Content Detail

White spruce is a large, pyramidal evergreen with aromatic foliage and a 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.

  • Family (English) Pine
  • Family (botanic) Pinaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Evergreen (foliage year-round)
  • Native locale North America
  • 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
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Clay soil
  • Season of interest early fall, early spring, early summer, early winter, late fall, late spring, late summer, late winter, mid fall, mid spring, midsummer, midwinter
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Pyramidal
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Wildlife Birds, Browsers, Small mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat: 

White spruce is native to Canada and the northwestern United States, in moist, cool climates. 

Bark color and texture: 

The bark is gray to silvery gray and scaly or flaky.

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

The pale green, pointed evergreen needles are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long. They are 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 the male and female flowers are small and insignificant and found on the same tree.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

White Spruce has the smallest cones of any of the spruces. They are 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. The cone scales are thin, rounded and have smooth margins. It is a  favorite of many birds.

Plant care: 

White spruce does best in full sun. It is 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.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Cankers, root rots and needle cast diseases can be a problem on this plant. Bagworm, sawfly and needle miners can be insect problems. It is one of the hosts for eastern spruce gall adelgids.

Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’):

A dwarf cultivar, reaching 6 to 8 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide. It is pyramidal, extremely slow growing and seldom produces cones. It is good for small spaces.

Black Hills Spruce  (Picea glauca var. densata): 

This slow growing cultivar reaches 20 to 40 feet high and 10 to 20 feet wide, with a very narrow, dense form. It is good for space restricted areas, as a screen or a windbreak.

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