Evergreen conifer
Kiran Narain

The Christmas tree grows best in bright indirect sunlight
The Christmas tree grows best in bright indirect sunlight

Araucaria excelsa is often used as a Christmas tree all over the world and has been popular since long as a decorative pot plant. A slow growing species, this is also known as ‘Norfolk Island Pine’ and makes a handsome and house plant since it does best in bright indirect or curtain filtered sunlight.

An evergreen coniferous tree of distinctive ornamental foliage, araucaria grows up to 80 feet tall outdoors in conducive climatic conditions but indoors it grows up to seven to eight feet only. Growing rather at a slow pace, say about four to six inches per year, it is rather expensive but worth its price due to its immense beauty and evergreen foliage. About `BD inch needles grow clustered together in fan-shaped form, which are again arranged in tiers. Seen from the top, the plant looks like magnified snow drops in green.

A compost of two parts loam, one part leaf mould and one part sharp sand makes a good potting mixture for araucaria. Care must be taken for good drainage, arranging crocks at the bottom. An eight inch pot is normally adequate to start with when grown as a house plant. Bigger plants can be transplanted to larger containers and tubs with age, say every two to three years to give space to the roots to spread. Re-potting should be done in early spring.

Araucaria can tolerate wide variations in temperature but winter temperature should be kept ideally more than 7`BAC and the pots may be moved to a sunny area. And, as is the rule with almost all plants, water it well during active growth period reducing the watering during the dormant period, barely keeping the soil moist. Feed established plants with a standard fertiliser every three to four months but wait for about that much period before feeding newly purchased pots.

Araucaria is propagated from cuttings of young ripened wood about four to five inches long which can be rooted in sand or peat during the monsoon season though not always easily. Cuttings will root and grow sideways like branches rather than upright. The new growth is bright green which darkens gradually. Its tiered green leaved seldom fail to please, however, if kept in excessive heat or too wet the leaves lose their crisp appearance.