The Surprising Life of a Norfolk Island Pine

The Surprising Life of a Norfolk Island Pine

From high-altitude seed harvests in Hawaii to growing fields in south Florida, your Norfolk Island pine makes a long and miraculous journey to add color and life to your home. By Karen Weir-Jimerson
By Karen Weir-Jimerson

Once upon a Time… 
…there was a seed that lived far away. This is the story of how the Norfolk Island pine became one of the most beautiful and beloved houseplants. 

Norfolk Island Pine Seeds held in handWhere is Norfolk Island?
Pull out a map and find Australia. Then take a sharp right at Brisbane and travel over 900 miles of water and you’ll discover tiny (it's only about 13 square miles in size) subtropical territory of Norfolk Island. This is where this plant originated, and where famed British explorer Captain James Cook discovered the Norfolk Island pine in 1774. 

It Starts with a Seed
Costa Farms gathers seeds from large, football-size cones from Norfolk Island pines grown in Oahu, Hawaii (it’s so much closer than Norfolk Island).

We harvest the lime-green prickly cones that grow at the tops of the trees the old-fashioned way—by climbing the trees. The tall, tall (200-foot!) trees.  



Planting Norfolk Island Pine Seeds

Hand Planted with Love
The cones harvested in Hawaii are carefully stored in special coolers (and kept at a consistent temperature of 38 degrees F.). We bring the cones home to our farm in South Florida and harvest the seeds from the cones so they can be planted.  

Norfolk Island Pine seedling in plastic tray

Germination or Bust!
Once the seeds are harvested, we're on a timeline to get them planted as they hold up only for a limited time.

After planting, the seeds take 9 to 13 days to germinate. Sadly, each seed doesn’t make it. Only 50 percent of the seeds sprout. It takes special care and patience to grow these plants. 

Worker in a field of Norfolk Island Pines

A Sea of Green
The sprouted seeds begin a long journey that brings them to your home. Costa Farms produces almost 2 million Norfolk Island plants a year. We are the largest grower of Norfolk Island pines in the US, so we have a lot of experience in producing healthy plants. From seed to sprouts to plants, we care for our Norfolk Island pines at our farm in South Florida. The tiny plants spend one whole year growing in trays. Then they are transplanted into plug trays for another whole year. After that they are planted into 4- and 6-inch pots. 

Norfolk Island Pine seedlings held in hand

First Hair Cut
Since Norfolk Island pines are actually trees, they need to be trimmed back to help maintain their small size; this also helps them become more dense and leafy. Keeping them coiffed when they are young helps them become attractive houseplants. So these baby Norfolk Island pines get their first haircut when they are just months old.  

Man holding large Norfolk Island Pine plant

Grow, Baby Grow
There’s a reason the place where plants are grown is called a nursery. In this environment, these baby plants grow into happy lush plants. For several years, the Norfolk Island pines enjoy the warm sunny Florida weather, drinking up nurturing rains. 

Norfolk Island Pines in packing house ready to ship out

Another Journey Begins
When the Norfolk Island pines are ready to sell, they are wrapped up and packed into trucks. At Christmas, we decorate these living Christmas trees for you. When they reach the shelves of your local home improvement store or mass merchandiser, they are several years old and have experienced a lot of growth and changes. And now they are ready to be part of your home. 

Discover fun ways to use Norfolk Island pines in every season! 


Norfolk Island Pine Questions?
We love to talk to other gardeners. Email us your Norfolk Island Pine questions and one of our experts will get back to you!