10 Best Spruce Trees To Plant (Pros And Cons Of Major Types)

Young spruce tree growing

When winter rolls around, spruce trees become the centerpiece of our yards with their green needles that stand out bright against the white snow. These cold-climate natives will make a great addition to your yard and with so many varieties, you’re sure to find a spruce tree that fits your needs.

Some of the best spruce trees to plant in your yard include Black, Serbian, Weeping White, Norway, Black Hills, Colorado Blue, Dwarf Alberta, Sitka, and White Spruce. These spruce trees adapt to a variety of soil and weather conditions, providing plenty of interesting colors during the cold gray winter.

Below, we’ll go over the best spruce trees to plant, the pros and cons of each spruce, and a little bit about how to make sure your chosen spruce thrives. Let’s get to it!

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What Are Spruce Trees?

Most people are familiar with spruce trees and know them as evergreen trees with needles. This is a pretty basic explanation but serves its purpose.

If you dig a little deeper into the details, you’ll find that spruce trees are conifers, meaning they produce cones instead of showy flowers. They are evergreens, which means they continue to perform photosynthesis all year and drop their leaves (needles) slowly.

Spruce trees, along with many other needled evergreens, have a waxy coating on their needles. This helps retain water and is especially helpful in the winter when the water in the ground is frozen and can’t be absorbed by the spruce tree.

According to the University of Missouri, spruce trees are native to cool climates. They do not perform as well in warm, humid weather compared to cool, dry weather. In general, spruce trees do well in hardiness zones 3 through 7, with some exceptions.

Most spruce trees are resistant to pests and diseases. Aphids, spider mites, and spruce budworms will occasionally plague spruce trees but rarely kill them. Deer, porcupines, and other woodland creatures will flock to spruce trees for cover and occasionally snack on the bark.

You can expect spruce trees to grow anywhere from 10 feet to over 100 feet, depending on the species. They typically require less maintenance than deciduous trees, but still require some care, especially when first planted.

Spruce trees will benefit from fertilizer a few seasons after they are established. Allow the spruce to grow a solid root system before supplying with a fertilizer high in nitrogen such as Cesco Solutions Urea Fertilizer.

You can read more about the best spruce tree fertilizers here.

There are 35 different species of spruce trees to choose from, but the ones we put on our list are going to be the easiest to grow, give the best color, and fit a variety of landscapes.

The Best Spruce Trees To Plant

Young blue spruce tree growing outdoors. Planting and gardening

If you’re considering planting a spruce tree, you’ve made a good choice! These trees can provide some much-needed aesthetic relief in the winter and will look beautiful in your yard.

But before you choose a specific spruce species, take into consideration the environment you will be planting it in:

  • Drainage: Some species of spruce do better in wet conditions, others need well-draining soil that won’t hold water.
  • Temperature: Check out the hardiness zone where you live to determine if your spruce will survive the cold (or hot) season.
  •  Landscape: Do you have a place in your yard picked out that will provide your spruce with enough space and sunlight to grow?
  • Weather: Take into consideration if the area where you live is prone to drought or flood and be sure to pick a spruce variety that can withstand these challenges.

We will cover all of these points below to make sure you’re choosing the right spruce tree for your yard!

Black Spruce

Black spruce, variety aurea (picea mariana (mill. ) britton, sterns & poggenb. ). General view
Black Spruce (Picea mariana)

Black spruce trees go by a few different names including bog spruce and swamp spruce. As these names suggest, it prefers moist environments.

With that being said, you don’t necessarily need wet soil to grow black spruce trees. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), black spruce prefers wet, organic soils but can withstand soils ranging from sandy to clay.

You can expect black spruce trees to grow between 40 and 65 feet tall if given the right conditions. They will thrive in hardiness zones 3 through 6.

Pros:

  • Does well in smaller yards
  • Does well in wet soil
  • Can be grown in a wide range of soils types

Cons:

  • Slow growth
  • Performs poorly in warm weather above zone 6
  • Not as readily available at nurseries

Serbian Spruce

Spring foliage of an evergreen coniferous serbian spruce tree (p
Serbian Spruce Tree (Picea omorika)

Of all the species of spruce trees, Serbian spruces are considered one of the best-looking in the landscape. They have dark green, flat needles with white bands on the underside that give them a gorgeous silvery cast when they blow in the wind.

