Planting white spruce trees

White spruce

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun. Tolerant of clay soil but good drainage is a must.
The shallow, spreading root system benefits from a 3-4” layer of organic mulch.
Spruce need very little in the way of pruning.

Disease, pests, and problems

Cankers, root rots and needlecast diseases.
Bagworm, sawfly and needle miners. One of the hosts for eastern spruce gall adelgids.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Canada and the northwestern United States in moist, cool climates.

Bark color and texture

Gray to silvery gray and scaly or flaky.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Evergreen. Pale green pointed needles are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, 4-sided, often crowded on the upper surface of the stem.
The aromatic needles can persist for 3 to 4 years before dropping.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Both male and female flowers are small and insignificant, found on the same tree. White spruce (Picea glauca) photo: John Hagstrom

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

White Spruce has the smallest cones of any of the spruces, typically 1 to 2 inches long, cylindrical and pendulous, often clustered near the top of the tree. They are a medium green color throughout much of the summer, and turn brown in autumn and winter. Cones scales are thin, rounded and have smooth margins. A favorite of many birds.

Cultivars and their differences

Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’): 6 to 8 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide; pyramidal; extremely slow, seldom produces cones. Good for small spaces.

Black Hills Spruce (Picea glauca var. densata): 20 to 40 feet high and 10 to 20 feet wide, very narrow, dense form, slow growing. Good for space restrictions, screen or windbreak.

How you can help, right now

Our Plant Profiles from Plant Select® feature plants that thrive in the Rocky Mountain region and also provide critical needs for wildlife.

Evergreen trees are especially important landscape features this time of year in the west, offering architectural interest to winter gardens. But with increasing pest attacks, such as mountain pine beetle and now the devastating Emerald ash borer, it’s even more important to consider species diversity when considering options.

Colorado (blue) spruce

Colorado (blue) spruce (Picea pungens) is a ubiquitous landscape evergreen, available in sizes ranging from dwarf (growing just 3-4”/year) to large (growing 12” or more/year), as well as upright, spreading, weeping and mounding forms. Foliage color includes powder blue, bluish-green, and medium green. This incredible variety in a single species comes from naturally occurring genetic combinations. Once a desirable form is discovered, cuttings are taken and then usually grafted onto a rootstock of another species of spruce. The plants are easy to grow and adapt to a very wide range of garden and landscape conditions.

Because of this ease and adaptability, Colorado spruce has become the dominant spruce species in western gardens and landscaping. This “domination” has led to a lack of species diversity, making our landscapes susceptible to potential severe pest damage.

Blue spruce (Picea pungens) Photo: Patrick Alexander/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

White Spruce

One of the best alternatives to Colorado spruce is another North American native tree, white spruce (Picea glauca). This species’s native range is the northern tier of U.S states into most of Canada, making it a wonderful cold-hardy alternative, even in higher elevations. In nature, the trees tend to be greenish-blue, growing as tall as Colorado spruce, but with slightly shorter needles and a finer-textured appearance. White spruce has similar genetic variability, and many types selected for landscape use. But what it also has going for this species is that it is not as widely used in western gardening, and may not be susceptible to the same pests as Colorado spruce.

One of the most beautiful forms of white spruce is an elegant selection, ‘Pendula’. The designation refers to the weeping branches that fall gracefully from an upright trunk. This selection is rather blue (though not as blue as Colorado “blue” spruce); the blue cast coming from a waxy coating on the needles. This waxy coating acts to protect the needles from strong sun and drying winds, making it an even better choice for high-altitude western gardens.

Wildlife benefits

Spruce trees in general provide shelter to birds, small mammals and insects. In fact, a single large tree can host several nests of birds at one time. Seeds produced in the small, chestnut-colored cones are eaten by nuthatches, chickadees, crossbills and nutcrackers—and red squirrels, who hoard them in caches in the soil. Birds and small mammals also feed on the many insects, including spiders, midges, cone borer larvae, and sawflies and their larvae.

