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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):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

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

Seasons of Interest:

  • late spring

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous,
  • Pink

Shape or Form:

  • Pyramidal

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate,
  • Fast

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


  • 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 stems.  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

Acrocona Norway spruce (Picea abies 'Acrocona'):  This cultivar has a broad-spreading pyramidal form and may top out at 20 feet high.  Bright red female cones are produced at the ends of the branches.

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.

Cupressina Norway spruce (Picea abies 'Cupressina'):  A narrow cultivar growing 25 to 30 feet high and 6 feet wide; more tolerant of heavy snow loads.

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.

Location of Picea abies (Norway spruce) at the Arboretum