I have a Norfolk pine that has been dropping branches to the point that there are only 3 levels of branches on a very bare 3.5 foot trunk. What can I do to correct this problem? The tree is at least 15 years old.
Jefferson County Colorado trees and shrubs
It is not unusual for this plant to drop some needles, slowly, over a period of time as part of the aging process.
But if the needle/branch loss has been rapid, it is likely in response to a change in its environment. Has the plant been recently moved to a new location where the light/drafts are different than the previous location? Reduced light levels can cause needles to drop.
Check your watering. The upper surface of soil dries out quickly in our dry climate and it is easy to think the plant needs water when it doesn't. Put your finger into the soil to your first or second knuckle to see what the moisture level feels like there. Also don't let the tree sit in water.
These plants also like higher humidity than we can provide in our dry climate (50% or so). Perhaps a house or room humidifier might help.
I haven't moved the plant in years, but will recheck the watering situation and then could add a humidifier to see if that helps. Would spritzing with water be helpful?
The poor thing looks awful. Also, how could I start a new plant from this one?
Please see the following fact sheet for information on how to propagate your Norfolk Island pine. You can take either a terminal (tip) cutting or perform air layering, both of which are explained in the following:
Spritzing with water doesn't provide a long term humidifying solution; it is temporary at best.
To provide humidity, a room or whole house humidifier is best. You can also try the following.
Get a waterproof tray that is deep enough to set small stones or pebbles in. Then place water in the tray and set the plant on top of the stones, insuring that the water does not reach any drain holes. Basically, you want the water to evaporate up and around the plant, but not irrigate the plant or have it sit in the water, which would just rot the plant roots.