Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday's Trees- Dwarf Alberta Spruce

Used as an accent plant the Dwarf Alberta Spruce, Picea glauca 'Conica', can be seen throughout the country. This evergreen is hardy from zones 2- 8, depending on which reference material you use. Many people are confused by the word 'dwarf' in a plant's name. Dwarf means that this cultivar is smaller than the species. A Dwarf Alberta Spruce can grow to 10- 12 feet tall and about 2 to 3 feet wide. Given some of the placements for this tree, many times it is planted in the wrong place. The Dwarf Alberta Spruce is a very slow grower, so sometimes placement isn't an issue for many years. Some sights say it grows 2-4 inches per year. It is a great shaped tree, another of the pyramidal Christmas tree type specimen.

The foliage has a blue- gray coloring, with very closely spaced needles. It is a dense compact grower and gives a very full soft look to the tree. Pruning is seldom an issue with this tree making it very low maintenance. Pruning it back past green growth will not stimulate new growth from that area.

Here in Southern Virginia the biggest problem with the Spruce is spider mites. The spider mites attack an area where there is limited air circulation and moist conditions. (sounds like the south in the summer) Infestation will lead to stem and needle death. A once beautifully formed Spruce can become rather ugly if you are not proactive in getting rid of the spider mites. One of the easiest methods is a cold spray with the hose. Some references recommend an annual treatment of a pesticide preventative. Again, proper placement will be helpful in preventing insect damage. Keeping the tree away from walls to allow for good air circulation is key.

The Dwarf Alberta Spruce is not very tolerant of stresses in the environment. Those stresses include pollution, dry conditions, and heat.

I know it sounds like I am not fond of this little tree, but I am. I realize it needs to be in the correct place and monitored for insects for it to do well in my area. Given the right conditions this is a super tree especially in more formal settings.

My references this week include- Ohio State Plant fact sheet which has some cultivar information and some alternative shrubs from which to choose.

NCState fact sheet- limited information and UCONN web information for the Spruce species with a little data about the 'Conica'.

Next week's tree will be Virginia Pine. Ya'll come back now.

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.


  1. Janet,

    New tree to me, I have seen them in gardens. The Virginia Pine we have it growing wild in the yard.

  2. I do love spruce, even though we cannot grow them. I love how it looks like Christmas with their shape and dusted with snow.

  3. Proper placement - I'd say somewhere north and west of here. The only time I like this tree is when it puts out those bright green tufts of new growth in spring, or in containers for Christmas decorations. I have a lot of customers drawn to this plant and am probably too honest with my opinions on its suitability around here.

  4. BTW, I love the new headling banner! Nandina?

  5. I have a few and really like them. They do need the right placement. One of mine has grown from 3 feet to 5 feet in 6 years. It seems fast to me as the tree has really gained in girth. On a down note I lost several of these trees to spider mites during the drought in 2007. So frustrating to see all the needles dry and fall off and the whole tree die. I just pulled them up and took them to the dump. I use a lot of water sprays on the big tree as I'd hate to lose it. I've seen these guys grow really big next to houses-not a good spot for them unless you plan for the growth. Yours look ever so lovely with the snow on them.

  6. that dwarf looks cute and manageable ... ~bangchik

  7. I just received one of these for Christmas Janet so this weeks tree post is very timely for me. It came decorated (from Jackson & Perkins) with the purpose of being planted outdoors after the holidays. I'll try to find an ideal situation for it ~ right now I have it in a container ~ but I was wondering how big it would get...

  8. I've tried growing these in containers here. As you mention though, spider mites are a real problem with them. I lost one last summer, but have already got another one on my deck waiting to be planted.

  9. This is a lovely accent tree or shrub, Janet. Good advice, though, about placement. We have a large, not dwarf, spruce tree that was planted much too close to our house. Now we're faced with having to cut it down--which I don't want to do--or doing some ugly pruning. We just put on a new roof, so something has to be done soon. Wish my in-laws had thought about its eventual size before planting it where they did.

  10. Janet, I wish the south had conifers that were really happy here. They are almost always good looking shrubs and trees...sigh. gail

  11. Randy- We have them around here for short periods of time, then the spider mites get them.

    Noelle- it does look like Christmas especially with the snow.

    Les- right! and yes, Nandina, thanks.

    tina- This seems to be a common story. Mine are actually a neighbor's.

    Sweetbay- it is a nice looking tree if the spider mites haven't gotten to them.

    Bangchik- it is very manageable.

    Kathleen- I think your area is far better suited for this tree. It grows so slowly it will stay pretty small for years, getting somewhere about 10 feet.

    Catherine- keep an eye on the spider mites!

    Rose- I can't even imagine trying to get rid of a huge tree that is over the house, good luck.

    Gail- I know! bummer.

  12. Fantastic information. I just said I need to research some great conifers to add to my landscape. I'll keep reading to see what you suggest! Colleen

  13. Colleen, hi there! Glad you were here. I will see what other conifers we have in our area that I can do a posting about.


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