What to do with a giant Norfolk Island pine tree

throgmorten(Zone 5 IN)October 5, 2008

Hi there

My aunt has a Norfolk Island pine tree that she loves, but it's getting too big for the house. Here question is this:

***I don't know if you remember but I have a 12 ft./15 year old tree that is getting too big for the house. Do you know if I can prune it and cut off part of the top?

Any pine tree experts out there? Anything else she can do?

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amccour

Everyone says to not cut off the top because this will make it asymmetrical, and the new leaders won't be as strongly attached. NIPs in nature apparently get broken tops somewhat frequently and grow new leaders just fine, though, so I'm not all that certain that this is as bas as some people say, and I've been trying to get confirmation on this myself for awhile, now.

One of the NIPS in the bucket of them I got from Lowes last year clearly was broken at some point and has a new leader forming, and it looks fine, and Wollemi pines can also be cut back and do alright with it, and as far as I know, they have similar growth habits.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2008 at 9:28PM
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greattigerdane(z5NY)

When I had mine yrs ago, I had to cut it back (springtime) when it was just a couple of inches from hitting the ceiling.
Cutting the top back a foot or so, the tree will eventually grow new "leaders" (mine grew 5 or 6 top leaders) without any problems as far the tree looking weird.

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 3:35PM
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lucy(6)

Hello - it's NOT a pine of any kind, whatever it's called. It's an Araucaria heterophylla, and info for pines will not be the same at all.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 8:37PM
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mr_subjunctive

True, but nobody was providing information for pines. So we're okay.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2008 at 7:29PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

They are both conifers with excurrent growth habits, so the same pruning rules apply.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 2:29PM
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jeannie7

Norfolk PineÂAraucaria heterophylla...Âprune it? It wont produce a new leader if u prune it off.
Side pruning is OK. Can prune 6" off all around.
It wont grow tall if you remove the top.
If the plant is in a container, once you see the roots appear at the surface, thatÂs the sign that the plant needs to be repottedÂ..up one size only
Cuttings tend to retain sideways growth if taken from lower branches.

Cant understand the stated view that it will grow another leader. All suggestions to its doing so is contrary to what actually happens.

Use it as a living XMAS Tree but be careful if you put lights on it.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 8:37PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

You are quite wrong. NIPs will typically form a new leader if the top is pruned out. I've seen such disfigurement many times. It is not recommended, however.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 9:20PM
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amccour

"You are quite wrong. NIPs will typically form a new leader if the top is pruned out. I've seen such disfigurement many times. It is not recommended, however."

Yeah, but if it's an indoors plant and you need to keep it smaller, I mean, isn't cutting it back a better option than throwing it out?

Or would it be better to cut it back really far? I've heard they'll put up new leaders then too, but they'll look better and possibly have a better structural integrity.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 12:15AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

By the way, amcour....I meant that jeannie7 was quite wrong about the her comment that these plants will not develop another leader.

No one can be the judge of whether it's better to toss or to prune. That call is entirely personal. I, for one, have never seen one that looked 'right' after pruning. I'd try like heck to find it another home before tossing it, though. Ha, if I did take it to the curb, it would be 'adopted' before an hour went by.

As far as cutting a NIP all the way back....I'm not too sure that that would work. But I've never done it, nor have I ever seen it done. Who knows?

    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 12:26PM
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greattigerdane(z5NY)

We aren't making this up.
What actually happens is, a cut leader WILL grow a new one, or grow multiple new "leaders" and continue to grow taller and taller like the origional leader did.
I kept mine because it still looked natural. I believe it was cut back just half a foot, not a foot, just enough to keep it from hitting the ceiling, plus a little bit more.
With multiple new leaders, it reminded me of a Christmas tree.
I cut a couple side branches back because of (drying needles) and they took forever and day to grow even a little bit back. I would not recommend cutting the side branches unless you absolutely had to.

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 3:52PM
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mr_subjunctive

Whether it'll grow a new leader or not, if the idea is to get a shorter plant, I'm pretty sure the top that was cut off could be re-rooted on its own, given a humid, cool, bright environment and some careful watering for a while.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 10:32PM
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amccour

I haven't heard of much success with getting tops to root. Side branchs will root but won't put up a new leader (I sort of want to try this sometime but I'm not really sure why). Also, side branches don't tend to regrow from my understanding, although I've seen trees where it's happened.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2008 at 12:31AM
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mr_subjunctive

We have one really big one at work that started to regrow side branches this summer; I haven't seen it on any other NIPs, though, so either the size or the environment is apparently important.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2008 at 7:10AM
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greattigerdane(z5NY)

I had talked to a local nursery guy yrs ago about tip rooting the leader and he said that rooting an NIP leader he thought would be almost impossible without PERFECT conditions, not sure what that is, or even if there was if that would matter.
I tried rooting three leaders once that grew after cutting the original one and nothing rooted after a month or so, they would just die. And he also stated that if you tried rooting a cutting of a side branch, that it would continue to grow like a "side" branch, that it would continue to grow "sideways" not vertical.
I guess if you wanted to start over, you can either try air layering, buy a new smaller NIP, or grow another one from seed.

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   October 10, 2008 at 1:06PM
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amccour

If you can't get a tip to root, though, wouldn't air layering be really difficult, to?

I think only older trees re-branch. I think I heard somewhere that the branches in younger trees act more like compound leaves? What I was talking about is that if you cut a branch off at it's growing tip, I don't get the impression they'll form a new growing tip, but I've seen it happen on a few branches on a NIP in a coffee shop downtown.

Also, since A. Columnaris is, apparently, often sold as an A. Heterophylla, does anyone know if these behave differently at all?

    Bookmark   October 10, 2008 at 11:14PM
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greattigerdane(z5NY)

You would think so.

Air layering is often be used for difficult to root plants. An above ground rooting method (air layering) in the thicker part of a "stem" not tip, must be the key.

I have never tried air layering a NIP, or anything else, so
I can't say for sure how difficult, or even how easy it might be to successfully air layer an NIP. It's just one of the propagation methods listed for this tree, tip cuttings weren't mentioned.

Side branches that have been trimmed a few inches back because just the very tips are brown and dry can form new growth again, but it takes a long time, at least with mine it did.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2008 at 12:07AM
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