Both graceful and boldly upright, spruce takes on many different shapes in the landscape. Choose an upright cultivar, such as a ‘Columnar’ Norway spruce, and plant as a living screen near a property line. Go with a cultivar with curved branches, such as a ‘Wells’ Weeper’ spruce as a statement plant in a landscape. The evergreen character of these small-to-large trees makes them year-round contributors to the landscape. Garden in a small space? Select a dwarf cultivar or a shrub cultivar.
Garden Plans For Spruce
Where to Plant
The key to success when planting a spruce tree is to select the right growing site. Native to cool climates and dry air, spruce often languishes in hot, humid climates. Choose a planting site that has full sun exposure and rich, moist, well-drained soil. Spruce tolerates short periods of drought after it is established. Look for a planting site that has good air circulation. Anywhere with limited air movement has the potential to create a moist, humid environment that paves the way for disease.
Spruce Care Must-Knows
Plant spruce in spring or early summer. Avoid planting in the heat of summer as it can stress a newly planted spruce, and then the tree won't establish a good root system, or worse, it may succumb to drought and heat stress. Also, do not plant spruces in fall in cold climates. Spruces need several months to develop a strong root system before a cold, dry winter sets in. Trees planted in fall are more susceptible to drying winter winds.
Water spruces regularly during the first season after planting. Continue watering as necessary during extended dry periods. Blanket the ground around plants with a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch to help conserve soil moisture.
Beware of Spruce Decline
Common across all types of spruces, but most prevalent on Colorado types, spruce decline is generally characterized by branch die back over a period of two to four years. Often visible on the lowest branches first, needles fall off and the plant takes on a thin appearance. By year three and four most of the low braches are dead. These symptoms have a host of insect and disease causes. A professional arborist or tree care company can diagnosis the specific cause and prescribe treatment. Not all spruce decline pests and diseases can be successfully treated.
The best way to prevent spruce decline is to plant trees on sites with conditions they favor. Full sun is essential. Good air circulation and excellent soil drainage is important, too.
More Varieties of Spruce
Picea abies nidiformis is a shrub that slowly forms a dense, low-growing tuft with hollowed center. It grows 5 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Zones 3-8
This variety of Picea omorika is a lovely selection with dark green needles that are light blue on the bottom. A smaller selection, it grows only 35 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Zones 4-8
Picea pungens is the most popular spruce. It features stiff branches densely packed with needles. It grows 50 feet tall. Zones 3-8
Picea glauca 'Conica' bears a perfect conical shape and is slow growing. It reaches 20 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Zones 3-6
Picea pungens 'Procumbens' is a groundcover with silvery-blue needles. It stays under a foot tall and can spread 10 feet or more. Zones 3-8
This cultivar of Picea pungens 'Compacta' is a dwarf tree with blue-green needles. It grows 12 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Zones 3-8
Picea abies 'Little Gem' is a dwarf, cushion-shape evergreen with dark green needles. It grows 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Zones 3-7
This Picea pungens selection is a slow-growing selection that offers silvery-blue needles and reaches 50 feet tall and 20 feet wide at maturity. Zones 3-8
Picea pungens 'Glauca Globosa' is a low shrub with silvery-blue needles. It grows 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Zones 3-8
This variety of Picea abies pendula is a slow-growing tree with cascading branches that adds a dramatic note to the landscape. It grows 25 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Zones 3-8
Picea orientalis 'Skylands' is a showstopper with small yellow needles and red spring cones. It does best in light afternoon shade. 'Skylands' spruce grows 100 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Zones 5-8
Picea omorika bears dark green needles and forms a narrow pyramid of upward tilting branches. It grows 70 feet tall and only 10 feet wide. Zones 5-8
This Picea omorika selection is a narrow, upright tree that grows 50 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Zones 5-8
Picea glauca 'Pendula' is a tall, very narrow tree with light green needles. It grows 50 feet tall and only 8 feet wide. Zones 2-6
This variety of Picea glauca is a pyramid-shape evergreen native to areas of North America. It bears light green needles and grows 60 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Zones 2-6