Norway Spruce is one of the strongest spruces. It can tolerate both severe touches of frost and hot Mediterranean weather. These plants are most common in northeastern Europe and cover large areas.
Breeders have produced a huge number of different varieties. One of the most beautiful is Picea abies Gold Grif, which has a weeping shape and yellow needles, and it looks unique.
There are also a large number of dwarf varieties of this species that are found as somatic mutations. I was lucky to find a few, one of the most compact Norway Spruce of my selection is Picea abies Makivka. You can see photos of this variety below.
Also, I should mention the red spring varieties such as Picea abies Rydal or Picea abies Acrocona and others. The first has young red growths; the second has young red cones. Their appearance in the spring for many years continues to amaze me.
So today, we will talk about growing Norway Spruce. I will share all my experience gained over the years of growing these wonderful plants.
Brief Care Information
|Name||Norway Spruce, Picea abies|
|Hardiness Zone (USDA)||3-7|
|Light||Sun, Partial Sun|
|Width||16-19 ft (5-6 m)|
|Height||120 ft (35m)|
|Pests||Bagworm, Spider Mite|
|Disease||Cytospora canker, Rhizosphaera needle cast|
|Water||1-2 per month|
|Soil||pH 6.0-8.0, Drained|
The healthier the plants you buy, the better they will grow.
The first thing you need for successful growing spruce is to buy quality planting material. If you buy low-quality seedlings, no matter how you take care of the plant, it will not grow normally.
Inspect the nursery where you decided to buy spruce. Everything should be neatly placed there, and there should be no garbage or clutter.
Look at the needles, and there should be no spots or other suspicious traces. Also, the needles should not be damaged. Look in the middle of the crown; everything should be clean there too. Insects like to settle in the middle of the crown.
The color of the needles should be bright. If the needles are pale or have a brown tinge, it may indicate insufficient watering or plant disease.
Also, inspect the trunk carefully. It should not have cracks, and the bark should not peel off. If you notice something like this, cancel the purchase. Bark or wood disease is very difficult to treat.
Next, remove the plant from the pot and check the root system. The tips of the roots should be white with a transition to brown. The roots should not be rotten, and there should be no mold. Also, it should not be tangled. Take a good look to see if there are any insect larvae or eggs between the roots, and this is also their favorite place.
Planting Norway Spruce
These plants are most common in areas where the climate is quite cold, and there is little sun, so they are best suited to partial sun. It follows that the plant should receive at least 6 hours of sunlight, the rest of the time it can be in the shade.
This amount of sun can be achieved by planting spruce on the east or west side of the building. They can also be planted to the right or left of higher plants.
As I mentioned above, Norway Spruce also grows in the south of Europe, so it can withstand full sun. In fact, in such conditions, the plants will have a brighter color of the needles. However, when planting in full sun, there are several disadvantages.
First, varieties with yellow needles can burn in the excess sun. This most often occurs in the first years after planting until the plant is not yet established in a new place. My Picea abies Aurea WB burned in the sun for the first two years, so I had to shade it.
Second, spruces will need more water because they will evaporate more moisture. So you have to water them more often, but this is for the first 3-4 years after planting depending on the variety.
I do not recommend planting these plants in the full shade because they will not grow normally. I saw a few Norway Spruces growing in absolute shade. They had few branches, the needles were small, and the crown was not thin. In addition, in the absence of the sun, the plants will get sick more often.
If you do not have enough space, you can plant them behind the house or other plants. But at the same time, they should get the morning and evening direct sun. In this case, the spruce will not be so bright but will grow quite well.
Drained soil will be the best solution.
In nature, spruce grows in poor and heavy soils. Acidity also varies. Sometimes these plants can be seen even in wetlands. We can assume that any substrate is suitable for their cultivation. However, for best results, it is better to follow certain requirements, so let’s talk about it.
The best solution is moist soil but without stagnant water. It will also be good if it is loose, it is especially good in the early years while the plant is young. Loose soil will allow the plant to develop a root system faster. Once the spruce is established in a new place, the type of soil will no longer matter much.
