Like rs, spruces are pyramidal and have stiff needles, with branches arranged in neat tiers. But unlike rs, they have pendent cones, and their needles are attached to branches by small pegs that remain after needles drop. Most spruces are tall timber trees that lose their lower branches fairly early in life as they head upward; their canopies thin out noticeably as they age. Many species have dwarf forms useful as foundation plantings, for rock gardens, in containers. Not favored by deer.
- Native to northern Europe.
- Fast growth to 60 feet tall, 20 feet wide.
- Stiff, deep green, attractive pyramid in youth; ragged in age, as branchlets droop and oldest branchlets (those nearest trunk) die back.
- Extremely hardy and wind resistant; valued for windbreaks.
- Tolerates heat and humidity better than most spruces.
- Following are two of the more common dwarf forms, of which there are many.
bird's nest spruce
- Dense growth to 35 feet tall (ultimately to 10 feet.), 46 feet wide.
- Individual plants vary in form.
- Some are flat topped; in others, the semierect main branches curve outward, leaving a shallow depression at the plant's top that gives it the look of a bird's nest.
- Grows naturally as a ground cover about 1 feet high, 10 feet wide.
- Looks attractive cascading downward from rocks or walls.
- Can be staked to desired height and grown as a short, weeping tree.
- Native to Canada and northern U.S. Narrowly cone-shaped tree grows 6070 feet tall, 1012 feet wide.
- Dense when young, with pendulous twigs and silvery green foliage.
- Crushed needles have an unpleasant odor.
- The following two types are widely grown.
- albertiana 'Conica'.
- DWARF ALBERTA SPRUCE, DWARF WHITE SPRUCE.
- Compact, pyramidal tree, slowly reaching 68 feet tall, 45 feet wide in 35 years.
- Short, soft needles are bright grass-green when new, gray-green when mature.
- Needs shelter from drying winds (whether hot or cold) and from strong reected sunlight.
- Popular container plant.
- Tiny Tower grows only 46 feet tall.
- BLACK HILLS SPRUCE.
- Slow-growing, dense pyramid; can reach 20 feet tall, 1012 feet wide in 35 years.
- Native to southeastern Europe.
- Narrow, conical, slow-growing tree to 5060 feet tall, 610 feet wide.
- Shiny, dark green needles with silvery undersides.
- Retains branches to the ground for many years.
- Considered by some to be the most attractive spruce; one of the best for hot, humid climates.
- Nana is a dwarf to 34 feet tall and wide (possibly to 10 feet high), with short, closely packed needles.
- Native to the Caucasus, Asia Minor.
- Dense, compact, cone-shaped tree with very short needles; grows slowly to 5060 feet high, 20 feet wide.
- Can tolerate poor soils if they are well drained, but may suffer leaf burn in very cold, dry winds.
- Among the many available selections are 'Aurea' and 'Aureospicata', with chartreuse new growth that matures to deep green; and 'Skylands', with creamy gold leaves year-round.
colorado blue spruce
- Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8 (cooler parts).
- Native to the Rocky Mountains, from Colorado and Wyoming to New Mexico.The many blue-needled forms have made this the most popular spruce for home gardens; it does well in dry soil.
- Stiff, dense, horizontal branches form a narrow to broad pyramid with a very formal look.
- Grows at a slow to moderate rate; in the wild, it can reach 100 feet tall, 2535 feet across, but typically grows 3060 feet tall, 1020 feet wide in gardens.
- Will grow in the Lower South but definitely prefers the shorter summers and longer winters farther north.
- Foliage of seedlings varies in color from dark green through blue-green shades to steely blue.
- The following selections have consistent blue color.
- Broad, formal-looking tree to 1015 feet tall, 1012 feet wide.
- Good as living Christmas tree.
- Handsome blue foliage.
- Vigorous, heat-tolerant selection that has performed well in cooler parts of the Lower South.
- Grows faster than the species, with upright, symmetrical habit.
- Young plants are bushy, with bluish, twisted needles.
- WEEPING BLUE SPRUCE.
- This gray-blue plant with weeping branchlets can be grown as ground cover; it can also be trained to a small, weeping tree by staking at desired height when young.
- The Blues is similar but even more strongly weeping.
- Beautiful plant with striking blue color.
- Fast growing; conical shape.
- Many consider this the finest selection.
- Rich blue color but more open habit than others with longer needles.
- Slow-growing dwarf forms a broad, silver-blue mound to 35 feet high, 3 feet wide.
- Similar to 'Hoopsii' in color, but needles are twice as thick.
- Vigorous, symmetrical habit.
Check spruces for aphids in late winter; if the pests are present, take prompt control measures to avoid spring defoliation. Other common pests are bagworms, spruce budworms, pine needle scale, and spider mites.
Prune only to shape. If a branch grows too long, cut it back to a well-placed side branch. For slower growth and denser form, trim part of each year's growth to force side branches. When planting larger spruces, don't place them too close to buildings, fences, or walks; they need space.