How to Plant a Monkey Tree


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. In the U.S., monkey trees usually grow 25 to 30 feet tall. They do best in cool, humid climates and can endure most types of soil, providing it is well drained.

Things You'll Need

  • Hoe
  • Spade
  • Garden snips
  • Organic soil amendment
  • Purchase a monkey tree for planting from a certified disease-free nursery. The tree will come in a 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 14 inches deep and 14 inches wide if the tree is in a 1-gallon container. If it came in a 5-gallon container, make the hole 18 inches wide and 18 inches deep.

  • Amend the soil you removed by mixing in either leaf mold 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 2 to 3 inches of the amended soil back into the planting hole, spreading it evenly.

  • Set the monkey tree in the center 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 2 to 3 gallons of water all around the monkey tree if it came in a 1-gallon container. If the tree came in a 5-gallon container, water it initially with 6 to 7 gallons of water.

  • Apply a 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.

Tips & 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.

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  • Photo Credit monkey tree image by marilyn barbone from
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