These distinctive conifers are commonly seen in Florida gardens, but some are hardy enough to grow outdoors farther north. Most species bear stiff, closely overlapping, dark to bright green leaves. They accept a wide range of soils with adequate drainage. They thrive in contain- ers for several years.
These trees grow into striking specimens that take up a lot of space. As they age they bear spiny cones that can weigh up to 15 pounds. If one falls on your head from the top of the tree, you'll wander aimlessly for yearsshould you survive the initial impact.
A. araucana (A. imbricata). MONKEY PUZZLE TREE. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Native to Chile. An arboreal oddity with heavy, spreading branches and ropelike branchlets closely set with sharp-pointed, dark green leaves. Slow growing when young, it eventually reaches 7090 ft. tall and 30 ft. wide.
A. bidwillii. BUNYA-BUNYA. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. Native to Australia. Moderate growth to 80 ft. tall, 60 ft. wide. Broadly rounded crown casts dense shade. Juvenile leaves are glossy, lance shaped, 12 in. long, arranged in two rows; mature leaves are oval, 12 in. long, rather woody, spirally arranged, and overlapping along the branches. Sometimes used as a lawn tree in large yards; grows well in large containers. Tough and tolerant of low light; makes an unusual houseplant.
A. heterophylla (A. excelsa). NORFOLK ISLAND PINE. Zone TS; USDA 10-11; or indoors. Native to Norfolk Island, near Australia. Grown outdoors in central and south Florida, where it may reach 80100 ft. tall and 60 ft. wide. Elsewhere in the South, it's a popular houseplant, prized for its symmetrical shape, evenly spaced whorls of branches, and soft, lush, rich green foliage.
In December, people often bedeck Norfolk Island pines with ribbons, ornaments, and twinkle lights and turn them into indoor Christmas trees. If you want them to last for long indoors, pay attention to their care. Make sure they receive bright light, either natural or artificial; they do well near a south- or west-facing window. Let the soil go slightly dry on the surface between waterings, but don't let it dry out completelyif it does, the lower tiers of branches will die one by one and won't be replaced. Apply a general-purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer twice monthly in spring and summer, monthly in fall and winter. Eventually, your tree will grow tall enough to touch the ceilingbut don't try to give it to a botanical garden. They already have plenty.