Question: Araucaria

Can the araucaria be planted close to the house a few meters away?

Answer: Araucaria

Dear Matteo,
to answer your question it is good to know what is meant by "a few meters"; considers that the araucaria is a tree very similar to a large conifer, native to South America, widespread especially in the areas of the highlands of Chile and Argentina; in nature these large and particular trees can reach majestic heights, even thirty meters high; but their development is very slow and usually in Italian gardens they do not exceed 12-15 meters, over decades. Try to visualize in your garden a tree twelve meters high, or more or less like a three-storey house; obviously, as it grows, a tree also develops its roots, to anchor itself to the ground and to absorb mineral salts and water; the radical apparatus of a araucaria It is quite superficial, and quite broad: an adult tree, at least fifteen or twenty years old, will have produced a root system with a diameter of four or five meters. If you would like yours araucaria it can be developed at will, try to position it at least five or six meters from the house, so its roots will hardly reach the foundations of the house, so as to protect the foundations themselves, but also the development of the araucaria. Consider that these plants are used to cool, mountainous climates, and therefore excessive proximity to the house can be detrimental, as in winter the house will keep the tree sheltered, which instead likes cool climates, and does not fear frost, even if intense or very prolonged. This is a Araucaria araucana, the most widespread variety in Italy, originating from Chile; if instead you decide to plant a less rustic species of araucaria, such as Araucaria angustifolia, and then live in an area of ‚Äč‚ÄčItaly with mild winters, the proximity to the house will guarantee an even milder climate, and will therefore be an excellent location for your plant. But knowing neither the species of the Araucaria, nor where you live, I find it difficult to give you further indications; usually in the areas of southern Italy the rustic species of Araucaria are not planted, because they fear the summer heat, and prefer areas with very cold winters: living for years in a climate that is not appropriate, excessively warm, brings the plant to be more subject to pest attack; for this reason, in the areas of southern Italy, species and varieties originating from areas with a warmer climate are preferred.

Deepening on the Araucaria

The araucaria is a very unusual looking conifer. Its branches are covered by flake-like leaves, one above the other, triangular in shape. It is beautiful to include in many different settings, but it goes perfectly with minimalist architecture gardens. We add that, in areas with suitable climate, it is a very autonomous tree and the maintenance is really minimal.

Origins of the Araucaria

The family of the Araucariaceae is subdivided into only three genera which in turn include some thirty species. They are exclusively endemic conifers of the southern hemisphere: in the spontaneous state they can be commonly found mostly in Latin America, Australia and throughout Oceania.
The most widespread species in our gardens is undoubtedly the Araucaria araucana (also called monkey tree), by virtue of the singular appearance of its branches and leaves. It is native to Chile, in particular the Andes, where it grows creating vast forests even in purity, between 600 and 1700 meters of altitude. This environment is characterized by a fertile soil of volcanic origin and very abundant rainfall throughout the year.
These are vegetables with slow growth, but extremely long-lived (they can live even more than 2000 years) and resistant to all kinds of adversities, including for example fires. The bark is in fact more than 15 cm thick and manages to protect dormant buds from the heat.

Characteristics of the Araucaria

The young specimens have a beautiful geometric shape in virtue of the branches arranged in a regular cross, with the leaves and thorns covering the entire surface, including the trunk. Initially they are pyramidal in shape, but over time the low branches dry and fall spontaneously leaving only a large rounded hat on the top.
In cultivation they reach a maximum height of 30 meters and a diameter of almost 10. It should be noted that the growth is slow, given that each year the height is increased, in ideal conditions, by a maximum of 30 cm.
The leaves are ovate, but seeing only their apex, they appear triangular in shape. Up to 3 cm long, they are a beautiful deep dark green and have an extremely pointed tip. They are persistent and must pass at least 10 years before they are replaced.
Initially the trunk is covered with scales and thorns, but over time it becomes gray and smooth, with obvious horizontal streaks.

Dioic plant

It is a mostly dioecious vegetable: there are therefore male and female specimens.
To easily recognize them it is sufficient to look at the cones ("pinecones"). In the female individuals they are very large and erect; on the top of the tree, the masculine are smaller, pendent and golden in color, gathered in groups.
However, they are produced only when the plant has reached maturity, around the age of 15.
It should be noted that the individuals widespread in cultivation and that are on sale in nurseries are mostly males. Female cones are very large and sharp and in a garden they could be dangerous. From them it is possible to obtain the seeds (pine nuts) which, in the countries of origin, find many food uses. The female cone, after having been fertilized, takes at least 2 years to mature, becoming dark brown, only to spontaneously detach and fall to the ground.

Land for Araucaria

The araucaria, as we have said, grows in soils of volcanic origin, rich and with a slightly acid reaction. In any case it is an extremely tolerant tree, which adapts to many types of soil as long as they are deep and are able to remain fresh, but with optimal water drainage. It is therefore of fundamental importance, especially where the soil is very clayey, the cure at the time of planting.