According to Penn State University, Serbian spruce trees grow to around 50 feet in height and 20 to 25 feet wide. They are a good tree to plant in small- to medium-sized yards.

Serbian spruce will thrive in hardiness zones 4 through 7, so they are not as cold-tolerant as black spruce, but they are more readily available at nurseries than black spruce.

Pros:

  • Adaptable to a wide range of PH, drainage, and soil conditions
  • Stunning ornamental value
  • Resistant to most pests and diseases

Cons:

  • Cannot be planted near the road as it will not tolerate salt

Weeping White Spruce

Black spruce (picea mariana)
Picea (spruce) glauca pendula conifer with fresh buds in spring. Rare weeping conifer for garden collection

The weeping white spruce is smaller, reaching a height of just 40 feet with a spread of 8 feet. It is native to North America and does best in full to partial sun.

These evergreens thrive in zones 2 through 9, making them one of the most cold-hardy trees on our list and one of the most adaptable to warm weather as well.

Weeping whites are known for being tolerant of a wide range of conditions. They also have a moderate growth rate of 12 inches per year and you can expect them to reach 10’ by year 10.

One of the best aspects of weeping white spruce is its attractiveness in the yard. With accented needles of blue-green that grow in a drooping manner, weeping whites are sure to be a talking piece in your yard.

Pros:

  • Adaptable to a wide range of site conditions
  • Ornamental value
  • Low-maintenance care
  • Resistant to pests and disease

Cons:

  • Not drought-tolerant

Norway Spruce

3 black spruce (picea mariana)
Black Spruce (Picea mariana)

As the name suggests, Norway spruce is native to Europe. These stately trees grow both tall and wide, and should only be planted in yards that have plenty of space.

Norway spruces will reach a height of up to 75 feet (possibly more) with a spread of up to 50 feet. Talk about a stately tree! According to the Nebraska Forest Service, they grow in a pyramid shape, giving them a nice shape in your landscape.

Another cold-hardy spruce, Norway spruces will thrive in hardiness zones 2 through 7. They prefer full sun and will do best when given plenty of space to grow.

Pros:

  • Does well in urban environments
  • Can withstand a wide range of environmental conditions and soil types
  • Fast growth rate – 13 to 24 inches per year

Cons:

  • Not drought tolerant
  • Requires a lot of space – not good for small yards
  • Loses its shape in old age

As a personal note, I have a few of these trees next to our house. They are SO beautiful when maintained properly.

Black Hills Spruce

Adobestock 65506353 edited scaled
Black Hills Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Densata’)

This South Dakota native is a favorite landscape tree for many homeowners. It’s quite cold-resistant, thriving in hardiness zones 2 through 6.

You can expect Black Hills spruce to reach a mature height of around 30 to 60 feet. This tree has a lot of wildlife value, providing birds with nesting areas and cover during winter. The bark is eaten by both porcupines and deer.

The dense, pyramidal shape of black hill spruce when young makes it a great choice for a Christmas tree. They prefer full sun and grow best in moist, loamy soils.

Pros:

  • Drought-tolerant
  • Wildlife value
  • Nice ornamental value – deep green to blue needles

Cons:

  • Slow growth rate
  • Does poorly in compact soil
  • Sensitive to flooding

Colorado Blue Spruce

Colorado blue spruce (picea pungens engelm)
Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens Engelm)

The Colorado blue spruce is probably one of the most sought-after landscape trees. They are very attractive with bluish-green to bluish-silver needles on branches that spread out horizontally from the trunk.

This western native typically reaches a height of around 30 to 65 feet. According to the University of Nebraska, it prefers full sun and performs poorly in shade. 

Like the Norway Spruce, Colorado blues thrive in hardiness zones 2 through 7, making them one of the widest-tolerating spruce trees when it comes to temperature.

Colorado blue spruce does well in windy conditions. An article in the Journal of Geophysical Research found that these evergreens will streamline themselves to withstand high winds, similar to how a sportscar is streamlined to reduce drag.

