Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Trees, Shrubs, & Vines
Dwarf Alberta Spruce
by Paul Simon
The dwarf Alberta spruce is a small, dense evergreen, most widely used as an accent specimen or novelty tree in the landscape. It is also a great choice for small spaces.
About This Plant
The dwarf Alberta spruce, also known as the dwarf white spruce, is a popular, slow-growing , dense conifer that is widely available at retail and garden centers throughout the US. The tree will eventually grow 10-12 feet high but takes 25-30 years to reach maturity and is hardy in zones 2-6. With soft, light green needles and a pyramidal form, the Alberta spruce provides a unique vertical `structural accent´ to the landscape. The Alberta spruce can handle high winds, cold temperatures, heat and/or drought periods. Specialty pruned spiral or sheared forms are also available. In addition, the dwarf spruce is occasionally selected as a container accent planting.
This slow-growing dwarf spruce needs well-drained soil and prefers full sun but can tolerate some shade. Because of it's small size and slow growth, it works well in foundation plantings. In cold winter areas, choose a northern or eastern exposure to reduce the chance of winter burn due to drying winter winds and afternoon sun. Allow 3-4 feet from the center of the planting hole to adjacent structures or the home so the mature plant can grow unimpeded. The spruce is also a great accent plant in a landscape bed among perennials, roses or deciduous shrub plantings.
Measure the depth and width of the soil in your tree's container. Dig a hole to that depth and two to three times wider. Pile the excavated soil to the side to be used later. Loosen the soil around the sides of the hole to help roots penetrate into the native soil. Don't loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole because the disturbed soil may settle and leave the tree planted too deeply. If you're planting in very poor soil, amend the excavated soil with 1/3 compost before backfilling. Mulch your newly planted spruce with 2 to 4 inches of shredded bark to conserve moisture and prevent weeds. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk.
Dwarf Alberta spruces need little pruning to maintain their compact, pyramidal shape. Sometimes spider mites can be a problem, so watchout for these pests and treat before a heavy infestation seriously injures your tree. When watering, provide a gentle soaking with a slow, steady stream of water or use a soaker hose to wet the entire depth of the rootball. Continue watering newly planted spruces, if nature doesn't provide soaking rains, right up until the ground freezes hard for the winter season. Established plants are relatively drought tolerant.