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Black Hills Spruce vs Norway Spruce: 6 Key Differences

Conifers are really unique and decorative, and they’re a big deal in gardening. Today, let’s chat about two well-known types of spruce trees: the Norway spruce and the Black Hills spruce. They’re pretty different, so let’s dive into what sets them apart.

The Black Hills spruce is a slow grower. Each year, it gets less than 12 inches (30.5 cm) taller. On the other hand, the Norway spruce is the speedster among spruces. It can shoot up anywhere from 13 inches (33 cm) to over 24 inches (61 cm) every year.

Black Hills Spruce vs Norway Spruce

Black Hills Spruce and Norway Spruce

Black Hills Spruce Norway Spruce
Name Picea glauca var. densata Picea abies
Hardiness zone 2-6 3-7
Mature height 40-60 ft (12-18 m) 50-100 ft (15-30m)
Mature width 15-25 ft (4.5-7.5 m) 15-20 ft (4.5-6 m)
Growth rate medium fast
Light exposure  full sun, partial shade full sun, partial shade
Soil moist, drained moist, drained
Soil pH 5.5-7.1 6.0-7.2
Watering One time per week in a drought One time per week in a drought
Diseases fungus fungus
Pests insects, mites insects, mites

Size

The Norway spruce can shoot up to 15 feet in 10 years. These trees are known for their long lives. After many years, they can tower over 100 feet tall and spread out to about 20 feet wide.

In contrast, the Black Hills spruce is a bit smaller. After ten years, it usually reaches about 10 feet tall. The biggest these trees can get is around 60 feet high and 25 feet wide.

Another key difference is their growth speed. The Black Hills spruce takes its time, growing about 12 inches each year. The Norway spruce, however, grows quicker, adding up to 1.5 feet (45 cm) annually.

So, what does this mean for your garden? If you need a quick privacy screen from the neighbors, the Norway spruce is a great choice. It grows fast and tall. But for a standout tree with a thicker, more attractive shape, the Black Hills spruce is the way to go.

Color

Another way to tell these two spruces apart is by their needles.

The Black Hills spruce sports needles that are a light green-gray. If it gets plenty of sun, they might even have a bit of a blue tint. This unique color comes from a waxy coating on the needles.

On the other side, the Norway spruce has needles that are a deep, rich green. They look really vibrant.

The Black Hills spruce also has more needles on its branches, and they’re a little thicker. This makes the tree look fuller and denser. Combined with its bluish-green color, it has a more exotic appearance compared to the Norway spruce.

Hardiness

The Black Hills spruce is part of the Picea glauca species. It’s mostly found in Canada, which means it’s really good at handling super cold temperatures. It’s best to grow this spruce in hardiness zones 2 through 6.

The Norway spruce is pretty tough against the cold too. You’ll find it in northern Europe, where it’s also used to harsh winters. But it’s usually recommended for up to zone 3.

For most gardeners in the U.S., the slight edge in cold hardiness of the Black Hills spruce doesn’t make a big difference, because the Norway spruce can be grown in most parts of the country as well. However, the Norway spruce is a bit more tolerant of hotter climates. It can be grown in zone 7, making it a choice for a wider range of homeowners.

Sunlight Requirements

Both of these spruces can handle full sun and some shade. But, the Black Hills spruce is a bit more fond of sunlight compared to the Norway spruce.

The Black Hills spruce needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. In colder areas, like zones 2-3, it actually thrives with more than 8 hours of sunlight.

With enough light, the Black Hills spruce shows off lush, bluish needles. If it doesn’t get enough sun, the needles turn more green and the tree won’t be as dense.

The Norway spruce has slightly different needs. In northern regions, it does well with about 4 hours of direct sunlight, but in the south, it prefers up to 6 hours.

Neither of these spruces do well in full shade, and this is especially true for the Black Hills spruce.

Cones

Norway spruce cones are typically 8-10 inches long. They might be a bit smaller on younger trees, but generally, these cones are pretty big.

In contrast, the Black Hills spruce has much smaller cones, usually no longer than 2 inches.

Since larger cones tend to be more eye-catching, especially on younger trees, the Norway spruce has a bit of an edge in terms of decorative appeal.

Disease Resistance

The Black Hills spruce, being thicker and denser, is more susceptible to fungal infections. The dense foliage doesn’t allow much air to circulate through the crown, creating a perfect environment for fungi to grow.

Also, remember that pests are attracted to dense plants where they can multiply faster.

To combat this, it’s important to spray the spruce at least once or twice a year with both a fungicide and a pesticide. Stick to products from trusted brands. And it’s a good idea to switch up the products occasionally, rather than using the same one all the time.