If you want to create a good mixture, you need to add to ordinary soil (it can be loam, etc.) 20% compost and mix well. This mixture will dry quite slowly, and it will not stagnate excess moisture. Peat will make the mixture a little more acidic, and spruce, like all conifers, like slightly acidic soils.
Instead of peat, you can use quality compost or purchased soil for conifers. However, you need to be careful and use only quality substrate.
If you have heavy clay soil, the spruce will be difficult to grow. Most likely, the growth rate will be slower, and there may be problems with the root system. It depends on the variety. Therefore, add 10-15% compost to this type of soil to make it a little looser and drained.
If you live in an area with sandy soils, then you may need to add compost to make the substrate a little wetter.
Spring is the most favorable period for planting.
In the spring, when the snow melts and the temperature rises above 41 ° F, you can plant spruce from pots in the ground. It is best to do this before the formation of young growth. For different Hardiness zones, it can be March or April.
You can also plant in May when new shoots have already appeared. In most cases, everything should be fine, but for me, it failed several times. The reasons for the failure were too hot in May.
The next favorable period is autumn; at this time, the climate is quite mild. The sun is not so strong, and the humidity is higher than in summer. Such conditions usually occur during the first half of autumn. At this time, it is necessary to plant spruce.
If you plant it later than the recommended time, it can lead to the fact that the plant will not have time to take root before the first frosts. In the future, such a plant may have problems.
Some gardeners claim that spruce can be planted in the summer. I partially agree with them. Spruce can be planted in early or late summer. Usually, at this time, the climate is quite favorable. If the sun is shining too brightly, you should shade the plant for a few weeks.
I do not recommend planting spruce in mid-summer, even if the roots are not damaged when planting. At this time, it is mostly hot and adds to this a transplant shock, and you will get a high risk of losing the plant.
Many times when I planted conifers in the summer, everything ended successfully. However, several times I lost plants.
When planting Norway Spruce do not deepen the trunk.
Try to choose cloudy weather for planting, and it will also be useful if it rained the day before. If there is no rain, water the plant two or three days before planting so that it is stored in water, this is especially important in the first weeks.
I always plant the plants at the beginning or end of the day. I also advise you to do it at the same time. The fact is that in the morning and evening, the conditions are more favorable.
Now you can start planting. In order for the roots to grow quickly, the plant needs loose soil around. Therefore, I recommend digging a hole twice the size of the pot.
If you have a high groundwater level or the ground is too heavy and retains a lot of moisture, dig a hole three times deeper than the pot. Fill a third of the pit with drainage. It can be expanded clay, rubble, or ordinary stones.
Pour the earth into the pit and place the plant there. The surface of the potting soil should be flush with the surface of the soil around or slightly higher. This is important because if you deepen the trunk, it can begin to rot, and this will lead to the loss of the plant. If you plant one inch higher, then over time, the ground will settle, and everything will be ok.
Fill all the voids with the prepared soil and compact it a bit. Then water everything around when the water comes down the soil settles. Then you should add a little more soil. After a few hours, water the spruce again.
In order for the soil around to dry more slowly, add mulch. As a mulch, I recommend using pine bark. The thickness of the mulch layer should not exceed 1-2 inches.
If you plant the plant in sunny weather, you should shade it for a few weeks or months, depending on the weather. This will help the plant to survive the transplant shock more easily. This can be done using regular garden netting.
You can also water the plant with liquid fertilizer for conifers. This fertilization will give the spruce an impetus to start growing in a new place.
During the first year after planting, keep the soil around moist. This does not mean that you need to arrange a swamp, but the land should not dry out.
Watering is required no more than twice a month.
I have already written above about how to water spruce after planting. Let’s talk about how to water these plants in the coming years.
When the spruce is established (it can take up to two years), it does not need watering. The roots penetrate deep enough into the ground, and usually, the spruce gets the right amount of water.
However, during periods of drought or if you have sandy soil, the plant may suffer from lack of moisture. This is not critical, but the needles may become slightly brown. Also, the plant will not be as energetic and may suffer from the disease.
