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Picea pungens (Colorado Spruce)
Picea pungens (Colorado Spruce)

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Zones A2, A3, 1-6, 14-17, 32-45
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Full, Partial
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal

Picea abies 'Nidiformis'

Bird’s Nest Spruce
Evergreen, Shrubs


Like firs (Abies), spruces are pyramidal, with branches arranged in neat tiers. Unlike firs, however, they have pendent cones, and their needles are stiffer and attached to branches by small pegs that remain behind after the needles drop.

Most spruces are tall timber trees that lose their lower branches fairly early in life as they head upward; their canopies thin out noticeably as they age.

Many species have dwarf varieties useful for foundation plantings, in rock gardens, in containers; these plants have shallow root systems and so need a reasonably cool location. Spruces generally grow best where summers are cool or mild; they will not thrive in heat and humidity. Spruces have no special soil requirements.

Birds are attracted to these trees—both for seeds and for shelter. Check spruces for small, dull green aphids in winter; if they—re present, take control measures at that time to prevent defoliation in spring.

Pine needle scale (look for flat, white scale insects on needles) may encourage sooty mold. In Rocky Mountain states, spruces may be bothered by spider mites and tussock moths.

Picea abies

Native to northern Europe. Fast growth to 100–150 ft. tall, 20 ft. wide. Doesn’t do as well as North American native spruces in Rocky Mountain states. Stiff, deep green, attractive pyramid in youth; in age, branchlets droop strongly, and oldest branchlets (those nearest trunk) die back. Tolerates heat and humidity better than most spruces. Extremely hardy and wind resistant; valued for windbreaks in cold-winter zones.


Dense growth to 3–5 ft. tall, 4–6 ft.wide. Individual plants vary in form. Some are flat topped; in others, the semierect main branches curve outward, leaving a shallow depression at the plant’s top that gives it the look of a bird’s nest.

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