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Norway Spruce vs Blue Spruce: 5 Key Differences

The Blue Spruce and Norway Spruce are renowned among conifers for their distinct characteristics, setting them apart from other plants.

The primary distinction lies in their needle colors: the Blue Spruce is characterized by its blue needles, whereas the Norway Spruce has green needles.

In terms of size, Blue Spruce trees typically reach maturity at about 70 to 80 feet in height. On the other hand, native Norway Spruce trees usually mature at around 60 feet but can grow much taller, reaching heights of 115 to 180 feet (approximately 35 to 55 meters).

Blue Spruce vs Norway Spruce

Blue Spruce and Norway Spruce

Blue Spruce Norway Spruce
Name Picea pungens Picea abies
Hardiness zone 2-7 3-7
Mature height 25-65 ft 50-100 ft
Mature width 10-15 ft 15-20 ft
Growth rate medium fast
Light exposure full sun full sun, partial shade
Soil moist, drained moist, drained
Soil pH 5.8-7.1 6.0-7.2
Watering 1 time per week in a drought 1 time per week in a drought
Diseases fungus fungus
Pests insects, mites insects, mites

The needle color is different

The Blue Spruce’s distinctive blue hue comes from a waxy coating on its needles. In contrast, the Norway Spruce features needles of a deep emerald green. Aesthetically, the Blue Spruce often appears more decorative than the Norway Spruce.

In addition to color, the needles of the Blue Spruce are longer and thicker, lending a more succulent appearance. This contributes to the shoots being denser and having a more voluminous look. The needles of the Blue Spruce measure about 0.5 to 1 inch (1.5 to 2 cm) in length, which makes the annual branches appear fuller due to the increased needle diameter of 2 to 2.5 inches.

Conversely, the Norway Spruce lacks such features. Its needles are shorter and smaller, often positioned horizontally rather than diametrically as in the Blue Spruce, resulting in thinner and less lush branches.

Another distinction is the sharpness of the needles. While both species have somewhat sharp needles, those of the Blue Spruce are notably sharper and can even be prickly to the touch, unlike the milder Norway Spruce needles.

Blue Spruce needs more sun

The Blue Spruce thrives under abundant direct sunlight, which is crucial for developing its characteristic color. The blue hue results from a waxy coating that forms as a protective response to excessive sunlight. Without sufficient sunlight, the wax diminishes or may not form at all, causing the spruce to appear green rather than blue.

For optimal health and color, a Blue Spruce requires at least 8-10 hours of direct sunlight daily. In fully shaded environments, these trees not only risk losing their blue color but may also shed needles and branches.

On the other hand, the Norway Spruce has different sunlight needs. While it also favors sunny conditions, it requires less sunlight than the Blue Spruce, with about 6 hours of direct exposure being adequate.

Overall, the Norway Spruce is less demanding in terms of sunlight requirements, making it easier to cultivate compared to the Blue Spruce, which demands more sun for its distinctive coloration.

Norway Spruce has a faster growth rate

The Norway Spruce is known for its more rapid growth compared to the Blue Spruce. Annually, the Norway Spruce can grow between 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 cm), influenced by its growing conditions. In natural settings, these spruces can even achieve growth of up to 3 feet per year. The Blue Spruce, in contrast, exhibits a more modest growth rate, typically averaging 10 to 12 inches per year.

Given these growth rates, the Norway Spruce is the preferable choice if rapid growth is a priority. Conversely, for ornamental purposes where a more controlled growth and aesthetic appearance is desired, the Blue Spruce is often the more suitable option, particularly as a specimen plant.

They come in different sizes and shapes

Overall, the Norway Spruce exhibits a faster growth rate and achieves greater heights than the Blue Spruce. At full maturity, the Blue Spruce typically reaches heights of 65 to 70 feet, whereas the Norway Spruce can attain heights of up to 100 feet.

The Blue Spruce, with its shorter branches and longer needles, presents a lush and fuller appearance. This trait makes it visually striking, especially when it stands alone among other plants.

In contrast, the Norway Spruce, often referred to as European Spruce, has a more elongated and slender look. Its branches tend to droop, making the main branches that connect to the trunk more prominent.

A significant advantage of the Norway Spruce is its suitability for creating hedges. Its shade tolerance and rapid growth make it an ideal choice for this purpose, offering both practicality and aesthetic.

Blue Spruce is more frost tolerant

The Blue Spruce exhibits a higher level of frost resistance compared to the Norway Spruce. Both species are capable of withstanding severe frosts, but the Blue Spruce is better adapted to harsher climates. It is ideally suited for growth in USDA hardiness zones 2 through 7.

The Norway Spruce, while still frost-tolerant, is slightly less resilient to extreme cold and is recommended for zones 3 to 7. However, this difference in frost tolerance has minimal impact on their practical use in gardening, as most gardeners reside in climates that are well within the tolerable range for both types of spruce.