White spruce, including ‘Pendula’, offer these and more ornamental and wildlife benefits. They are relatively easy to grow and very adaptable and hardy in western gardens, and provide species diversification in our urban forests.

Weeping White Spruce at a Glance

  • Height: 20-30’
  • Width: 4-6’
  • Hardiness: USDA zones 3-8
  • Growth habit: Narrow and upright with pendulous branches
  • How to Use: Specimen, garden focal point
  • Culture: Full sun in loamy or sandy soils. Can take drier conditions once established.

White Spruce Information: Learn About White Spruce Tree Uses And Care

The white spruce (Picea glauca) is one of the most widely growing coniferous trees in North America, with a range all across the eastern United States and Canada, all the way to South Dakota where it is the state tree. It is one of the most popular Christmas tree choices too. It’s very hardy and easy to grow. Keep reading to learn more white spruce information, including tips on growing white spruce trees and white spruce tree uses.

White Spruce Information

The most common of white spruce tree uses is Christmas tree farming. Because of their short, stiff needles and evenly spaced branches, they are perfect for

ornament hanging. Beyond that, white spruce trees in landscapes are great as natural windbreaks, or in stands of mixed trees.

If not cut down for Christmas, the trees will naturally reach a height of 40 to 60 feet with a spread of 10 to 20 feet. The trees are very attractive, keeping their needles all year long and naturally forming a pyramidal shape all the way down to the ground.

They are an important shelter and food source for native North American wildlife.

Growing White Spruce Trees

Growing white spruce trees in the landscape is very easy and forgiving, as long as your climate is right. The trees are hardy in USDA zones 2 through 6, and are very tough against cold winter weather and wind.

They prefer full sun and do best with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, but they are also very tolerant of shade.

They like soil that is slightly acidic and moist but well draining. These trees grow best in loam but will do well in sand and even well-drained clay.

They can be started both from seeds and cuttings, and saplings transplant very easily.

White Spruce Tree

The All-Around Favorite Spruce

Why White Spruce Trees?

There’s simply nothing bad about this tree. The White Spruce is one of the most beautiful and practical evergreens you can add to your landscape. Incredibly tolerant and providing both ornamental and functional value in colder climates, it’s the perfect tree for anyone in zones 2 to 6.

The White Spruce will grow, no matter what. This tree is drought tolerant, cold tolerant and able to grow in nearly every soil condition from dry, polluted soils to wet, acidic soils. And it’s been called the most beautiful tree in existence. It’s no wonder why: This tree grows in a grand, pyramidal shape and is thick with light-green needles.

Why is Better

For starters, this tree is a no-brainer for anyone in a cold climate. Whether you want to add stunning visual interest to your property, create a natural snow and wind barrier, or block the views of pesky neighbors, you can’t go wrong with the White Spruce.

And the best part? We’ve planted, grown and nurtured for the absolute top benefits. Now, you reap the rewards of our hard work at the nursery…no need to head to big box because a well-rooted, easy-to-grow tree is delivered right to your door.

So, see the perks for yourself. Elevate your landscape with our White Spruce Tree!

Planting & Care

1. Planting: Plant your White Spruce in a spot in your yard that gets at least 6 hours of sun each day. And choose a place in your yard that has well-drained soil. To plant, spread 2 inches of organic fertilizer on the ground in an area that is two times as large as the root ball. Till the fertilizer into the ground. Be sure to go slightly deeper than the longest root and continue twice as wide as the canopy. Place the tree in the loose soil and press the soil down until the tree’s roots are completely covered.

2. Watering: Water the ground immediately after you plant your tree, but don’t oversaturate your White Spruce. Your tree will need around 20 inches of water each year, so you may not need to ever water your tree unless there is a severe drought. Generally, we recommend watering once or twice weekly in dry conditions.

3. Fertilizing: You can add one inch of organic fertilizer under the entire tree canopy each spring to encourage faster growth. If you do, you’ll need to water the ground after you apply the fertilizer to ensure it reaches the roots.

4. Pruning: If you notice infested or diseased branches, you can prune them down to the trunk in the fall.

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