Is it possible to coppice my Norfolk Pine?

Discussion in 'Araucariaceae' started by Geografo, Jul 8, 2014.

  1. Geografo

    Geografo New Member

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    Lake Charles, Louisiana, United States
    Hello All,

    I am new to this site, and am not the green thumb in my house, so please be gentle. I have the remainders of a Norfolk pine that I bought for my wife several years ago. We enjoyed it as an indoor live Christmas tree until it grew too big for our 8 foot ceilings, and moved it outdoors 2 years ago. This past January, our hometown Lake Charles, Louisiana suffered a series of ice storms and hard freezes lasting from mid-January through early February, just as we were preparing for a five-month stint in Porto Velho, Rondonia, Brazil where we have a second house (my wife is Brazilian).

    We missed bringing the pine into the back garage (it brushed the ceiling at the time) before the first hard freeze, and several branches were brown. We left for Brazil on January 31, with a couple of graduate students as housesitters. When I got back this past Sunday (July 6), the pine was completely brown, and I thought it was dead, not seeing any green branches. This morning I cut it about 10 inches from the base, planning to remove it to replant something hardier in its place. That is when I saw the green shoots coming from the lower trunk, much to my dismay.

    Having spent a lot of time in Latin America, I am used to seeing locals planting trees to use as "live fences" and cutting them back drastically, only to have them resprout as coppices (everyone does the same with crepe myrtles here).

    Okay, now that the long intro is over, my QUESTION IS THIS:

    Will this tree coppice after such a drastic cutting? If not, can anyone suggest a viable replacement that can survive in a marginal subtropical setting that usually has mild winters, but occasionally experiences winters such as the past one?

    Thanks,

    Geografo
     
  2. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Yes, it can coppice. But I doubt it will last long for you, unless you bring it back indoors; probably about 3 winters out of 4 where you are will be cold enough to kill the top - you were lucky it survived its first winter out. And repeated cutting back by cold will soon exhaust the roots' potential for continuing to re-grow. Successful outdoors growth in the mainland USA is limited to southern Florida (and even there they get occasional freeze damage) and the south California coast.
     
  3. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    You might be able to grow Cunninghamia lanceolata there or maybe even Araucaria angustifolia. However, commercial presence of specimens of the latter is seen only after growers have gotten their hands on viable seeds - not a continuous occurrence.

    Visit local arboreta, botanic gardens or university campus plantings to discover what less usual trees are possible.
     
  4. Geografo

    Geografo New Member

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    Thanks, Michael and Ron,

    To answer Michael's comment: It survived the previous winter because I brought it into the garage before frosts could kill it--it was milder than this most recent one, and the tree was still short enough to bring into the garage, which has 10 foot ceilings (it is in the largest pot we could find). So, you are right, the last year should have killed it, if I had left it outside. I had been reading on Norfolk pines and their climatic ranges, so I had been wondering what we could do when it got too big even for the garage ceilings.

    We also have a poinsettia that had thrived for several years to become a small shrub, due to this strategy, although it nearly died this year. We also have several potted papaya plants that have survived because of our strategy of bringing the tropical plants into the garage when temperatures dip below about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I bought a small space heater to use in the garage this past winter, and most of our tropical plants survived, a little worse for wear. I am looking into finding a budget greenhouse-type solution for the papayas, as a couple of them are also reaching the point where they are too big to take indoors.

    To Ron: Thanks for the suggestions for alternatives. We really liked having a "live Christmas tree", rather than the usual dying cut trees, or artificial ones, but do not wish to repeat the experience with our Norfolk pine. My wife thinks of her plants as her "children", so it is traumatic for her whenever any of her plants dies. She rescues plants, just as she rescues stray cats (another story). The papayas sprouted from seeds tossed onto my compost pile, and we even tried to grow a mango that once sprouted from a seed in similar manner. Managed to keep it going for about 2 years before it succumbed.

    My brother-in-law is a horticulturist with Texas A&M, who previously worked in Fairhope, Alabama (across the bay from Mobile), and he worked a lot with the idea of finding subtropical fruits, such as satsumas, which could replace the pecans that several hurricanes decimated over the past 2 decades, and which could survive similar conditions to those we experience here. Perhaps he can provide a good suggestion.

    Sorry it took so long to reply, but I apparently caught the flu bug on the flight back from Brazil (total of airport layovers and flight time was 26 hours), and have spent the past 3 days resting, taking Tamiflu, and plenty of soup...:-)

    Thanks to you both,

    Geografo
     
  5. Geografo

    Geografo New Member

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    Ron,

    It is funny that you mentioned Araucaria angustifolia, or the Parana Pine, because my wife and I took a trip to Matinhos, on the coast of Parana, and saw mature trees on the bus trip from Sao Paulo to Curitiba. I took numerous photos, because it was so unusual-looking. We had no idea what it was. It is definitely exotic-looking, and the climate in Parana is indeed very similar to ours--I believe they are experiencing a pretty cold winter there now.

    Thanks for the tip,

    Geografo
     

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