The monkey tree (Araucaria araucana), also called the monkey puzzle tree, is a very unusual coniferous tree that is native to Southern Chile and Argentina. It has been described as being bizarre, prehistoric, striking, weird, statuesque, scary, grotesque and beautiful. Monkey trees are dome-shaped, and their branches grow long and widely spaced, allowing you to see through the tree at any angle. They sport dark green leaves with sharp needle-like points at their tips. The monkey trees usually grow 7 to 10 metres (25 to 30 feet) tall. They do best in cool, humid climates and can endure most types of soil, providing it is well drained.
Purchase a monkey tree for planting from a certified disease-free nursery. The tree will come in a 4 or 18 litre (1-gallon or 5-gallon) container, depending on its size.
Select a planting site for the monkey tree that receives full sun to partial shade and has well-drained soil.
Remove weeds, rocks, roots or other debris from the planting site with your hands and a garden hoe.
Dig a hole 35cm (14 inches) deep and 35cm (14 inches) wide if the tree is in a 4 litre (1-gallon) container. If it came in an 18 litre (5-gallon) container, make the hole 45cm (18 inches) wide and 45cm (18 inches) deep.
Amend the soil you removed by mixing in either leaf mould or sphagnum moss.
Cut the plastic container along the sides from each drain hole up to the pot’s rim with garden snips. Gently peel the plastic away from the soil, and remove the tree from the pot. Take care not to damage or disturb the tree’s roots.
Place 5 to 7cm (2 to 3 inches) of the amended soil back into the planting hole, spreading it evenly.
Set the monkey tree in the centre of the hole. Have someone else view the tree from various directions to ensure that it is straight and at the correct level.
Backfill with the remaining soil, adding just several inches at a time. Tamp the soil after each addition of soil to eliminate air pockets.
Pour 7 to 10 litres (2 to 3 gallons) of water all around the monkey tree if it came in a 4 litre (1-gallon) container. If the tree came in an 18 litre (5-gallon) container, water it initially with 20 to 25 litres (6 to 7 gallons) of water.
Apply a 5 to 10cm (2- to 4-inch) layer of organic mulch on the soil at the base of the tree to help retain moisture. Avoid placing the mulch against the trunk of the monkey tree.
Water the monkey tree once a week during fair weather and more often during hot weather. If the soil feels dry under the mulch, the tree should be watered.
Avoid planting the monkey tree close to paths and walkways, as the sharp pointy leaves may cause irritation if they touch the skin.
Watch for scale insects or mealy bugs and treat with appropriate pesticides, if needed. Monkey trees can drop some of their sharp-pointed leaves and small branchlets regularly. Don't walk barefoot under the monkey tree.
Tips and warnings
- Avoid planting the monkey tree close to paths and walkways, as the sharp pointy leaves may cause irritation if they touch the skin.
- Watch for scale insects or mealy bugs and treat with appropriate pesticides, if needed.
- Monkey trees can drop some of their sharp-pointed leaves and small branchlets regularly. Don't walk barefoot under the monkey tree.