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Spruce Trees

Spruce your yard up with these sturdy, cold-tolerant conifers.

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Spruce Trees

Elegant, hardy, and ever-popular, Spruce trees are a familiar and breathtaking sight across North America and the Northern Hemisphere. You’ll find them across the Rocky Mountains, within dense boreal forest locations and naturally, they’re also a common and attractive fixture in backyards and pots.

Their dense branching pattern makes Spruce trees the ideal option for hedging and creating privacy screens in gardens. With so many different types of spruce trees to choose from, gardeners are spoilt for choice with these versatile and eye-catching trees. However, with so many spruce species out there, choosing to plant a Spruce Tree or multiples, isn’t a decision that should be rushed.

Different Types of Spruce Trees

When well cared for and planted well, Spruce trees can last for hundreds of years and add some much-needed character and even shelter to your property. There are around 35 evergreen conifer species in the genus Picea, with some varieties preferable for certain environments or uses. The most common variety we’re all familiar with would have to be Christmas trees, usually in the form of the Norway spruce (Picea Abies) or the blue spruce (Picea Pungens).

You’ll also find that the size of spruce trees can vary, while many spruce trees have a conical shape and can grow upwards of 200ft, there are also dwarf cultivars such as the dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca) which are popular choices for gardeners who are looking for an easy care evergreen tree that can be grown in pots or planted in small spaces.

Let’s take a look at the most popular Spruce trees available today.

The Norway Spruce (Picea Abies)

A truly stunning specimen in gardens and large open areas, the Norway spruce or Picea abies is more commonly recognized as a traditional Christmas tree but can be a real centerpiece of any backyard. These types of spruce trees prefer well drained soil that is slightly acidic. They’re incredibly hardy but will struggle in high temperatures.

Varieties of the Norway spruce include the bird’s nest spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis) and the green dragon spruce (Picea retroflexa) and not forgetting the pendulous branches of the Weeping Norway Spruce (Picea abies var. pendula). Growing at roughly 2ft per year, the Norway spruce is a strong evergreen that is simple to grow and will delight you for years to come with its dark green needles and conical shape.

The Colorado Spruce (Picea Pungens)

The Colorado spruce boasts beautiful silvery blue foliage, growing to around 5ft high, this dwarf species of spruce tree, is ideal for being shaped into a hedge or even being used as a garden screen. The Colorado spruce enjoys full sun, thriving in cooler climates and well-drained soil. The Colorado blue spruce has a slow growth rate and does not need to be pruned, however, if you’re hoping for denser foliage then you can prune away half of any new growth in early Spring.

The stunning foliage of the Colorado blue spruce brings year-round color to any backyard or outdoor space and interesting texture, giving your garden points of interest and variety with silvery blue spruce needles. The Colorado Spruce is deer-resistant and incredibly resistant to drought, making it a simple yet highly enjoyable plant for gardeners of all levels of experience. The Engelmann spruce (Picea Engelmannii) or the traditional blue spruce is an ideal choice here.

The Sitka Spruce (Picea Sitchensis)

The beautiful Sitka spruce has its origins in Western North America, and the Picea Sitchensis is also regarded as one of the world’s fastest-growing trees – as much as 4ft in a single year! This makes them the ideal choice for gardeners who are put off by the long commitment often associated with other trees. It is the largest species of spruce and much like other spruce trees, thrives in well-drained but moist soil.

This spruce tree produces light green needles that are prickly to the touch accompanied by pale brown, domed cones. These kinds of spruce trees can be easily identified from fir trees due to their cones which hang downwards. Sitka spruce trees also have shorter cones than those of the Norway spruce.

How to Plant Spruce Trees

Once you’re committed to which spruce tree you want for your backyard or hedging project, it’s important to understand how to plant them effectively, the conditions they need to thrive such as cold climates, and how to care for them going forward.

Choose the Right Spot for Your Spruce Tree

If you want a trouble-free spruce, then choosing the right location is key. Most spruce trees including the Norway spruce will prefer a location with full sunlight. You’ll also want to consider how tall your spruce tree will grow when it is fully mature, and choose a location that is away from overhead cables and homes so you can avoid any potential structural damage caused by roots. Remember your spruce tree will prefer an area with well-drained but moist soil, and you’ll also need to check the soil acidity preference of your chosen trees.

