SPRUCE

FAMILY: Pinaceae | GENUS: PICEA

TYPE
  • Evergreen
  • Trees
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Full Sun
  • Partial Shade
WATER
  • Moderate Water
  • Regular Water
PLANTING ZONES
  • US (Upper South) / Zone 6
  • MS (Middle South) / Zone 7

Plant Details

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.

P. abies. NORWAY SPRUCE. Native to northern Europe. Fast growth to 60 ft. tall, 20 ft. 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.

'Nidiformis'. BIRD'S NEST SPRUCE. Dense growth to 35 ft. tall (ultimately to 10 ft.), 46 ft. 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.

'Pendula'. Grows naturally as a ground cover about 1 ft. high, 10 ft. wide. Looks attractive cascading downward from rocks or walls. Can be staked to desired height and grown as a short, weeping tree.

P. glauca. WHITE SPRUCE. Native to Canada and northern U.S. Narrowly cone-shaped tree grows 6070 ft. tall, 1012 ft. wide. Dense when young, with pendulous twigs and silvery green foliage. Crushed needles have an unpleasant odor. The following two types are widely grown.

P. g. albertiana 'Conica'. DWARF ALBERTA SPRUCE, DWARF WHITE SPRUCE. Compact, pyramidal tree, slowly reaching 68 ft. tall, 45 ft. 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 ft. tall.

P. g. densata. BLACK HILLS SPRUCE. Slow-growing, dense pyramid; can reach 20 ft. tall, 1012 ft. wide in 35 years.

P. omorika. SERBIAN SPRUCE. Native to southeastern Europe. Narrow, conical, slow-growing tree to 5060 ft. tall, 610 ft. 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 ft. tall and wide (possibly to 10 ft. high), with short, closely packed needles.

P. orientalis. ORIENTAL SPRUCE. Native to the Caucasus, Asia Minor. Dense, compact, cone-shaped tree with very short needles; grows slowly to 5060 ft. high, 20 ft. 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.

P. pungens. 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 ft. tall, 2535 ft. across, but typically grows 3060 ft. tall, 1020 ft. 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.

'Fat Albert'. Broad, formal-looking tree to 1015 ft. tall, 1012 ft. wide. Good as living Christmas tree. Handsome blue foliage.

'Foxtail'. 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.

'Glauca Pendula' ('Pendula'). 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.

'Hoopsii'. Beautiful plant with striking blue color. Fast growing; conical shape. Many consider this the finest selection.

'Moerheimii'. Rich blue color but more open habit than others with longer needles.

'Montgomery'. Slow-growing dwarf forms a broad, silver-blue mound to 35 ft. high, 3 ft. wide.

'Thompsen'. 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.

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