From this, we can conclude that watering Norway Spruce is still necessary. I recommend watering only in a drought when it is very hot. Water two or three times a month will be enough. Exceptions may be dwarf varieties of spruce, and they can be watered up to 4 times a month during periods of drought.
It is best if you water the plant in two steps. For the first time, water in the morning to soak the soil, do not use too much water. Water a second time in the evening to saturate the plant with water, use three times more water than in the morning.
It will be ideal if the soil around the spruce is always slightly moist.
If it rained at least twice a month, then watering is not needed. It is also not necessary to water this plant in spring, autumn, and winter, usually at this time of year enough moisture.
The exception maybe if you live in an arid area. Then you should consult about watering with the seller from whom you bought the plants.
One feeding per year is enough.
Norway Spruce is quite an energy plant, and if the soil is not too poor, they grow well without additional fertilization, although it depends on the variety. Miniature varieties need mineral fertilizers in the first years of life.
I also noticed that if you feed the spruce every year, they grow more vigorously and have more lush needles. This way, you can control the growth of your plants. So let’s talk about this a little bit.
I feed my spruces once a year in early spring. To do this, I use a fertilizer in granules called Osmocote. It slowly releases minerals throughout the season. This fertilizer has a balanced NPK formula and provides the plant with everything it needs.
Depending on the variety of spruce, I give the appropriate number of pellets. For large varieties, you need 3.5-5 oz (100-150 g), for dwarf varieties enough 1.7 (50 g). This amount of fertilizer stimulates spruce to grow more vigorously and be more resistant to disease.
Too much fertilizer can cause the plants to grow too fast, and the young branches will not ripen normally (will be soft). As a result, the branches will break more often, and the plant will get sick more often. So do not exceed the recommended fertilizer rates.
I want to say a few words about organic fertilizers. Under ideal conditions, organic fertilizer can also give a positive result. Here it is important that the fertilizer was high quality and sterile from pests and diseases. I also do not recommend applying too much organic fertilizer.
Liquid fertilizers have a short-term effect, so I see no point in using them. They are designed primarily for garden centers to improve the appearance of the plant before the sale.
I do not recommend fertilizing spruce in late summer or autumn because, as a result, young shoots may begin to form. In winter, these young shoots will be damaged by frost, and in spring, the plant will look bad. In addition, it will recover long enough after that.
Norway Spruce can suffer from various diseases.
Spruce is quite resistant to disease. However, if grown in the wrong conditions, they can be affected by fungal infections.
Dwarf varieties with a thick crown often get sick. The fungus is very easy to grow if the branches are very close.
Another type of spruce is varieties with yellow needles. Such varieties are also often affected by fungal diseases. This is due to the fact that their needles have less chlorophyll, i.e., weaker and can not resist disease properly.
Cytospora canker is one of the most common diseases. The reason why the plant did not resist this disease can be different, but more often, it is stress. Stress very often occurs after transplanting the plant to a new place.
Infection occurs through wounds in the plant. The lower branches are affected first. Then the disease begins to develop under the bark. As a result, the needles turn brown and crumble. The disease develops slowly and does not become noticeable immediately.
If you notice similar symptoms, remove the affected branches and throw them away from the yard. Disinfect the tool you used. Spray the spruce with a fungicide, treat the wounds well. You can also water the plant with a solution of fungicide.
Rhizosphaera needle cast also quite often damages spruce. Infection occurs in the spring when young needles appear. Spores of the fungus begin to multiply, and tiny black stripes become visible on the needles. This disease causes the needles to fall off and weakens the plant.
Causes of infection can be a lack of sun and too dense planting of spruce. To avoid this disease, plant the plants at a sufficient distance from each other.
If you notice similar symptoms, then you should remove the affected needles and branches. Also, collect all the fallen needles around the plant and throw it all away from your garden.
Next, spray the spruce and all the plants around with an aqueous solution of a fungicide designed to combat it.
Some types of insects can cause significant damage.
Insects pose a very serious threat to spruce. There are many species that parasitize on these plants. Unfortunately, pests are quite difficult to fight. In this chapter, I will tell you what you can do to protect your plants.
