Meet 12 Spruce Trees and Shrubs

  • 01 of 14

    Members of the Picea Genus

    Photos of Spruce Trees and Shrubs

    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.  

    Characteristics of Spruce Trees and Shrubs

    These conifers feature needles attached to the branch by a swollen area called a pulvinus, which allows extra flexibility and movement. This area, which resembles a peg, is left behind if a needle drops and is one key hint to...MORE its identity. In fact, you should be able to identify a spruce tree just by looking at its needles.

    Another notable characteristic for identification is that unlike the fascicles of pine trees, each pulvinus only holds one spruce needle.  The pulvini are arranged in a whorl around the branch. Finally, if you were to slice straight across a needle, it would exhibit either a triangular or square shape. 

    Spruce trees are monoecious. The female cone scales are more flexible than pine cone scales.

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  • 02 of 14

    Bird's Nest Spruce

    Picture of the bird's nest spruce
    Image by F. D. Richards via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    This variety of the Norway spruce forms a dwarf round shrub with an indentation on the top that makes it look like a bird's nest, inspiring the common name. This can work well in a container if you wish to have a small evergreen conifer on your patio, for example.

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  • 03 of 14

    Black Spruce

    Black spruce image
    Image by Arthur Chapman via Flickr
    • Latin Name: Picea mariana
    • Other Common Names: Bog spruce, swamp spruce, shortleaf black spruce, Canadian spruce, Eastern spruce
    • Native to: The Northern United States and Canada
    • USDA Zones: 2-5
    • Height: 30-65' tall

    The black spruce does well in wet areas and lives primarily in a type of area called a boreal forest or taiga.  It is one of the main hosts for the eastern dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium pusillum). If you would like a small version of this for your garden, look for the 'Nana'...MORE cultivar, which is a recipient of the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

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  • 04 of 14

    Brewer Spruce

    Brewer spruce image
    Image by Meneerke bloem via Creative Commons
    • Scientific Name: Picea breweriana
    • Other Common Names: Weeping spruce and Brewer's weeping spruce
    • Native to: Northwest California and southwest Oregon
    • USDA Zones: 5-8
    • Height: 50-80' tall

    The species name breweriana honors the tree's founder, William Henry Brewer. It is sometimes called the weeping spruce because of the way that the branchlets hang down.

    This would be a great choice for a specimen tree in your garden since the weeping form really makes it stand out. It is a winner of the Royal...MORE Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

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  • 05 of 14

    Caucasian Spruce

    Caucasian spruce image
    Image by Ryan Somma
    • Scientific Name: Picea orientalis
    • Other Common Names: Oriental spruce
    • Native to: Caucasus and Turkey
    • USDA Zones: 4-7
    • Height: 25-60' tall

    The Caucasian spruce can live in a wide variety of soil types. It will need to be sheltered from winds. This tree works well as a specimen conifer. If you want one with yellow needles, look for the 'Skylands',  'Aureospicata' and 'Aurea' cultivars. 'Barnes' and 'Nana' are dwarf cultivars, while 'Gowdy' is columnar.

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  • 06 of 14

    Colorado Blue Spruce

    The blue spruce is the state tree of Colorado
    Image by blmurch via Flickr Creative Commons
    • Scientific Name: Picea pungens. Other possible names are Picea parryana andPicea commutata.
    • Other Common Names: Blue spruce, white spruce, Colorado spruce, green spruce, silver spruce, pino real
    • Native to: Western and northeastern United States
    • USDA Zones: 3-8
    • Height: 30-75' tall

    The Colorado blue spruce has blue needles in a range of shades. The 'Glauca' variety is a light blue. A weeping variety is 'Glauca Pendula'. If you need one that is shorter, available varieties include...MORE 'Fat Albert', 'Glauca Globosa' and 'Glauca Jean's Dilly'.

    This spruce does well in droughts overall, except it does need regular watering in hot areas. Some use this as a Christmas tree. It is the state tree for Colorado and Utah.

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  • 07 of 14

    Dwarf Alberta Spruce

    Dwarf Alberta spruce picture
    Image by F. D. Richards via Flickr
    • Scientific Name: Picea glauca 'Conica'
    • Native to: This cultivar was found in Alberta, Canada. The species comes from Canada and the northern United States
    • USDA Zones: 2-8
    • Height: 3-12' tall

    This popular shrub is a variety of the white spruce that grows in a conical shape. It is a great choice for a living Christmas tree. The dwarf Alberta spruce is a common choice for creating a spiral shrub topiary or other shapes and I see it often enough in pots next to a front door.

