With its dark green, rubbery, needled foliage, the Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) stands out as a potted houseplant or landscape tree. Native to Norfolk Island near Australia, this needled evergreen is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. The Norfolk island pine requires full sunlight, 50 percent humidity and fast-draining, moist soil. Starting a new plant a clipping takes time and proper care. For best results, take the cutting during the summer months. If the kids are out of school, they can participate.
Pour equal parts peat moss, vermiculite and perlite into a 5-gallon bucket. Stir the materials to combine them thoroughly. Pour water from a watering can slowly into the bucket while stirring the media. Stop adding water when the media feels evenly moist but not soggy.
Place a 6-inch plastic pot on a flat surface. Use a pot that contains drainage holes. Pour the media into the pot, filling it to 1 inch below its top. Tamp the media down to settle it in the pot. Add more media to the pot if needed to keep the correct level.
Pour one part 70-percent isopropyl alcohol and one part water into a bowl. Submerge the blades of a pair of pruning shears and a knife in the solution. Let the blades soak for five minutes to disinfect them. Dry the blades with a cloth.
Select a terminal leader or vertical shoot at the Norfolk Island pine's top, that contains at least 6 to 8 inches of straight, disease-free growth. Cut horizontally through the shoot, 6 to 8 inches from its tip with the pruning shears. Cut the needles from the bottom one-third of the cutting using the knife. Cut a vertical slit in the stem's bark along one side of the cleared stem. Cut a second slit on the opposite side of the stem. Dip the bottom of the stem in rooting hormone powder.
Poke a hole with your finger in the center of the media in the pot. Make the hole 2 to 3 inches deep. Insert the cutting into the hole. Position the cutting so that it stands vertically upright with its bottom needles sitting 1/4 inch above soil level. Backfill the hole with soil and tamp it around the cutting.
Spray the cutting lightly with water from a spray bottle. Insert the end of a plastic straw into the soil against the inner edge of the pot. Push one to three more straws into the pot, spacing them evenly around the sides. Position the tops of the straws above the top of the cutting.
Place a clear plastic bag over the pot's top. Pull the bag down until it rests lightly on the straws. Wrap a rubber band around the pot and over the bag's edges to hold it in place. Cut a 1/2-inch slit in the bag's top with a knife to provide ventilation.
Set a heating mat on a flat surface in a room with a constant temperature of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Position the mat in bright, indirect sunlight, away from heating or cooling vents. Place the pot on the mat. Turn the mat on and adjust its temperature setting to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Check the cutting every one to three days for signs of moisture loss. Remove the bag and spray the cutting lightly with water in a spray bottle when the interior of the bag and the cutting's needles appear dry. Water the pot with a watering can when the top 1/2 inch of soil becomes dry. Never allow the soil to become soggy. Replace the bag after watering.
Check the cutting for roots six to eight weeks after planting. Remove the bag and tug gently on the cutting's tip, feeling for any resistance, a sign of rooting. Replace the bag if you feel no resistance or if the cutting slides upward out of the soil. Check the cutting for roots in one to two weeks. Remove the bag permanently and take the pot off the heating mat when it resists your pulls.
Water the rooted cutting when the top 1 inch of soil becomes dry. Pour the water directly into the pot. Avoid splashing the cutting's foliage as much as possible, and water early in the day to give all accidentally moistened foliage time to dry before nightfall. Do not overwater to the point that the soil becomes soggy. Discard any standing water collected in the pot's drainage tray.
Mix 1/2 teaspoon of 10-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer with 1 gallon of water in a watering can. Fertilize the Norfolk Island pine when it begins to produce new growth. Water the pot with the fertilizer solution. Discard any solution that drains into the tray. Reapply the fertilizer every 10 to 14 days.
Grow the Norfolk Island pine for one year in its current pot, keeping it in bright, indirect sunlight. Rotate the pot one-quarter turn each week to promote even, upright growth. Follow the same watering and fertilizing schedule. Increase the amount of direct sunlight it receives gradually over the course of one to two weeks after the first year of growth. Transplant the tree into a container 2 inches larger than its current container or outdoors after it becomes acclimated to full sunlight.