The Perfectly shaped Little tree
Common Name: dwarf Alberta spruce
Botanical Name: Picea glauca 'Conica'
Form: upright pyramidal
Plant Type: needle conifer
Mature Size: 10’ to 13’ x 7 to 10’
Origin: cultivar of a white spruce
Hardiness Zone: 3 to 6
Foliage: single ½”- ¾” bluish green needles are pointed and densely packed, with a white waxy coating, they arise from peg-like stubs, needles are four sided and roll easily between fingers, fragrant when crushed
Fruit: light brown 2.5” cylindrical cones are rare
Stems: leafless stems are rough as they retain the pegs from fallen needles
Exposure: full sun to light shade
Soil: rich, acidic soil is ideal, avoid dry conditions, a mulch is beneficial
Uses: container, small gardens, topiary, formal, accent, Christmas tree
Propagation: cuttings in late summer into autumn
Pruning: not recommended nor necessary
Problems: spider mites in arid conditions, winter burn
Resembling miniature Christmas trees, dwarf Alberta spruce, Picea glauca ‘Conica’, bring a formal and elegant element wherever they are planted. Their strong pyramidal geometric shape sets it apart from other plants. It is a neat and tidy conifer that doesn’t need pruning nor shaping. It’s short, sharp and densely packed needles line stiff straight stems that don’t droop. There are no errant stems to snip back, and growth is so slow it doesn’t run amok.
This little guy only grows to 13 feet, and it takes years to do so. It’s perfect for containers, formal gardens and foundation plantings. When grown in containers it doesn’t even get that tall as their roots are restricted.
Growing Conditions: Although dwarf Alberta spruce are tough little plants, they do suffer from spider mites - if the conditions are too hot and/or too dry. Keep plants out of direct afternoon sun, especially those in planters. A good, rich soil with plenty of compost is beneficial as it absorbs moisture without compromising drainage, which is essential to prevent root rot on dwarf Alberta spruce. When grown in clay soils, mix in a good amount of compost, composted manure, SeaSoil and/or triple mix to improve drainage, retain soil acidity and soil fertility.
To further enrich the soil and retain moisture, apply a three-inch layer of an organic mulch on top of the soil, but keep it a few inches away from the trunk.
As Christmas Trees: Dwarf Alberta spruce are often used as living Christmas trees and rightfully so. When grown in pots, they can be moved inside to celebrate the holiday season. Once they are inside, don’t forget to water them adequately so the water drains into a drainage tray below. If they dry out too much, their needles will yellow and fall off. Keep them away from heat vents and other sources of heat to further prevent dehydration, needle loss and spider mites.
Container Grown: For container grown specimens, use equal amounts garden soil and compost or composted manure. Use a drainage tray during the summer to act as a reservoir, so roots absorb available water. Remove the tray during rainy periods and throughout the winter.
It’s time to transplant container grown plants to a larger pot when they need daily watering. When doing so, check to make sure the roots are not tightly bound (potbound). If so, loosen the roots with your hand, or use a knife if necessary, then place into a bigger pot, with drainage holes. If you want to keep it in the same pot, sever a few inches off the roots on all sides and the bottom and repot.
Planting in the Garden: Select a sunny location, that doesn’t get too hot in the summer (avoid south and west exposures especially in hot climates). Due to their dense foliage, select an area where they will receive good air flow. Amend the soil with lots of compost as recommended above and mix well before planting. Loosen tightly bound roots and place in a hole the same depth as the rootball but 3 to 5 times wider. Plant at the same depth it was at in its container and firm the soil around the roots. Water well then add the mulch on top of the soil and water again. Water every other day for a couple of weeks until the plant is established.
Reversion: Dwarf Alberta spruce is a cultivar that originated from a white spruce, Picea glauca, which grows over 100 feet. Sometimes they revert to being a white spruce. Instead of the usual dwarf spruce branches, huge branches of the white spruce emerge from the tree. When this happens, cut the ‘reverted’ branches off at their base so they don’t regrow. Do it as soon as possible as they will take over if given half a chance.