Plant Spotlight On: Spruce Tree

Spruce or Blue Spruce (Picea sp.) has incredible blue-gray to green evergreen foliage. Needles are beautiful and add seasonal interest year-round. Spruce is a native conifer from the Colorado Rockies that has a high ornamental value in the landscape, growing 12 to 50 feet X 5 to 25 feet. Many of the spruce family have a highly sought-after gray-blue foliage tone, which can show quite intensely when the tree is planted in front of deeper shades of green. Spruces look particularly stunning in winter when its blue colors stand out against the bright white snow. Spruce trees are often mistaken for pine trees, but the branching on the trees is different and the spruce is more tolerant of environmental salt and adverse conditions. Like pines, wildlife such as birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and mice are known to live in the spruce’s boughs and eat the nuts found in the cone of the spruce. Spruces are a long-lived species, growing over 600 years in the right location. Many spruces are highly drought tolerant and can handle environmental salt, making some spruce a better choice for planting in urban landscapes. Spruces are very effective windbreaks and hedges.

When, Where, and How to Plant

Spruces are easily grown in full sun with fertile, moist, well-drained soil. Different types of trees prefer different types of soil conditions, for example ‘white spruce’ handles clay soils and silt well, while others do not. Balled and burlapped plants should have as much of the burlap and wire basket removed as possible. Dig the hole, place the tree in the center of the planting hole and fill in the rest of the soil around the root ball, forming a “well” at the base of the plant.

Growing Tips

Water the spruce tree consistently until well established. Mulch the tree out to the drip line with a 3 to 4-inch layer of compost or bark mulch to help hold moisture. Consider installing a windbreak or screen to help protect the tree if it is particularly tiny. Once it is well established, remove windbreak and prune regularly as needed. Prune dead branches anytime, but regular shaping should happen in late winter before the buds break. Spruces are typically healthy trees. However, when planted in the wrong conditions the trees can suffer stress and then be more likely to suffer disease and pest issues. Trees overcrowded or planted in shadier conditions are vulnerable to many diseases including blight and other fungal issues.

Check out all of the different Spruce features on iScape’s image database:

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