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White spruce

Needles of white spruce.

White spruce is a large, pyramidal evergreen with aromatic foliage and uniform habit. This popular garden conifer is native to Canada and the northwestern United States. When sited properly white spruce can be a long-lived attractive addition to any landscape.

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

Botanical name:

Picea glauca

All common names:

white spruce, Canadian spruce

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)

Native Locale:

  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Screen,
  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen,
  • Windbreak

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)

Mature Height:

40-60 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

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Intolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • late winter,
  • early spring,
  • mid spring,
  • late spring,
  • early summer,
  • midsummer,
  • late summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Pyramidal

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


  • Birds,
  • Browsers,
  • Small mammals

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun. Tolerant of clay soil but good drainage is 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 and needlecast diseases.
Bagworm, sawfly and needle miners. One of the hosts for eastern spruce gall adelgids.

Native geographic location and habitat

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

Bark color and texture 

Gray to silvery gray and scaly or flaky.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Evergreen.  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.

Location of Picea glauca (White spruce) at the Arboretum