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Question
I was recently given a north fork pine. Actually there are four plants, tallest is 25", in a 6" pot. They all have new growth but the middle plant has browning and dry branches on the bottom. I remove them as they develop. Is this normal? They get filtered morning sun. They are looking a little crowded. I was thinking of repotting, do you think this will help?
Thank you in advance for your help.

Answer
Hi Duwana,

A limited amount of needle drop from th lowest branches is normal for a Norfolk Island Pine. It is common to put multiple plants together to make a fuller plant. Sometimes one of the plants does not take as well as the others and may die back. However, that is not a good reason to separate the individual plants because their roots are intertwined and cannot practically be separated. Just in case you were considering doing that.

More than the usual amount of needle drop can be caused by excessive dryness or inadequate light. The 6-inch pot is a bit small, so it may be getting too dry between waterings. I recommend moving it to a 7 or 8 inch pot, but do it carefully.

Remove the plant from its existing pot and you should see a network of roots completely wrapped around the rootball. (If you do not see this, then put it back into its existing pot.) Put about an inch of standard peat-based, soilless potting mix o the bottom of the new pot. Do NOT put stones or pebbles in the bottom of the pot!

Take a fork and scratch and loosen the roots around the outside of the rootball so they pull away just a bit from the rootball. Put the loosened rootball in the new pot and center it. The top of the rootball should be about an inch below the rim of the pot. If it is more than that, then add more potting mix under the rootball. Fill in potting mix all around the sides of the rootball and tamp it in firmly until it is even with the top of the rootball. Do NOT add any potting mix on top of the existing rootball. Then water the plant thoroughly until some water runs out of the drainage holes.

After repotting, water as soon as the top half-inch of potting mix feels dry.

An east-facing window is great for a Norfolk Pine as long as the plant is very close to and in front of that window, which should be uncovered throughout the daylight hours. Keep the temps as cool as possible.

I have written articles on repotting and on Norfolk Island Pine care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at wcreed@HorticulturalHelp.com.

Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.

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Will Creed, Interior Landscaper
Horticultural Help, NYC

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Will Creed

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I am the only expert in this category with professional hands-on experience and knowledge of all indoor plants. I can answer questions regarding light, water, fertilizer, repotting, pruning and humidity and temperature requirements. I can identify plant pests and provide information on safe, effective treatments. My answers are based on 35 years of professional experience and scientific research and are clear and easy to understand. I do NOT use search engines to find answers to your questions. If you read my previous posts here, you will get a good idea as to how thorough and professional my answers are.

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I have over 35 years of professional indoor landscaping experience caring for plants in homes, offices, building lobbies, stores, restaurants, and other adverse environments. I have written extensively on the care of indoor plants, including a 260 page book. My specialties include Ficus trees, low light plants, repotting, pest control, and re-blooming holiday plants. Be sure to check my ratings and nominations to learn why I am the top-rated indoor plant expert. I am the only House Plant expert consistently ranked in the AllExperts Top 20.

Education/Credentials
BA, Amherst College

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