Pros:

  • Ornamental value
  • Drought-tolerant
  • Wind-tolerant

Cons:

  • Intolerant of shade
  • More susceptible to pests and diseases than some other spruce species

If you want to go this route take a look at our guides on keep your blue spruce small or making your blue spruce more blue!

Dwarf Alberta Spruce

Black spruce (picea mariana)
Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’)

Dwarf Alberta Spruce is a very popular spruce tree for landscapes because of its tiny nature. It will take around 30 years for it to reach a height of just 10 feet.

According to Virginia State University, these evergreens can survive in hardiness zones 2 through 6, but they do best in cooler climates. You can plant dwarf Alberta in full sun or partial shade, and they prefer well-drained soil that doesn’t hold moisture for very long.

One thing to note about the dwarf Alberta is that it is a dwarf variety of white spruce. While growing, the gene that tells the tree to be a dwarf may get turned off and it will revert to being full-grown.

You can avoid this unfortunate situation by pruning the non-dwarf branches back as soon as you notice them. An article from the University of Toronto speculates that the more sun a dwarf Alberta gets, the more likely it is to revert to being a full-grown spruce.

Another problem with Dwarf Alberta spruce is the possibility of spider mite infestations. This will happen more often in areas with poor air circulation. You can use a Miticide like AgroMagen to help mitigate the problem.

Pros:

  • Excellent for small yards
  • Slow growth – Will stay small for many decades
  • Fragrant needles

Cons:

  • It will sometimes revert to its full-grown form and requires pruning
  • Does poorly in warm climates
  • Vulnerable to mite infestations

Oriental Spruce

Picea orientalis, commonly known as the oriental spruce or caucasian spruce, is a species of spruce native to the caucasus and adjacent northeast turkey.
Oreintal Spruce (Picea orientalis)

Oriental spruce trees may be difficult to find in nurseries, but they are worth it if you can snag one! These trees will grow to around 50 feet in the landscape, but grow much taller in their native habitat.

It is hardy from zones 4 through 7, making it a bit picky with temperature. The oriental spruce has a nice pyramidal shape to give your landscape an eye-catching tree.

The nice thing about Oriental spruce trees is that they will thrive in just about any soil from sand to clay as long as there is decent drainage. These evergreens require little maintenance and barely any pruning.

Pros:

  • Remains dark green year-round while other spruces lose some of their green color in the winter
  • Attracts wildlife
  • Grows in a wide range of soil and sun conditions

Cons:

  • Slow growth rate
  • Not as readily available at nurseries
  • Not suited for urban areas as it cannot tolerate pollution

White Spruce

White spruce trees are the grown-up version of dwarf Alberta spruce. It is a North American native that’s considered a large tree, growing to around 40 to 60 feet at maturity.

According to the University of Minnesota, the white spruce gets its name from the needle’s wax coating, which has a white tinge to it. This evergreen will thrive in hardiness zones 2 through 6, making it one of the hardier spruces on our list.

Pros:

  • Adapts to different soil types and conditions
  • Does well as a transplant
  • Tolerant of wind and drought
  • Attracts wildlife

Cons:

  • Not a good choice for small yards
  • Susceptible to cankers and root rot

Sitka Spruce

A glowing sunrise outlines a pair of sitka spruces.

We put the Sitka spruce last on our list because it is not a typical landscape tree. It is not readily available at nurseries unless you live near the coast.

But just because Sitka spruce isn’t as pretty as the other spruces on our list doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value! The Sitka spruce is known for being extremely tolerant of poor conditions.

This evergreen is native to the Pacific coast from California to Alaska. It’s one of the only spruce trees that are tolerant of salt and it grows wild along coastlines without a problem. It can grow in hardiness zones 7 through 8, making it the most tolerant spruce for warm, humid conditions.

According to the Pacific University of Oregon, Sitka spruce is the largest of all spruce trees and can reach extreme heights of over 200 feet, but typically around 125 to 150 feet. 

Pros:

  • Extremely tolerant of poor soil conditions and salt
  • Once established, it is fast-growing (up to 3 feet per year)

Cons:

  • Grows slow if not given the right conditions
  • Not suitable for small yards
  • Littel ornamental value

What Spruce Tree Grows The Fastest?

