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TREES & plants

Norway spruce

Cones and needles of Norway spruce.

Norway spruce is a large, pyramidal tree with long, cylindrical cones that hang like ornaments from the weeping branches against the dark green foliage. This sun-loving, 50- to 80-foot-high tree is often used as windbreaks, screens, or hedges in large-scale landscapes.

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

Botanical name: 
Picea abies
All Common Names: 
Norway spruce
Family (English): 
Pine
Family (Botanic): 
Pinaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Screen, 
  • Specimen, 
  • Windbreak
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet), 
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet), 
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet)
Mature Height: 
40-60 feet
Mature Width: 
25-30 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil, 
  • Alkaline soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Intolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Season of Interest: 
  • Late spring
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous, 
  • Pink
Shape or Form: 
  • Pyramidal
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate, 
  • Fast
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
Wildlife: 
  • Birds, 
  • Moths, 
  • Small mammals
More Information: 

Norway spruce (Picea abies)Norway spruce (Picea abies)photo: John Hagstrom

Tree & Plant Care

Because of its potential size, Norway spruce is often used as a windbreak, screen or large hedge in large-scale landscapes. It is not a tree for smaller yards.
The very shallow, spreading root system benefits from a 3 to 4 inch layer of organic mulch to moderate soil temperature and conserve moisture.
Best planted in full sun. Does poorly in shade conditions.

Disease, pests, and problems

Susceptible to cytospora canker and Rhizosphaera needle cast.
Spider mites and bagworm can also be problems.

Native geographic location and habitat

Northern and central Europe.

Bark color and texture

The bark of a young tree is thin and thickens into gray-brown flaky scales as the tree matures.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, texture, and color

The four-sided needles are  ½  to 1 inch long. The needles are smooth and stiff with a pointed tip.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Small male flowers are pinkish-red and clustered along the strems.  The female flowers are reddish-pink and upright on the tips of the branches, Once pollinated, the flowers turn green and hang downward as cones ripen.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Cones are cylindrical, 4 to 6 inches long, purplish-green changing to light brown as they ripen.

Cultivars and their differences

Bird’s Nest Norway spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’ ): This cultivar is much smaller than the species (3 to 6 feet high and wide).  It is a dwarf, evergreen shrub with stiff, prickly, green to bluish-green, ½ inch needles and a neat, dense, compact shape.  Outward spreading branches create a slight depression in the center of this flat-topped plant, giving rise to the name, “bird’s nest.”  Cones are seldom produced.

Weeping Norway Spruce (Picea abies 'Pendula' ): A 12 to 15 foot high and wide upright, narrow tree with weeping habit. Often used as a specimen plant in a mixed border.

Dwarf Norway Spruce (Picea abies ‘Pumila’ ): This dwarf cultivar grows  3 to 4 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide.  This form is more rounded than that of Bird’s Nest Spruce.

Picea abies or Norway spruce