Can You Cut The Top Off A Norfolk Island Pine?

A Norfolk pine is a popular plant to have. If you want to find a way to keep it on the smaller side, you may be wondering if it's possible to cut the top off to do so. Is that a good idea, though? We've done some research and have the answer for you. Let's discuss.

Although cutting off the top of a Norfolk island pine will control its height, this can damage your tree. Generally, you should only cut off the top of your pine if necessary because doing this will alter its shape and can permanently stunt it.

As we begin, we will cover all things Norfolk pine and discuss how to prune one correctly. Whether you are new to this species or have a few in your yard, we're here to help. With that said, let's dive right into this post!

A decorative branches of Araucaria Heterophylla, Can You Cut The Top Off A Norfolk Island Pine?

What Happens When You Cut Off The Top Of A Norfolk Island Pine?

Once you cut off the top of a Norfolk island pine, you essentially stop it from growing any taller. Usually, this is done for indoor trees to prevent them from outgrowing a home, although some choose to do it to their outdoor pines as well.

Cutting the top of a Norfolk island pine can destroy its natural symmetry and affect how your tree grows moving forward. Of course, that's not to say doing this will always damage your tree, but it is possible.

Norfolk island pine leaf green

Can You Prune A Norfolk Island Pine?

You can certainly prune a Norfolk island pine as you see fit. Especially for anyone with their tree indoors, regular pruning is a great way to keep a Norfolk pine from outgrowing its current pot.

Even if your tree is outside, you are OK to prune off any dead branches throughout the year, although we don't recommend going overboard.

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How Tall Will A Norfolk Pine Get?

Typically, you can expect a Norfolk pine to grow to around 100 feet tall outdoors. For indoor Norfolk, your tree should stay around ten to 15 feet, although this varies.

On their native island, just off the coast of Australia, Norfolk pines grow to about 200 feet tall, so this isn't a small species. That said, with regular pruning, you can certainly keep your tree from getting this big.

How Fast Do Norfolk Island Pines Grow?

Although these trees grow to be massive, this process can take a while. Generally, a Norfolk island pine will grow at a rate of two feet per year and take around a decade or so to mature.

Indoor Norfolk pines can take up to ten years to reach five to eight feet tall, so this will take time. Of course, every tree is different, but you won't usually see more than two feet of yearly growth on a Norfolk pine.

How Do You Keep A Norfolk Pine Small?

Center of Norfolk island pine tree

To keep your tree small, you want to prune it regularly. As we covered, it's best to trim your Norfolk pine throughout the year to keep it from becoming a 100 foot beast in your garden.

To do this, you want to cut the ends of your tree's branches, shaping them to your desired size. Although we don't recommend it, you can also cut off the top of your Norfolk pine, but you risk permanently damaging it.

How Often Should I Prune Norfolk Island Pine?

Ideally, it's best to trim your Norfolk pine before its spring growing season and again before the winter. That said, these trees don't like to be over manicured, so try to prune your Norfolk pine sparingly.

Growth will stop at the point of cut, so you don't want to trim back your Norfolk island pine more than a few inches at a time.

Will Norfolk Pine Branches Grow Back?

If your Norfolk pine starts to die or you over trim its branches, chances are they won't grow back. This tree species, in particular, is susceptible to pruning, so overdoing it can cause your tree to lose its shape and even die in certain sections.

Of course, that's not to say new branches won't grow in an area you pruned, but don't expect to see a dead branch come back to life.

Can You Save A Dying Norfolk Island Pine?

Although your tree might not return to its former glory, it's possible to save it from dying. As we mentioned, Norfolk pines can show new signs of growth in previously dead sections, but this will take time.

Generally, it's best to leave your tree alone while it recovers, although removing dead branches is fine. It's also a good idea to keep your tree well-watered and even add a bit of balanced fertilizer to its soil to encourage new growth.

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How Can I Make My Norfolk Pine Grow Faster?

House pine or Araucaria heterophylla

For anyone struggling to get their Norfolk pine to grow, there are ways to help. Like we mentioned, using a balanced fertilizer is an easy way to get your tree growing/feeling better.

Another way to promote Norfolk pine growth is to move your plant to a brighter location, although this can be tricky for older trees. You can also try pruning the bottom of your pine, removing excess dead branches, but remember to keep it minimal.

