Growing Serbian Spruce in the Home Garden

Picea omorika

Serbian Spruce
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One of the most graceful evergreens is the Serbian spruce​ (Picea omorika). The common name comes from its original range in Serbia and Bosnia, though it was found across all of Europe. It has been used in landscape design since 1880. It is a coniferous tree--an evergreen that keeps its needles year-round. 

Landscape Uses

Because it is normally a very large tree, Serbian spruce is usually used as an ornamental specimen in large gardens and landscapes. It tolerates most urban conditions (such as pollution) very well but does not tolerate soils contaminated with road salts. Weeping and dwarf cultivars are available for smaller spaces. This tree has been awarded the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. The 'Pendula' and 'Nana' cultivars have also received this honor.

The tree has no food value, but it does offer good shelter for birds and other wildlife. 

Hardiness Zones and Optimal Growing Conditions

This spruce species can be planted in USDA Zones 4-7.  It thrives in a variety of soil types but tends to do best in acidic, well-drained loamy soils with relatively dry conditions. It does not like boggy conditions, preferring locations where it has "dry feet" most of the time, such as well-drained slopes.  It does best with full sun or partial shade, meaning a minimum of four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Size and Shape

Over time the tree will reach a final height of 40-60 feet tall and a width of 15-25 feet. Under optimal conditions in its home region, it has been known to reach heights in excess of 130 feet. It naturally creates a narrow pyramidal shape that usually does not need much, if any, pruning to maintain.

Foliage/Flowers/Fruit

Each needle is up to 1" long and features two white bands on the underside. They are connected to the stem by a little peg that is formally known as a pulvinus. The insignificant flowers are monoecious, meaning that male and female flowers will be found on the same plant.

The fruit produced are ovate cones that are up to 2" long. They start out purple, then mellow to a reddish-brown as they mature.

Design Tips

  • If you would like a weeping version of the Serbian spruce, look for the 'Pendula', 'Berliner's Weeper' or 'Pendula Bruns' cultivars. Choose the 'Nana' cultivar if you would prefer a dwarf version.
  • If you water it regularly for the first season to help the roots gain a proper anchoring, it will be able to tolerate some drought in subsequent seasons.
  • A small Serbian spruce planted in a container could be used as a live Christmas tree, then planted in the landscape after the season is over.

Planting and Maintenance

The only pruning that is usually needed is to keep the tree free from dead, diseased or damaged branches. In extreme heat, make sure to water the tree well and frequently. 

Potential Diseases

  • Needle cast
  • Rusts

Possible Pests

  • Aphids
  • Bagworms
  • Borers
  • Sawfly larvae
  • Spider mites
  • Spruce budworm larvae
  • Spruce needle miner