Since 2001, I’ve owned a small plant care business in Albuquerque called Good To Grow. Since 2009, I’ve maintained this indoor and outdoor gardening blog.

Each Wednesday, I’ve been posting emails from readers who had questions about their houseplants. Most of the letters came from people who are not regular readers, but who stumbled across this blog because they had a specific houseplant question. When I could, I wrote them back with advice tailored to their specific question. I saved all these emails in a file.

Since my regular readers are so sophisticated with their houseplant knowledge, and because everyone has their own take on caring for plants, I wanted to turn the emails over to them and see what their advice would’ve been had the email come to them. On Wednesdays, I’ll post the original question, and on Thursdays, I’ll reveal the advice from the regulars, as well as my response, so we can see how we match up. It’s been an interesting experiment so far, I hope you enjoy. If you have advice, please leave it in the comment section or on my facebook wall.

Ok, this is a good one. A recent email. I enjoyed the exchange.

I’ve wracked up lots of email questions about Norfolk Island Pines, which are sold as living Christmas trees. People take them home and their needles become brittle. Or entire branches go brown. They email me with tricky questions. How am I supposed to answer them? Who knows what trauma those poor plants go through to get to the Home Depots or the Lowe’s around the country in time for the holiday? My guess is lots of trauma.

But when this recent question came through, I knew just how to answer her, based on personal experience.

Here, read the email first:


I hope you don’t mind a random email asking for your advice.  You had helped me earlier with my corn plants – several are sprouting new stalks!
I have a Norfolk pine in a fairly small pot that is now about 8 feet high.  During the warm months in Virginia, I put it outside on the back deck.
Soon it will be too tall to bring inside.
Question – I was told that cutting off the top will kill it.  But I don’t have an alternative if it doesn’t fit in the house, other than giving it away and I’ve had no takers so far.
Any ideas?
Many thanks,>>>>

A few years ago, I had a client – it was a big office, cubicles, dozens of employees, lots of plants all around. The star of the office was a Norfolk Island Pine, planted in a container, that had grown to about ten feet tall. She was a beautiful tree, with soft needles. I’d inherited her with the client, but I loved her like she was my own.

So I was horrified one time to walk in and see that someone had broken off her growing stem – they just took the top of the tree. Didn’t ask, just took. Left jagged edges so I knew no clippers were involved.

My heart sank, I thought for sure the tree would die. Then I got really angry that someone would do that.

What do you think happens when you lop off the top of a Norfolk? (Hint: That’s not how you propagate the tree!!!)

Leave your best guesses in the comments section. I’ll let you know what ended up happening to that client’s tree, and what I wrote back in response to this reader’s question, about the growing stem and how the tree is too tall for her house.

Hope to see you back here tomorrow.