Height width From 10 to 30m / up to 8m
Foliage Dark green, pointed, persistent
Form conical
Maintenance Moderate to average
Water needs Medium (always fresh soil)
Exposure Full sun
Soil Clayey, volcanic or sandy. Better if rich and deep
Soil moisture Fresh, but well-drained

Exposure and climate

In this respect, it is rather delicate and requires special conditions to grow and prosper to the fullest. First of all, it wants an environment characterized by high environmental humidity and rather cool, but open and well lit. Dry and hot areas, especially in summer, can seriously damage it and cause loss of branches or an even slower development.
On the other hand, it should also be noted that young subjects are not completely rustic (they resist at most -12 ° C for short periods), while adults bear even -20 ° C. Consequently the plants in the open ground are not recommended or to be evaluated with great attention in the North and in the mountain areas. If we live in these areas, let's inform ourselves at specialized nurseries, explicitly asking for cultivars suitable for cold areas (in Italy the Robusta Gheri is very widespread).
We add that it is also sensitive to pollution, while it adapts well to life on the coasts, even in the presence of air and brackish water.

When and where to put the Araucaria

The ideal is to proceed in autumn where the climate is fairly mild. Elsewhere it is instead an operation to be carried out at the end of winter, when the frosts are certainly completed and the soil is workable.
Being trees of great potential development it is better to choose an open location, leaving at least 10 meters from other large plants and buildings. We also evaluate a certain distance from the walkways and places normally frequented by children, since the pine cones, of large dimensions, heavy and sharp, can represent a serious danger.

How to proceed?

We dig a very deep hole at least 50 cm wide. We mix the extracted earth with a good amount of manure and a little sand. On the bottom we prepare a draining layer with expanded clay or pozzolana.
We position the specimen and, at the same time, insert very deeply and stably at least 2 tutors (3 in a triangle if the araucaria exceeds 50 cm in height). We cover with soil and tie the trunk to the poles with strips.
We spray with at least 50 liters of water. We cover the base with a thick mulch based on leaves, straw or, better still, bark and pine needles. During the first winter it is always a good idea to cover the entire subject with a specific veil, with a single or multiple layer depending on the expected temperatures.

Crop care

From the moment of implantation the araucaria will require very little attention, especially during the vegetative period.
The most frequent interventions will undoubtedly be the irrigations, especially the first year and, later, in case of lack of rains. Let us remember that the substrate must always be fresh and the interventions should not be delayed, especially in the hottest months of the year. An important aid to avoid an excessive desiccation of the soil can derive from a thick mulching of the foot, based on organic soil improvers or plant debris.
Fertilizations with synthetic products are not necessary, but if desired you can distribute a slow release slow product for green plants, at the beginning of the vegetative period.

Araucaria pruning

The monkey tree requires no such intervention. Over time it assumes its definitive form, without the need for training operations. Over the years we will realize that it will tend to let the lower branches to dry up (and then fall) to completely free the trunk: the foliage, finally, assumes the hat shape that can be found in the great forests in South America.

Parasites, diseases and physiopathies

The parasites that can appear, even if rather rarely, are the red spider, aphids and scale insects. The first occurs almost exclusively in unsuitable climates. It can be prevented by maintaining high environmental humidity. In any case interventions with pesticides should be limited to the most serious situations.
In the hottest areas early drying of the lower branches is frequent. To avoid this inconvenience it is important to follow the specimens with frequent irrigations and eventually vaporize the hair in the evening and in the morning with water.

Araucaria protected tree

The araucarias are very ancient conifers and formed vast forests during the secondary era; they were one of the favorite habitats of many dinosaur species.
The Araucaria araucana was declared a national monument of Chile in 1990, where it is strenuously sought to protect it. Today it is considered a strongly threatened species and has been inscribed on the red CITES list: its habitat is "stolen" from other trees such as Pinus Radiata and eucalyptus, introduced for commercial reasons.
Pure forests become smaller and smaller, and we try to defend them in every way, by setting up natural parks. Furthermore, explantation is not possible; the removal of seeds (used for food purposes for centuries) is allowed in modest quantities only to the natives.
The specimens sold in nurseries are produced from seed or from cuttings from the nurseries themselves and must be provided with proving documentation.





Peculiar characteristics
Araucaria araucana Initially pyramidal habit, then rounded, maximum height 25 m
It has leathery and triangular, pointed, dark green leaves.
There are male and female specimens (in culture they are generally male)
The pine cones are up to 15 cm long and fall in late summer. The seeds, up to 4 cm long, are edible.
Fresh and humid summers,
damp soil.
Withstands up to -12 ° C
Fairly rapid growth.
It does not lose its leaves, but whole branches when ripe
Araucaria bidwillii Up to 35 m. Portamento conico a colonnale. Rigid triangular leaves.
Monoecious. Large pine cones, up to 30 cm in diameter.
Up to -12 ° C. Well-drained and rich soil Originally from Australia.
Slow growth
Araucaria angustifolia Fomra enlarged to umbel, up to 40 m. Triangular acuminate leaves Tropical and humid climate, tolerates up to -7 ° C From Brasil
Araucaria heterophylla Conical habit, branches similar to ferns. Up to 35 m.
Thin and non-pointed needles
Suitable for the vase, it tolerates dryness. Up to -5 ° C Suitable for coastal areas