Bagworm is a pest that parasitizes on many plants, and spruce is no exception. Its presence is noticeable due to the bags in which the larva is located. These insects can cause significant damage.
To get rid of this scourge, you can use a special insecticide containing bacteria that kill this pest. It also has natural enemy insects that feed on it. However, the most effective will be the use of a systemic insecticide.
Spruce Gall Adelgids damage the tips of young branches. As a result, bizarre growths (galls) are formed. Galls are formed mainly in spring, and in summer, the insects leave the plant.
Methods of control of this pest include autumn spraying with a systemic insecticide. In the spring, it is necessary to repeat spraying.
Spruce Needle Miner damages spruce needles. The needles turn brown and die. The larva devours the needles from the middle.
The most effective way to control this pest is a systemic insecticide. The fact is that there is no other way to affect this insect because it is in the middle of the plant. Systemic insecticides penetrate plant tissue and poison pests.
Spruce Spider Mite is a real challenge. These are very small creatures that are not always visible. You usually pay attention to them when the plant is significantly damaged. As a result of their activity, the needles dry out and fall off.
These pests look like a small cobweb between needles and small twigs. You can see small white grains on the web; this is Spider Mite.
Recently, I also found these pests on my spruce. They settled in the middle of the crown, and they were not noticeable. Unfortunately, the needles have already begun to die.
The only way to get rid of these pests is to spray the spruce with an aqueous solution of acaricide. Acaricide (miticide) is a product designed specifically against Spider Mites.
In general, I recommend spraying your spruce several times a season with various systemic insecticides to prevent damage.
In spherical varieties, cut the branches growing vertically.
Some varieties of spruce do not require pruning, but some can be given a certain shape.
Columnar and conical varieties of spruce do not need pruning. They grow vertically and look like a Christmas tree. The only time they need to be pruned is when the crown becomes too wide. In this case, gardeners cut the lower branches, freeing up space at the bottom.
Spherical varieties also do not require pruning, and they mostly grow in the form of a flattened sphere or disk. Although sometimes such varieties form one or two branches that grow upwards. In this case, you should cut them so that the plant does not acquire a conical shape.
Weeping varieties need to be tied to support so that they grow vertically. Only sometimes, when they spread and cover a large area, they can be slightly trimmed.
You can propagate by cuttings.
Norway Spruce can be propagated by cuttings. The success rate will not be as high as in Alberta Spruce, but a few new plants can be obtained.
Cuttings should be cut in early spring before sap flow. Next, place the cuttings in containers with sterile soil. The depth of the containers should be at least 6-8 inches.
Transfer the containers to a greenhouse and water them regularly. In a few months, the roots should appear. After one or two years, the plants can be transplanted into individual pots.
Spruce can also be propagated by seeds. However, this way, you will not get varietal plants. All seedlings will be ordinary spruces. Only a small part of them will have some features. This method is used by hybridizers to obtain new interesting forms.
The hardest way is grafting. It is used for the reproduction of rare and valuable varieties. This is a very time-consuming way, and you do not always succeed.
- Transplant spruce only in spring or autumn. Shade it for a while.
- For the winter, these plants do not need shelter. Tie the columnar varieties to the support so that the snow does not break the branches.
- Norway Spruce can be grown in a pot. This requires a soil that retains moisture better, and the plant will have to be watered more often.
- Pour a layer of mulch around so that the ground does not dry out too quickly as mulch suitable pine bark, gravel, pebbles. The thickness of the mulch should not be more than 1 inch (2.5 cm).
- Carefully inspect the plants before buying.
- Plant spruce only in spring, autumn, early or late summer. When planting, do not damage the roots.
- Spray spruce with fungicide and pesticide several times a season.
- Plant the spruce in a place where it will receive 6 hours of direct sunlight.
- Well-drained and loose soil will be best suited for growing these plants.
- Water the spruce in drought but not more often than once every 10-15 days.
- At the beginning of the year, add a little fertilizer. Avoid too much fertilizer. Otherwise, it can lead to problems.