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TREES & Plants

White spruce

White spruce is a medium to large-sized pyramidal evergreen with aromatic foliage, uniform habit. One of the more popular garden conifers. Native to Canada and northwestern United States. When sited properly the can be a long-lived attractive addition to any landscape.

Botanical name: 
Picea glauca
All Common Names: 
White spruce, Canadian spruce
Family (English): 
Pine
Family (Botanic): 
Pinaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
Native Locale: 
  • North America
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 2
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
  • Medium
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs direct light daily)
Tolerances: 
  • Occasional drought
  • Alkaline soil
  • Clay soil
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Pyramidal
Landscape Uses: 
  • Windbreak
  • Specimen
  • Shade
  • Screen
Time of Year: 
  • Early winter
  • Mid winter
  • Late winter
  • Early spring
  • Mid spring
  • Late spring
  • Early summer
  • Mid summer
  • Late summer
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
More Information: 

Size & Form

40 to 60 feet high and 10 to 20 feet wide
Broadly conical shape in youth becoming more loose and open with age.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun, well-drained, sandy soils. Tolerant of clay soil  but well drained soil a must.
The shallow, spreading root system benefits from a 3-4” layer of organic mulch.
Spruce need very little in the way of pruning.

Disease, pests, and problems

Cankers, root rots in wet soils and needlecast diseases.
Bagworm, sawfly and needle miners. One of hosts for eastern spruce gall adelgids 

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Canada and the northwestern United States in moist, cool climates. 

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Provides food and shelter for nuthatches, grosbeak, finches and chickadees.

Bark color and texture 

Gray to silvery gray and scaly or flaky

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Pale green pointed needles are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, 4-sided,  often crowded on the upper surface of the stem. 
The aromatic needles can persist for 3 to 4 years before dropping. 

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Both male and female flowers are small and insignificant, found on the same tree.

White spruce (Picea glauca)White spruce (Picea glauca)photo: John Hagstrom

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

White Spruce has the smallest cones of any of the spruces, typically 1 to 2 inches long, cylindrical and pendulous, often clustered near the top of the tree. They are a medium green color throughout much of the summer, and turn brown in autumn and winter. Cones scales are thin, rounded and have smooth margins. A favorite of many birds.

Cultivars and their differences 

Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca 'Conica'): 6 to 8 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide; pyramidal; extremely slow, seldom produces cones. Good for small spaces

Black Hills Spruce  (Picea glauca var. densata): 20 to 40 feet high and 10 to 20 feet wide, very narrow, dense form, slow growing. Good for space restrictions, screen or windbreak.