Are Coffee Grounds Good For Norfolk Island Pines?

If you want to try using coffee grounds on your Norfolk island pine, this is a great idea. These trees love acidity in their soil, so adding a few cups of coffee grounds around your tree's base will be helpful.

You can also mix in some compost with your coffee grounds to give your tree a boost of nutrients, so we recommend doing that as well.

How Often Should You Water Norfolk Pines?

You should water a Norfolk pine every week or two, depending on the weather. Norfolk island pine prefers to have moist soil, so if your tree's base feels dry, it's time for more water.

Norfolk pines that get full sun will require more frequent watering, so keep an eye on how much exposure your tree has. On the other hand, Norfolk pines in the shade might only need to be watered twice per month, so location plays a significant role in your tree's watering needs.

Do Norfolk Pines Like Full Sun?

Yes, Norfolk pines love being in the full sun. Considering this tree species is native to an island, it's best to plant your Norfolk somewhere that gets at least six hours of sun daily.

Having your tree in a sunny location will also help it grow better, which makes this critical. That said, if your garden doesn't have full sun, this should be fine, as long as your tree gets plenty of indirect light.

How Long Do Norfolk Island Pines Live?

Norfolk island pine leaf on cloudy and blue sky

You can expect a Norfolk island pine to live between 100 and 150 years outdoors. Of course, not all trees will make it this long, but if maintained well, it is possible.

A protected Norfolk pine and those kept out of freezing weather can exceed a 150-year lifespan, so climate also makes a difference.

Are Norfolk Pines Easy To Care For?

Whether you have your tree inside or out, Norfolk island pine will be pretty easy to maintain. Norfolk pine often requires very little upkeep and thrives in moderate weather, making them perfect for indoor growing.

Even outside, Norfolk pine usually only needs weekly watering and the occasional pruning, so they aren't high maintenance. That said, this tree species is temperamental when it comes to their climate, so try to keep them warm and well-watered.

To Wrap It Up

Whether you have a Norfolk island pine in your garden or want to get one, it's essential to know how to maintain it. We found that although you can cut off the top of your Norfolk pine, doing this can damage your tree.

Instead, it's a good idea to regularly prune your pine, cutting the ends of its branches to your desired size.  Of course, you don't want to overdo it with your pruning, so try to keep branch cutting to a minimum. Regardless, make sure to plant your Norfolk island pine somewhere with lots of sun exposure, and don't forget to water it at least once per week.

Made it to the end? Check out these helpful garden posts below!

How Big Does A Norfolk Island Pine Get?

Can You Plant A Norfolk Island Pine Outside?

Are Pine Needles Acidic? [And How That Affects Your Garden]


  1. My potted Norfolk pine top was damaged after a frost in St Augustine Florida. The tree itself is very healthy. Should I wait to June to see what happens or should I cut the top off? Help!

  2. My Norfolk pine is about 50′ and the top has split into multiple trees. It is like two trees growing on top of my tree. I am concerned that this will compromise the tree and may fall. What can I do?

  3. The top of my Norfolk Pine broke off in the Herricane Can I plant it?

    should I Put it in watter? It looks so pretty I don’t want to throw it away.

  4. I have an in house 35 year old 6′ Norfolk pine. It’s getting too tall and wide for inside. Can I cut the top “tier” off using sharp pruner? ANd when is the best time to do this?
    I was told to donate it But it’s like my baby and I can’t part with it.
    Thanks in advance for your advice. We are in Connecticut.

  5. I had a large 7 ft potted Norfolk pine on my patio that flipped over in a storm couple of years ago. The top of the tree was broken off. Several of the branch tips were broken off as well. I thought I would just have to live with an ugly tree. Two years later, the tree has now reached 9 ft tall! The tree sprouted a side branch on the top, which straightened up and grew tall. You can hardly tell it’s not the original tip. The side branches with the broken tips also re-sprouted along top of the branch. The tree is gorgeous and is now so large I will have to re-home it. My point is, if you have to prune your tree because of space requirements, it may be a risk, but it could also turn out great.

  6. How can I propagate an Norfolk island pine by cutting the top off? Thank you for your response. I greatly appreciate it.

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