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Chilli Fir - Araucaria araucana

Since the care and maintenance of the araucaria is not very time-consuming, it is worthwhile to benefit from this plant when redesigning or upgrading the garden, balcony or terrace by consciously using it as a seldom seen and attractive "gem".


The genus Araucaria comprises around 20 species, mostly native to the tropics. The main locations are in New Guinea, Northeast Australia and many islands in Oceania. Some species are native to South America (Chile, Argentina) such as the well-known and hardy Araucaria araucana, also known as the Chilean silver fir or Chilean fir. The scientific name is derived from the name of the southern Chilean province of Arauco.
The number of araucarias in their home area has steadily declined over the past 100 years. Large areas were cut down, as the plants provide exceptionally good construction timber due to their strength and are also often used as veneer wood due to their beautiful grain. Thanks to the inaccessibility of their locations at higher altitudes from 1700 to 1900 m above sea level. A considerable part of the forests has been spared from deforestation to this day. This is also where they are most common.


The Chilean fir is an evergreen, bizarre-looking and, especially in old age, extremely slow-growing conifer with a straight trunk. The branches rise from the trunk in whorls and horizontally in individual levels and form a conical crown as a whole. The lower branches are often drooping, while the upper and younger branches rise. Dark green and sharply spiky leaves (needles) line the branches in a tight spiral. The tough leaves with an ovate-lanceolate shape, broad base and sharp spike tip have a lifespan of 30 years.
The Chilean fir is dioecious, i.e. there are female and male trees. It takes many years for female trees to develop cones, which, with their almost round shape and a good 15 cm in diameter, sit at the end of a branch. The cones, which open after two to three years, are filled with many seeds ("piƱones"). In South America, the seeds are still very popular as food today. They are eaten boiled and have a chestnut-like taste.
On the male trees, the unusually large, cone-shaped flowers stand on the ends of short branches.
In its home with an optimal climate and soil, the conifer grows to 30-50 m high and has a lifespan of several hundred years. In our latitudes the plant grows up to a maximum of 10 m.

Location / use

In our latitudes, the Chilean umbrella fir is planted in gardens and parks in more protected, mild locations such as lakes or in wine-growing areas. It can also be kept as a container plant on the terrace or balcony, but must be overwintered in a bright room during the cold season (see care).
The plant thrives best in well drained, humus rich and evenly moist soils with a low lime content. Dry and warm soils with a high lime content can quickly lead to the leaves turning yellow. The effects of frost can also cause the leaves to turn brown. It is therefore important that the araucaria is planted as a solitary (single plant) in a protected, partially shaded and rather humid location without summer heat or winter, strong sunlight. A south to west-facing location with as little morning, morning and winter sun as possible would be ideal.


In our latitudes, young plants need adequate winter protection in the cold season. Older plants are frost hardy to around -15 degrees. Spruce branches that are tied around the trunk provide optimal winter protection. Reed mats and fleece can also be used as winter protection. Ideally, the root area is covered with autumn leaves. Younger plants in winter-sunny locations are best protected from the sun with fleece or shading nets.
Araucarias, which are kept as potted plants, can easily be overwintered during the cold winter time in bright, frost-free rooms, for example in a winter garden.
In general, care must be taken to ensure that the soil is permeable so that excess water does not accumulate. On the other hand, the location must not dry out. In rainless summer weeks, the Chilean fir is grateful for watering.
The Chilean umbrella fir does not need or tolerate any pruning. It is therefore important that the right location is chosen from the start, where there is enough space for the plant to develop ideally.

If the leaves turn brown, then this is due to problems in the water supply, summer heat, strong winter sunlight or extreme sub-zero temperatures. Suitable measures have already been described above.