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  • 08 of 14

    Engelmann's Spruce

    Englemann's spruce image
    Image by JJ Harrison via Creative Commons
    • Latin Name: Picea engelmannii. Synonyms include Picea glauca var. engelmannii and Picea columbiana.
    • Other Common Names: Columbian spruce, mountain spruce, silver spruce, white spruce, pino real
    • Native to: Western United States, British Columbia, and Alberta, Canada
    • USDA Zones: 3-7
    • Height: 30-100' tall.  Can reach heights of over 200' in the wild.

    The Engelmann spruce was named after George Engelmann, who was a botanist and physician. Some have considered it to be a subspecies of the white spruce....MORE It is used in the lumber industry and the wood is sometimes used to make musical instruments. These trees can live for hundreds of years.

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  • 09 of 14

    Norway Spruce

    Image of Inversa Norway Spruce
    This is a cultivar called the Inversa Norway spruce. Image by F. D. Richards via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Scientific Name: Picea abies. It may also be known as Picea excelsa.
    • Other Common Names: European spruce
    • Native to: Europe
    • USDA Zones: 2-7
    • Height: 40-80' tall

    The Norway spruce needs soil that drains well, as it will have problems if the soil is too wet. It can be used as a Christmas tree. The wood of the Norway spruce is often used in the lumber industry.  It is also often utilized in the creation of stringed instruments because it resonates well. 

    If you want an unusual specimen, look for the...MORE 'Inversa' cultivar. This is a dwarf weeping kind that will definitely be eye-catching.

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  • 10 of 14

    Red Spruce

    Red spruce image
    Image by David W. Siu via Flickr
    • Scientific Name: Picea rubens. You may also see Picea rubraPicea australis or Picea nigra var. rubra.
    • Other Common Names: Yellow spruce, West Virginia spruce, eastern spruce, he-balsam, blue spruce
    • Native to: Eastern Canada and ​The United States
    • USDA Zones: 3-6
    • Height: 60-80' tall

    Red spruce may be planted in areas that receive shade.  It should be placed in a cool area with adequate moisture. The name yellow spruce was inspired by the light yellow wood of the tree.

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  • 11 of 14

    Serbian Spruce

    Image of the Serbian spruce
    Image by Vanessa Richins via Forestry Images -
    • Scientific Name: Picea omorika
    • Native to: Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina
    • USDA Zones: 4 - 7
    • Height: 40 - 60' tall
    • Serbian spruce growing profile

    The Serbian spruce can tolerate some drought and shade, though it prefers medium levels of moisture in the soil. It is a good choice for urban landscapes as it has resistance to air pollution. The species name of omorika was given because it is the Serbian word for spruce.

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  • 12 of 14

    Sitka Spruce

    The Sitka spruce is claimed by Alaska as its state tree
    Image by born1945 via Flickr
    • Latin Name: Picea sitchensis
    • Other Common Names: Tideland spruce, coast spruce, yellow spruce, silver spruce, western spruce, Menzies' spruce
    • Native to: Southern Alaska to Northern California
    • USDA Zones: 6-8
    • Height: Anywhere from 50-160' tall in cultivation, depending on the area

    The Sitka spruce is the tallest species of spruce and is the state tree of Alaska. It can be over 300' in the wild, with the largest recorded specimen reaching 318' tall. It will be shorter in cultivation, but make...MORE sure there is plenty of room in your landscape as "shorter" is still often over 100' tall.

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  • 13 of 14

    White Spruce

    Weeping White Spruce
    This is a weeping cultivar of the white spruce. Image by F.D.Richards under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
    • Scientific Name: Picea glauca
    • Other Common Names: Canadian spruce, western white spruce, Alberta spruce, Black Hills spruce, skunk spruce, cat spruce, Alberta white spruce, Porsild spruce
    • Native to: The Northern United States and Canada
    • USDA Zones: 2-6
    • Height: 40 - 60' tall

    The white spruce is sometimes sold as a Christmas tree. One natural variety is the Black Hills spruce (Picea glauca var. densata), which is the state tree of South Dakota. It can tolerate some light shade.

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  • 14 of 14

    Interested in Other Types of Conifers?


    Spruce trees and shrubs can be a wonderful addition to your garden, but it is possible that other conifers could work better. Take a look at some of these other options to see if you fall in love with one: