How to Grow Spruce — Picea

Blue spruce branches
Blue spruce Picea pungens young shooting leaves with caps in the spring.

Spruce is the common name for Picea, a genus of evergreen trees of the Pine Family.

Spruce have whorled branches, narrow needle-like leaves, and fruit which is usually a pendant cone. Drooping cones distinguish spruces from firs which bear upright cones.

Spruces are exceedingly ornamental. Large spruces are especially valuable for park or estate planting and the slower-growing species are suited for home gardens.

Most spruces are hardy and tolerant of shade. They will grow in almost any kind of soil if there is good drainage and sufficient moisture. Because they are shallow-rooted, spruces are easily transplanted.

Their dense foliage and strong branches make them excellent windbreaks or shelterbelts. Some species such as the Norway spruce or Tigertail spruce can endure severe pruning and are often used as hedge plants.

Spruces can be grown from seed or cuttings.

Here are often grown spruce varieties:

  • Norway Spruce, Picea abies, grows to 150 feet tall, has pyramidal form with horizontal branches and shiny dark-green needles. It is among the most commonly cultivated evergreens.
  • White Spruce, P. glauca, grow to 70 feet with ascendant branches and drooping branchlets; it is blueish-green and strongly aromatic.
  • Colorado Spruce, P. pungens, grows from 80 to 150 feet tall in pyramidal form; its foliage is striking bluish-green to silvery white.
  • Tigertail Spruce, P. polita, grows to 90 feet; it has stout branches and can be pruned into hedge form.
Blue spruce trees, Picea pungens
Blue spruce trees, Picea pungens

Get to Know Colorado Spruce

  • Plant type: Coniferous evergreen
  • Growing Zones and range: 2-7
  • Hardiness: Hardy
  • Height and spread: To 150 feet (45m) tall and 60 feet (18m) wide; pyramidal form with horizontal branches
  • Foliage: Stiff, needle-like leaves vary in color from green to silver-blue
  • Flowers: Reddish-brown male and female flowers; followed by 5- to 7-inch hanging cones
  • Bloom time: Spring
  • Uses: Specimen tree, screen plantings
  • Botanical name: Picea pungens
  • Common name: Colorado Spruce
  • Origin: North America, Europe, Asia

Where to Plant Colorado Spruce

  • Colorado spruce grows best in cool climates.
  • Plant Colorado spruce in full sun.
  • Grow Colorado spruce in moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil.

When to Plant Colorado Spruce

  • Transplant balled-and-burlapped plants in early spring.

Planting and Spacing Colorado Spruce

  • Space trees 50 or more feet apart if growing to full-size.

How to Water and Feed Colorado Spruce

  • Keep the soil evenly moist; grows best in moisture-retentive well-drained soil.
  • Fertilize spruce by spreading aged compost to the dripline at least once a year.

Colorado Spruce Care

  • Mulch around Colorado spruce to keep the soil moist.

Colorado Spruce Common Problems

  • Avoid injuring the tree with a lawnmower or other tool; wounds can be points of entry for pests or diseases.

Colorado Spruce Propagation

  • Sow seed when ripe in fall or spring.
  • Take cuttings in the fall.
  • Graft in spring.

Colorado Spruce Varieties to Grow

  • P. pungens ‘Glauca’, Colorado blue spruce, has bluish foliage.
  • ‘Thompson’ is a pyramidal form with whitish foliage.
  • Picea abies, Norway spruce, is fast-growing; use as a filler or screen; ‘Conica’ is a dense compact conical form to 25 feet (7.5m).

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