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Norfolk Pine

Question:

My indoor Norfolk pine tree is dying the branches are turning brown falling off  and turning up from the bottom up..it is about 1/2 way up the tree (12 ft. tree)it is about 12 yrs. old is there anything we could do to save it? what could be wrong? we have obviously been doing it right all these years to have it be so big…we do have an indoor cat and we are not sure if he may have gotten into the soil to do his business

It is in a window with plenty of light and my husband has been doing the same thing with watering for the past 12 years but for some reason it is just recently been dying! any info you could provide would be greatly appreciated….this plant was given to me at my fathers funeral and is very special it started out very small and is now a large beautiful plant and we get compliments on it all the time!!

Answer:

There are several possibilities here. As Norfolk Island Pines age, they naturally will drop some of their lower branches as they add new ones on top. As they get older and taller, this process often accelerates because the available light is not sufficient to support as many branches as it did previously. This is particularly true when the tree gets close to or touches the ceiling. Unfortunately, there is no solution for this. Other plants and trees can be pruned back, but NIP’s cannot survive the cutting off of their growing tips.

When pets urinate or defecate in potting soil, it gradually changes the pH (acidity) of the soil. In time that will cause the nutrients in the soil to be unavailable to the plant. This can happen gradually out of sight until one day it reaches a toxic level and starts to kill the plant. You would have to have the soil pH tested to see if this is the problem and then just what is needed to get the soil back in balance. Adding lime is the usual solution for overly acidic soil.

Root damage can also occur gradually from improper watering. Any plant’s water requirements will change gradually over time. That is why following a rigid calendar schedule is not a good idea. Adding too much or too little with each watering will not have an immediate impact, but over time it will degrade the roots until they can no loner function well enough to support the plant. In general, it is best to allow the top couple of inches of soil to dry out in between thorough waterings.

Finally, using pots without drainage holes will usually lead to root problems after a while. Likewise, if you repotted, it was probably done incorrectly and that can cause root damage.

I’m sorry I cannot give one simple cause, but the symptoms you described here are generic and have several possible causes. You will have to sort through those possibilities and determine which seem to apply.