How to Grow and Care for Serbian Spruce Tree

Serbian spruce tree branch with cones.

Alexander Denisenko / Getty Images

A slender evergreen (often maturing to 50 feet tall and 15 feet wide), Serbian spruce is valued for its graceful shape. It bears glossy needles with silvery undersides. The cones are 2 inches long, start out purple, age to reddish-brown, and provide winter interest for the landscape. The tree's tolerance for challenges such as drought makes it an adaptable specimen for the yard. It belongs to the Pine family. This makes it a relative of such landscape plants as mugo pine (Pinus mugo), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), and pitch pine (Pinus rigida).

 Common Name  Serbian spruce
 Botanical Name  Picea omorika
 Family  Pinaceae (Pine)
 Plant Type  Coniferous, needled, evergreen tree
 Mature Size  40 to 60 feet; commonly 100 feet in the wild
 Sun Exposure   Full sun to partial shade
 Soil Type  Well-drained
 Soil pH  Not fussy about soil pH; can be grown with a soil pH ranging from 5.6 to 9
 Hardiness Zones  4 to 7, USDA
 Native Area  Balkans

Serbian Spruce Tree Care

This slow grower is drought-tolerant, but only after it matures. Irrigate it regularly during its first year to help the roots become established. Even upon maturation, provide supplemental irrigation during periods of extreme heat, especially if you live in zone 7.

Light

In the North, Serbian spruce grows best in full sun. In zone 7, it may perform just as well or better in partial shade.

Soil

Grow Serbian spruce in well-drained soil of average fertility.

Water

The plant has average water needs.

Temperature and Humidity

Serbian spruce grows best in regions with cool summers, which is why it is not recommended for homeowners who live south of USDA zone 7. The Southeast of the U.S. has summers that are too hot and humid for Serbian spruce.

Fertilizer

To feed Serbian spruce organically, back-fill with compost at planting time. Top-dress periodically with compost as the tree matures. Water the compost thoroughly into the soil.

Types of Serbian Spruce

Variations on the species plant are available as cultivars:

  • Picea omorika 'Pendula': a weeping form; 12 to 15 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide
  • Picea omorika 'Nana': a dwarf form for small spaces; 4 to 8 feet tall and wide

Pruning

Serbian spruce is not pruned to shape it, since it has a naturally graceful shape. The only pruning necessary will be to remove dead, damaged, or diseases limbs.

Propagating

You can propagate Serbian spruce from a cutting. The best time to take the cutting is late summer or early fall. Take the cutting from the tip of a healthy branch. The cutting should be about 4 inches long.

Prepare a pot for planting by filling it with a sandy loam and poking a hole in the middle with a pencil. Remove the needles from the bottom 2/3 of the cutting and make an angular cut at the very bottom. Dip this end of the cutting in rooting hormone and insert it into the hole you made. Keep the soil moist. Creating a "tent" over the pot with a plastic bag helps trap moisture. Remove the bag when roots have formed. Keep the pot indoors in indirect light for the winter. Transplant the tree outdoors in spring after the danger of frost has passed.

How to Grow Serbian Spruce Tree From Seed

You can also propagate Serbian spruce from seed. It may help to scar the outer coating of the seed to promote germination. These seeds need temperatures to cool down and warm up to trick them into believing winter is over and the growing season is about to begin.

Plant the seeds in fall 1/4 inch deep in a planting tray with moistened potting soil amended with peat moss and sand. Wrap this tray in a plastic bag and put it in the back of a refrigerator for 4 months. Gradually warm up the seeds by bringing the tray to a cool garage or cellar. As spring approaches, continue the process by bringing it outside on warm days. In early spring, after germination, let the seedlings harden off in their tray over a 4-week period. Give them at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Plant them outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.

Overwintering

Serbian spruce is a cold-hardy tree. You don't need to take any measures to overwinter it unless you live north of zone 4, in which case you can increase its chances of survival by mulching it. Mulch will afford some insulation from the winter's cold.

Common Pests

Serbian spruce is susceptible to a few insect problems, including aphids and borers. One of the most common pest problems in the landscape is aphids. This is especially true in landscapes where chemical insecticides have been used in the past. As soon as you detect aphids on the needles of your Serbian spruce, spray with the organic insecticide, Neem oil.

Prevention is the best borer control. It can be difficult to identify a borer infestation soon enough to save a tree after the fact. Keep your Serbian spruce vigorous (and therefore less likely to be attacked by borers) by providing adequate irrigation and fertilizer.

FAQ
  • Is Serbian spruce a good street tree?

    Because it is tolerant of air pollution, it is a reasonably good street tree for some residential yards. However, it is intolerant of road salt and should be avoided in districts where roads are salted in winter.

  • How is Serbian spruce used?

    Serbian spruce is sometimes used as a Christmas tree. As an evergreen, it also adds winter interest when grown outdoors.