Spruce trees are evergreens that reach up to 50 feet tall and 15-20 feet wide. They are typically found in growing zones 2-8, grow roughly 8-16 inches a year. Spruce trees generally have sharp, four-sided needles that grow outward around the circumference of branch stems.
They rarely need pruning and enjoy moist, acidic soil. They grow best in full sun to partially shaded areas. Spruces are most often planted as shade trees as well as ornamental additions. Plus they’re commonly used as Christmas trees for their upright growth and pyramidal shapes.
Spruce trees do best when planted during the colder seasons when their growth is slower, but they will tolerate being planted at any time of the year. Find a nice sunny or partially shaded area for the ideal planting site.
1) Clear away any grass or weeds within a 3-foot radius so there are no smaller plants competing for nutrients with the newly planted tree.
2) Dig a hole that is three times as wide as the root ball and just as deep. Make a small mound about 2 inches high in the center of the hole so the bottom of the root ball is slightly elevated from the bottom of the hole.
3) Place your spruce tree in the hole and gently spread the root system down over the soil mound. If the roots are too tightly bound try spraying the bottom of the root ball with water to help them loosen up a little and gently comb them with your fingers
4) Back-fill your planting hole, gently packing the soil around the tree roots as you go. Spread a layer of mulch 2-4 inches deep roughly about 3 feet in diameter around the base of the tree, and make sure it doesn’t actually touch the tree. Water deeply after you’ve finished planting your new spruce tree.
Spruce trees are known to be some of the most drought tolerant tree species. Moist, well draining soils are ideal, as spruces don’t care for areas where water can pool for prolonged periods of time. Water your newly planted spruce at least once a week during the first year after planting. It may be necessary to water more than once a week in the hot summer months. The best way to tell if your spruce needs more water is to feel the soil at least 1 inch under the surface. If the soil feels dry to the touch then it’s time to water the spruce.
Give the soil a thorough soaking with a steady flowing garden hose and remove it when water puddles are about to form. Mulching will help the soil retain some of the moisture between watering sessions. Cease watering when the ground is expected to freeze from approaching winter weather.
To encourage new shoots and create fuller trees, trim the tips of new growth back about an inch away from a bud with pruning shears. Do not trim any growth that is older than one season or remove more than 1/3 of new season’s growth at once.
Cut dead branches back to the tree’s trunk. The easiest way to tell if a branch has died off is by its needles. If there are no needles than you can be sure the branch has died. Make your cut at a 45-degree angle just past the branch collar (slightly enlarged area where the branch meets the trunk). If you have to cut past needle growth on a diseased/dead branch then remove the whole thing because it will not regrow. If the damage is focused towards the tip of a branch make your cut back to 1 inch outside a bud.
The best time to fertilize your spruce tree is in the early spring or early fall. A nice, high nitrogen fertilizer formula such as 12-6-3 or 16-6-6 will be best. Apply one pound of fertilizer for every 3 feet of the spruce’s height (ex: if the tree is 12 feet tall you would need 4 lbs. of fertilizer).
Using a rake, till the soil a bit around the base of the tree, while taking care not to damage the root system. Apply 1/3 of the amount of fertilizer in this area and work it into the soil.
To determine the next step of the fertilizing, measure the distance from the base of the spruce to the lowest branch tips and multiply by 1.5. Dig holes 12-15 inches deep around the tree at a distance from the measurement taken. Divide the remaining fertilizer amongst the holes and then backfill them with soil. Once you’ve completed this step, water the soil around the tree once a day during the next 4-5 days.
Spruce trees are not only elegant but can be very beneficial for your landscape. They’re known for being helpful in times of flooding since they soak up water fairly quick. Their needles have been known to make a wonderful tea that’s high in vitamin C and also the primary means of making “spruce essential oil.”
This oil is highly used in aromatherapy, yoga and meditation for its calming, pine scent, that is also used for respiratory issues (bronchitis, asthma and coughs). So not only will they make a fantastic addition to your landscape for its beauty, but also its medicinal use!