How often should blue spruce be watered

Norway spruce, red spruce


from 3000.00cm to 5000.00cm
Growth width
from 600.00cm to 900.00cm
PH value
  • weakly alkaline to acidic
  • Single position
  • Group planting
  • Landscape wood
  • Lawns


The Norway spruce (Picea abies), also known as red spruce, is the most common tree in Germany. The common name "red fir" has also established itself in some regions of Germany, although the tree clearly belongs to the genus of the spruce (Picea) and has different characteristics. The Norway spruce belongs to the pine family (Pinaceae) and is the only spruce species that is naturally native to Central Europe. In 2017 she was named Tree of the Year. Of course, the red spruce occurs in the Alps and in the higher elevations of the low mountain ranges. However, it owes its current distribution, which extends from the low mountain ranges to the plains, to forestry. It is one of the most important forest trees in Central Europe because it grows quickly, forms a straight trunk and its wood is very versatile. Because the Norway spruce is not indigenous to most regions, the centuries of afforestation also cause problems: The monocultures lead to the proliferation of wood pests such as the bark beetle. In addition, the dry summers of recent years have severely weakened many spruce forests, so that pest infestation is steadily increasing. For this reason, foresters have been replanting more and more deciduous trees that are appropriate to the location for several years.


The reason for the name red spruce is the reddish and finely flaky, but when old, gray-brown and barky bark that surrounds the very straight trunk of the tree. Further distinguishing features are the pyramid-like growth and the spreading branches, which often sag in the middle. The Norway spruce grows up to 50 meters high, which makes it the largest native tree in Europe, along with the silver fir. In the wild, the red spruce can live up to 600 years. Their root system is shallow, but some of them also go deep. Depending on the location and climate, Picea abies forms slightly different growth forms (ecotypes) and can grow as comb spruce, brush spruce or panel spruce.


The needles of the Norway spruce are relatively short, square and stiff. They have piercing tips - which again belies the term "red fir", because firs have soft, non-piercing needles. They are up to two inches long and about one millimeter wide. They sit on short brown stems around the branch. The leaves of the Norway spruce stay on the tree for five to seven years before they are successively renewed.


Picea abies is monoecious and only bears flowers from the age of 30. But even then, these only show up every few years. The light brown buds of the Norway spruce are cone-shaped. The reddish female cones, which appear in April and May, are in the upper treetop, while the carmine-red to yellow male flowers stand individually on the biennial shoots. The fruit clusters later develop from the female cones. The spruce blossoms are pollinated by wind and insects.


The fruit stands (cones) of the Norway spruce are about 15 centimeters tall, slender and light brown after ripening. Unlike the fir tree, they hang down from the branches. When the cones are ripe, they are thrown from the tree and are found in large numbers on the forest floor. At the maturity stage, the cones are scaly, resinous and withered. Behind the individual scales are the fatty, winged spruce seeds, which are spread by the wind and which squirrels like to eat.


Red spruce trees actually need at least 600 meters of altitude and at least 600 millimeters of precipitation per year for optimal growth. Due to its importance as a forest tree, the species is now so widespread that it also grows in much less suitable sandy areas. It thrives in both sunny and partially shaded places. When the Norway spruce stands as a soloist, its picturesque branches often reach down to the ground. In the forest, the tree becomes bald from below due to a lack of light. However, this is desirable so that the spruce trees form the longest possible, straight trunk without large knots.


The optimal soil for Picea abies should be moist and well-drained. If the soil is too dry, the tree becomes vulnerable to pests. The Norway spruce does not make any demands on the pH value of the soil - it tolerates both acidic, boggy and loamy-calcareous soils.


Since the Norway spruce with its shallow root system can easily fall over in a storm, you should choose a location that is as protected as possible. Container goods can be planted all year round in the frost-free period. Before they have grown, the young trees have to be watered extensively for a while. Secure the new planting with a sturdy post to prevent it from falling over. It is important that you do not plant the young spruce too deep. The surface of the root ball should not be below ground level.


If you put a mulch layer of bark around the root disc of young trees, the soil will not dry out so easily. Caution: The needles of the Norway spruce that fall and collect on the ground decompose with a low pH value (acidic needle litter) and thus acidify the soil over the years. If the values ​​fall below 5, the acidification is too strong. To counteract this, occasionally sprinkle lime under the tree canopy.


The red spruce grows very picturesque, especially in individual positions, and therefore does not need a cut. If it is necessary or desired to lengthen the tree, i.e. to free the lower trunk of branches, it is best to do this in late winter. Picea abies does not forgive cuts in the old wood - therefore cut carefully and never into the unpinned area if a new shoot is to take place at that point. Topiary cuts should also be started on the young tree and only be made on the needled shoots, as the Norway spruce - like all other spruces - only drifts on them again. Never cut off the leading shoot, as that would disfigure the tree forever. When the top has broken out of the tree, you can use a bamboo stick to guide one of the whorled top side shoots vertically upwards. After a few years it forms a new tip and then grows vertically like the old main shoot.


In the garden, the various, mostly slow-growing ornamental forms of the common spruce with spherical or hanging growth are used. The wild form of the common spruce is rarely planted as an ornamental tree. Picea abies are traditionally used for the timber industry, which has given the tree the nickname "bread tree of forestry". The red spruce is not only very fast-growing, but can also be used in many ways: in furniture construction, in paper production or as construction timber. Musical instruments are also made from it. The essential oils from the spruce needles are used in folk medicine as home remedies for rheumatism and lung diseases.


There are many varieties of red spruce that are interesting for gardening. The almost columnar, six to eight meter high hanging spruce Picea abies ‘Inversa’ develops curious hanging shapes. This tree should definitely be planted as a soloist. The dwarf form Picea abies ‘Procumbens’ arches in the middle up to one meter high and becomes a good five times as wide. It is suitable for planting heather gardens. Dwarf-shaped spherical or pillow spruces such as the ‘Maxwellii’ variety adorn rock gardens in particular. The conical variety ‘Will's dwarf’ grows so slowly that it takes 30 years to reach a height of two meters. This dwarf form can even be cultivated in a tub on the balcony or terrace and often serves as a living Christmas tree.


The Norway spruce is best propagated by seeds. These are dried and stored in a dark and cool place. From March onwards, the seeds, which have been stratified in the refrigerator, are sown in seed trays or directly in the bed. Cultivated forms of the red spruce, on the other hand, are propagated in the nursery by cuttings or grafting. Since these methods are very complex or require special cultivation systems, they should be left to the gardening professionals.

Diseases and pests

The main pest on spruce is the sitka spruce louse - unfortunately it also affects the common spruce. This red-eyed aphid is active in summer and winter and causes needles to fall on affected trees. For control purposes, sprays based on rapeseed oil are suitable. The bark beetle, which prefers to attack dry and weakened trees, is a strong threat, especially for large tree populations. Fungal diseases such as spruce needle redness, needle rust or needle brown, root sponge and core rot also predominantly occur in denser stands. If the Norway spruce starts to needles for no reason, there could be a magnesium deficiency in the soil, which can be remedied with the administration of Epsom salt.