How to Grow and Maintain a Bird's Nest Spruce

Bird's nest spruce
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The bird's nest spruce or nest spruce, Picea abies 'Nidiformis,' is named for its nestlike appearance. Instead of growing into a tree, this dwarf slowly forms a rounded mound with a dip in the middle that makes it look like a bird's nest.

This is a cultivar of the majestic Norway spruce. Though many Norway spruces are medium- to large-size trees in the landscape, there are dwarf cultivars available. One of the most common is the bird's nest spruce.

Characteristics of the Bird's Nest Spruce

The bird's nest spruce grows to 2–4 feet tall, though it can eventually reach 8 feet tall in some locations. This native European flourishes in full-sun gardens in USDA Hardiness Zones 3–8. For best growth, the soil should be moist with proper drainage.

The bird's nest spruce is a monoecious species, meaning both male and female flowers are found on the same plant. They are not very noticeable and do not substantially affect the plant's appearance. This variety tends not to produce cones very often, if ever.

Characteristics of Spruce Trees and Shrubs

Generally speaking, spruce trees and shrubs are classified in the genus Picea, which includes 35 speciesIt is considered to be part of the Pinaceae family, which also includes pine treesfir trees, cedars, hemlocks, larches, and a few other species.

Spruce trees are conifers that feature green needles attached to branches by a peg-like structure called a pulvinus, which allows extra flexibility and movement. The pulvinus is left behind if a needle drops and is one key hint to the plant's identity. You should, in fact, be able to identify a spruce tree just by looking at its needles.

Other popular spruces include black spruce, Brewer spruce, Caucasian spruce, Colorado blue spruce, dwarf Alberta spruce, Engelmann spruce, Norway spruce, red spruce, Serbian spruce, and Sitka spruce.

Designing With the Bird's Nest Spruce

You may want to leave at least a little space around this spruce for long-term plantings. While it's usually noted for being on the smaller side, it can spread out after many years and be twice as big as expected.

Once the roots have grown down and become established, the plant will be able to handle periods of drought.

Deer tend not to bother this shrub, so it can be a wise choice if this is a problem in your area.

'Repens' is a similar variety; 'Little Gem' is a sport (mutation) of the bird's nest spruce.

Maintenance and Pruning of the Bird's Nest Spruce

This cultivar is a slow grower and will probably not need yearly pruning. You can prune it back a bit during the second half of the summer if you want to round out the shape or keep the size in check. It is wise to remove any branches that are dead, diseased, or damaged more frequently.

Pests and Diseases That May Appear

Pests and diseases do not often afflict this cultivar. That said, here are a few that may strike the bird's nest spruce.

Diseases:

  • Canker
  • Needle cast
  • Rust
  • Wood decay

Pests:

  • Adelgids
  • Aphids
  • Bagworms
  • Conifer red spider mites
  • Other mites