When To Plant Your Spruce Tree

It’s always recommended that spruce trees are planted in the Fall. If you’ve missed this deadline then aim for Spring after the last frost has finally thawed.

Planting Your Spruce Trees

Prepare a hole for your chosen spruce species that is at least 3ft wide. Then dig down to a depth that is slightly deeper than the height of your tree’s root ball (usually about 3 inches). If your soil is of poor quality, then consider digging down deeper – around six inches – and adding a layer of compost to support the growth of your spruce tree.

Loosen the root ball of your spruce tree and place the tree in the middle of the hole. Then, spread the roots out gently. Then begin refilling the hole with soil and gently tap as you go to remove any air pockets. If you’re worried about the solidity of your soil then staking your spruce might be a good idea until its roots are established.

Create a raised ring of soil around your tree and add mulch. Then give your spruce tree a generous drink of water, until the water stops soaking into the ground.

Caring for Your Spruce Trees

Whether you’ve opted to plant Christmas trees in your front yard, or you’re enamored by the dwarf Alberta spruce, once you’ve planted your chosen spruce, it’s important to take the necessary steps to care for and nurture it.

Be Wary of Pests

The last thing your Spruce trees need is the presence of pests and diseases that can impact their growth and health. One of the most common issues is the presence of eastern spruce budworm. These pesky caterpillars feed on the needles of spruce trees and fir trees, primarily on the White Spruce (Picea glauca). As a gardener, it’s important to be aware of these pests so you can take the necessary precautions and measures to remove them.

If you’re noticing damage to your flower buds, destruction of cones, or the consumption of spruce needles, then you may need to treat your spruce trees with insecticides in the dusk or early hours. To prevent eastern spruce budworm and increase your trees’ resiliency, applying pesticides before larvae hatch can remove populations, and regular inspection of your White spruce can also help.

Watering Your Spruce Trees

Did you know that the roots of spruce trees are quite shallow? This means that they’ll need reasonable access to water and during droughts or periods with little or no rain, you’ll need to ensure that they have plenty to drink to prevent their roots from drying out.

In order to encourage the roots of your Blue spruce or bird’s nest spruce to grow downwards – thus creating a stronger root and support system, always water your trees heavily around the base of the tree, rather than the space around it.

If you have a newly planted Spruce, then you’ll need to water around the ring of the trunk until the ground cannot soak up any further liquid. Keep doing this until your spruce is established.

Fertilizing Your Spruce Trees

Generally, fertilizer should only be needed if your soil is in poor condition. However, Spruce trees can greatly benefit from mulch. It’s this addition that prevents the roots from drying out and contributes to the moist soil that spruces such as the Black spruce, Red Spruce, and Engelmann spruce thrive in. The best time of year to mulch is in the springtime, preferably after some light rainfall.

Pruning Your Spruce Trees

Pruning your Spruce trees isn’t considered to be essential maintenance, as it’s their beautiful shape and look that is so attractive, however, some gardeners choose to prune their trees to control growth, height, and width. And pruning is also used for removing broken or diseased branches. Many people also prune and trim their trees for aesthetic reasons; to create denser foliage for hedges and screens.

If you’re going to prune your spruce trees then it’s recommended that this is done while the tree is dormant in early spring, before new growth begins.

FAQs

How fast do spruce trees grow?

The speed of growth of a spruce tree will vary from species to species. For example, the Red Spruce has a slow to moderate growth rate of 12 inches per year, while the Norway spruce can grow up to 5 feet in a year in favorable weather conditions – good news if you’re hoping to grow your own Christmas tree in your backyard.

Do deer eat spruce trees?

While spruce trees are great for wildlife, if you grow spruces then you have to be mindful of deer. Normally, deer wouldn’t eat plants such as the Norway Spruce tree, however, if food is scarce and they have no other choice then it’s not unheard of for deer to use the spruce as a food source, but this is rare. However the Colorado spruce, Colorado Blue spruce, and the White spruce are deer-resistant.

How tall do spruce trees grow?

Spruce trees grow to a variety of different heights. Knowing the height of your potential spruce is key to finding the right one for your outdoor space. The blue spruce for example can grow to heights of 10-12ft tall in 10 years. While the dwarf Alberta spruce is much shorter in stature, growing up to 5 feet, making it ideal for pots and much more manageable.

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