The dwarf Alberta spruce is diminutive evergreen with a classic pyramidal Christmas tree shape. This spruce variety is related to some giant varieties that can grow 100 feet or taller but because dwarf Alberta spruce rare exceeds about 12 feet, it is a popular choice for foundation plantings and as a specimen plant all over America.
Dwarf Alberta spruce has a very dense needle pattern and a classic pyramidal shape that represents what most people imagine when they hear the term "evergreen." This dwarf version of the white spruce grows to a maximum of about 10 to 12 feet with a spread of 7 to 10 feet but does it very slowly—growing just 2 to 4 inches per year. It is generally grown as a large shrub or small specimen tree.
The aromatic green needles are about 3/4 inch long, and the tree has a tight, densely-packed growth habit that gives dwarf Alberta spruce trees a "fuzzy" look. Unlike its larger cousins, the white spruces, dwarf Alberta spruce rarely produces pine cones.
Dwarf Alberta spruce trees are classified as evergreen conifers. The Latin name is Picea glauca 'Conica', making it a relative to the giant white spruces that can grow as tall as 140 feet. The Picea glauca species is native from Alaska across Canada and down into Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and New York. The dwarf version, 'Conica' was discovered at Lake Laggan, Alberta, Canada, in 1904.
Dwarf Alberta spruce trees are used as specimens in landscape design. As one of the most recognizable shrub/tree types in North American landscaping, you'll often see them used in pairs to flank the entryway to a house for a formal look that strives for balance. Because dwarf Alberta spruce trees will remain relatively small for a number of years, people sometimes treat them (at least initially) as container plants. They are sometimes trimmed into topiary forms when grown in containers.
Be aware, however, that these specimens will eventually outgrow a small space. It is best, therefore, to avoid planting this tree in a spot that cannot comfortably accommodate what may eventually become a 12-foot tree.
Growing Dwarf Alberta Spruce
The Dwarf Alberta spruce tree can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8, but it is temperamental further south than zone 6. This specimen is best suited for a climate with cold winters and cool summers. A dwarf Alberta spruce tree grows best in full sun and a well-drained, acidic soil. It will tolerate some light shade but performs best in a spot with good air circulation, since its dense foliage can trap moisture.
Dwarf Alberta spruce trees are not very tolerant of air pollution and salt spray, and they struggle in areas with high heat and humidity. They require very little care but may be the victims of spider mite attacks that can kill the tree. Their slow growth rate means they hardly ever have to be pruned.