When choosing a tree for our yards, it can be hard to wrap our heads around how long it will take for that little tree to reach its height at maturity.

After all, many trees that we plant today will still be alive long after we’re gone!

One of the things that can alleviate our impatience is planting a tree that has a fast growth rate. Growth rates indicate how many inches a tree will grow per year.

The Norway spruce is the fastest-growing spruce tree. It can grow over 24 inches per year if given the right conditions. Even at its slowest rate of 13 inches per year, it still outstrips many other spruces on our list.

Most spruce trees grow at a moderate rate, around 6 to 12 inches per year. This is about the average for trees. But, if you’re looking for a fast-growing spruce, pick the Norway spruce!

What Spruce Does The Best In Cold Climates?

Evergreen trees are usually associated with colder climates. They stand out so much in winter when all of their deciduous neighbors have lost their leaves.

But not all evergreens are tolerant of extremely cold weather. Some, like Serbian spruce and oriental spruce, do not do so well in the cold. However, there are plenty of spruces that are just fine with freezing temperatures.

The six hardiest spruce trees on our list include:

  • Weeping White
  • Norway
  • Black Hills
  • Colorado Blue
  • Dwarf Alberta
  • White Spruce

These six spruce trees can grow in zone 2, which means they will survive temperatures that reach as low as -50℉! Talk about chilly weather!

But this shouldn’t come as a surprise since many spruce trees occupy some of the coldest regions in North America including Alaska and the cold regions of Canada.

If you’d ever like to put flowers under your spruce, take a peak at our guide on the best plants for underneath your spruce tree here!

What Spruce Tree Does The Best In Warm Climates?

For those who don’t have to put on five layers of clothes and a jacket to go outside in winter, there are still spruce trees for you! 

Spruce trees that do well in warmer zones include:

  • Serbian spruce
  • Sitka spruce
  • Oriental spruce

These will survive in zones approaching 7, 8, and even 9 in some cases. If you live by the coast, definitely consider a Sitka spruce as these trees can tolerate salt spray.

That’s All For Now!

Spruce trees are a type of conifer that remains green, or in some cases blue, all year round. They lose their needles slowly enough that it goes unnoticed by most, unlike deciduous trees that lose all their leaves at once in the fall.

If you’re thinking about planting a spruce tree in your yard, you have quite the variety to choose from! Whether you have a small yard, acidic soil, moist soil, or dry soil, there’s a spruce tree for you.

Now, for a quick recap.

The 10 best spruce trees to plant include:

  • Black Spruce
  • Serbian Spruce
  • Weeping White Spruce
  • Norway Spruce
  • Black Hills Spruce
  • Colorado Blue Spruce
  • Dwarf Alberta Spruce
  • Oriental Spruce
  • White Spruce
  • Sitka Spruce

We chose these 10 spruce trees because they are the most readily available in nurseries and they have the widest adaptability to soil conditions, temperature, and sun conditions.

Many of the spruce trees on our list are also low maintenance. They rarely need to be pruned or watered.

Thanks for reading and best of luck on your spruce Tree Journey!

References

Ammann, M., Siegwolf, R., Pichlmayer, F., Suter, M., Saurer, M., & Brunold, C. (1999, February). Estimating the uptake of traffic-derived NO2 from 15N abundance in Norway spruce needles. Oecologia118, 124-131.

Chang, W.-Y., Lantz, V. A., Hennigar, C. R., & MacLean, D. A. (2012, February 21). Economic impacts of forest pests: a case study of spruce budworm outbreaks and control in New Brunswick, Canada. Canadian Journal of Forest Research42(3), 490-505. https://cdnsciencepub.com/doi/abs/10.1139/x11-190

Gillies, J. A., Nickling, W. G., & King, J. (2002, December 19). Drag coefficient and plant form response to wind speed in three plant species: Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus), Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens glauca.), and Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum). Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres107(D24), ACL 10-1 – ACL 10-15.

Jia, H. (2017, December). The Performance of Dwarf Alberta Spruce Picea Glauca ‘Conica’ in Urban Landscape. TSpace Repository.

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