees in parks. In 10-20 years, the in-laws will want to fell it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:58 PM on June 25, 2007

posted by BrotherCaine at 8:16 PM on June 25, 2007

My mom once donated a really tall houseplant to the rainforest exhibit at the local zoo. They were very happy to have it.
posted by Ostara at 8:52 PM on June 25, 2007

Do you have a paper cutter?
posted by jpdoane at 9:57 PM on June 25, 2007

My grandmother used to grow cactii and succulents. A lot of cactii and succulents. So many that my grandfather built a greenhouse on the side of their Manitoba farmhouse. I mean, a ridiculous number of plants for a small house.

She had one cactus that had grown too tall to house in the upstairs, so they put it in the basement and cut a hole through the floor for it to grow through.

I'm not suggesting that you do that, but for some reason your question reminded me of this oddity of my grandparents place.
posted by Nodecam at 11:15 AM on June 26, 2007

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