TREES & plants

Blue spruce

Mature specimens of blue spruce.

Blue spruce, also known as Colorado spruce, is a conical-shaped evergreen tree with stiff horizontal branches and short stiff needles. It is a commonly used tree in Midwest landscapes. In nature the needles are often green, but many specimens produce blue-green needles. This tree is also known as Picea pungens 'Glauca'.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name: 
Picea pungens
All Common Names: 
blue spruce, Colorado spruce, Colorado blue spruce, blue Colorado spruce
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
Native Locale: 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Screen, 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet), 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
Mature Height: 
30-60 feet
Mature Width: 
10-20 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 2, 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter, 
  • Mid winter, 
  • Late winter, 
  • Early spring, 
  • Mid spring, 
  • Late spring, 
  • Early summer, 
  • Mid summer, 
  • Late summer, 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall, 
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Pyramidal
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Browsers, 
  • Small mammals, 
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Spruce grow best in full sun. Dense shade results in bare branches. Protect from drying winds.
Adaptable to wide range of soil but require good drainage and benefits from irrigation in dry weather.
Spruce need very little in the way of pruning.
All evergreens experience seasonal needle drop. Spruce will hang on to needles for 3 to 4 years.  

Disease, pests, and problems

Cankers, needle casts, spruce adelgid, spider mites, spruce budworm, cytospora canker

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to the southwestern United States from Colorado Rockies, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah.

Bark color and texture

Bark is gray and broken into large scales

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Green or blue-green, 1 to 1/2 inch sharp needles attached singly around the stem.  Individual needles are four sided in cross section and borne on a raised peg on the stem.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Male pollen cones and female cones that become woody when pollinated.  Both male and female cones found on the same tree.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Medium-sized cylindrical cones, 2 to 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, light brown in color.  Cones are often clustered near the top of the tree.

Cultivars and their differences 

Baby Blue Eyes blue spruce (Picea pungens 'Baby Blue Eyes'): This is a semi-dwaf cultivar that grows 15 to 20 feet high.  It has blue-gray needles.

Baker blue spruce (Picea pungens 'Bakeri'):  A more compact cultivar with deeper blue color.  Grows 12 to 20 feet high and 6 to 10 feet wide.

Fat Albert blue spruce (Picea pungens 'Fat Albert'): A semi-dwarf cultivar growing 15 feet high, with a dense pyramidal form and good blue color.

Globe blue spruce  (Picea pungens 'Glauca Globosa')  Grows only 3 to 5 feet high and 3 to 6 feet wide producing a neat, dense, compact, rounded shape.  Seldom produces cones. Good accent plant for foundations and borders.

Hoops blue spruce (Picea pungens 'Hoopsii'): A dense, pyramidal cultivar with very good silver-blue color.  Grows 30 to 50 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide.

Montgomery blue spruce (Picea pungens 'Montgomery')  Grows  5 to 6 feet high and 5 to 6 feet wide.  Rounded when young; broad and conical when mature.  Seldom produces cones. The silver-blue foliage adds color to the winter landscape.

Thomsen blue spruce (Picea pungens 'Thomson'): Another cultivar with silver-blue color.  Grows 40 feet high and 20 feet wide; thick needles.

Picea pungens or Blue spruce