The common North American spruce: red spruce, Colorado blue spruce, black spruce, white spruce, Sitka spruce, Englemann spruce. Fir trees are members of the genus Picea, which includes about 35 species of trees and shrubs. They are an excellent choice for providing texture in the garden, as well as a color that can range from golden yellow to blue. Although some varieties of fir trees grow too big for most gardens, there are several dwarf types that make an attractive addition to any landscape.
Since spruce trees vary in size depending on the variety (blue spruce, for example, can reach 60 feet), check the sapling label and follow the spacing recommendations if you are planting more than one. Spruce trees like sunny locations with well-drained, clay soil. They can withstand strong winds once established, so you can use them as a hedge or windbreak. An acid fertilizer for evergreens or a fertilizer with a fairly high nitrogen content, such as 12-6-4, will suffice for light feeding in spring.
You can meet many of the tree's nutrient needs by covering the spruce with a three- to four-inch layer of organic matter once a year. This evergreen conifer is native to Europe and is sometimes referred to as European spruce. It is a fast-growing tree, which generally gains one meter in height every year for the first 25 years of its life. The tallest Norwegian spruce measures more than 200 feet, but these trees rarely grow more than 130 feet.
There are many cultivars that have a much lower height expectancy and are well suited to cultivation in home gardens, such as the “Gold Drift”, which normally reaches heights of between 12 and 15 feet. These trees have dense foliage in the form of needle-shaped leaves that reach a blunt end. The foliage is usually deep green in color, but it can vary depending on the cultivar, and some varieties have lime green or blue-green leaves. The seed cones of Norwegian firs are quite spectacular and are known to be the largest of all fir trees, measuring between three and six inches long.
The cones are pale brown when they mature around six months of age, but when they first appear on the tree, they usually have a green or red hue. The 'Acrocona' is known for its ornamental seed cones, which are intense raspberry-red when they emerge at the tips of the branches in spring. These trees are widely cultivated for soft wood and paper purposes. They are also popularly cultivated as Christmas trees and are one of the most common types of trees used for Christmas trees in the world.
Norwegian spruces are the most cultivated type of spruce outside their native habitat and are considered to be one of the most important types of conifers from a commercial point of view in Europe. They are easy to grow and are known to be more tolerant of warm temperatures than many other conifer trees, which normally only grow in colder regions. Norwegian spruce trees adapt well to a wide range of soils but do best in well-draining and slightly acidic soils. They have some drought tolerance when they mature, but they thrive in evenly moist soil.
This tree will adapt to a wide variety of soil types, but soil quality and condition play an important role in white spruce growth and its ability to cope with extreme climates. To thrive, this tree needs well-draining, fertile, slightly acidic soil. The soil should also be kept evenly moist. When grown in infertile soil, the tree will grow much slower.
White spruce trees have good drought tolerance, but again, when grown in dry soil, they will grow much more slowly. These are tall trees that generally grow to around 100 feet tall, but there are many smaller cultivars available to grow in home gardens. This is an evergreen spruce that is native to western North America, from British Columbia in Canada to Mexico. Because this type of tree is most commonly found growing in its natural habitat at high altitudes, it is also commonly known as mountain spruce.
This tree can grow up to 200 feet, although it most commonly reaches a maximum of around 120 feet. It has a slow but constant growth rate and will continue to grow for 300 years. This tree has a long and narrow cylindrical shape, with branches that hang at a downward angle to hide its trunk. This is a slow-growing tree and, compared to other types of firs, it is quite small.
Rarely, a black spruce grows to more than 90 feet tall, but most commonly these trees range from 20 to 50 feet tall. The “Nana” cultivar is a dwarf form of black spruce that reaches only two feet in height, and it has also received the Royal Horticultural Society's Garden Merit Award. They form a narrow conical shape, with a scaly trunk covered with gray bark. The branches are descending and are full of short, stiff needle-shaped foliage in a dark blue-green tone.
This evergreen spruce is native to North America, where it is naturally distributed from Alberta and British Columbia to New Mexico. It has blue-green foliage that has given rise to its other common name of “blue spruce”. The tree has a conical shape, with densely clustered horizontal branches covered with needle-like foliage that reaches a sharp point. Most of these firs have blue-green foliage, but there are some cultivars that are surprisingly blue, such as “Edith”, which has icy blue needles that stand out vividly in the garden.
The cones of these trees are pale brown in color, typically three to four inches long. Colorado spruce trees have shallow roots, but they withstand wind surprisingly well. They are drought-tolerant, but prefer moist, well-draining soil. These trees do best in cold climates and can't handle heat or humidity well.
This evergreen conifer is native to Serbia and Bosnia, where it is endemic to the Drina river valley and is not found naturally anywhere else in the world. Its distribution area in this region only covers about 150 acres. Since its discovery in the late 19th century, it has been cultivated throughout Europe and North America as an ornamental tree. It stands out for its extremely slim shape and its ability to adapt to a wide range of conditions.
It is commonly grown in larger gardens and in public spaces, and is valued for its slim and elegant appearance. The branches of the tree are densely packed with blue-green needle-like foliage, which has a flattened shape. The tree's cones are decorative, have an intense purple hue when they emerge and turn dark brown about eight months after being pollinated. This evergreen conifer is native to the western United States, from Alaska to British Columbia to the northernmost parts of California.
It is called “Sitka Spruce” in honor of the city of Sitka in Alaska, where it is widespread. This is by far the largest of all spruce trees, and it grows to heights of around 300 feet. It is also considered to be the fifth tallest conifer species in the world. Sitka spruce is a fast-growing tree with a long lifespan, and some trees of this type are known to be over 700 years old.
However, as these trees can gain height fairly quickly, a tall tree is not necessarily the sign of an old tree. These are truly magnificent trees, with trunks that can measure up to 16 feet in diameter. When young, these trees have a broadly conical shape, but become more cylindrical with age. They have stiff, sharp, flattened needle-like foliage.
The foliage is blue-green and each needle can be up to an inch long. The cones on this tree are long and slender, measuring up to four inches long. They are red or green when they first emerge and hang from the tree in the shape of a pendulum. As they mature and undergo pollination, the cones fade and take on a pale grayish brown color.
In their native habitat, these trees grow in humid conditions and therefore do well in soaked soil, but they also have good adaptability to a variety of soil types. Because of their fast-growing nature, Sitka firs are widely cultivated for wood. They have been widely planted in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where they have been naturalized. Sitka firs now account for more than 50% of Ireland's forest cover.
It has also been cultivated to a large extent in Norway and Denmark, as it has been found to grow faster than the Norwegian spruce and is more tolerant to salt and wind. However, this tree is now considered an invasive species in Norway. Sitka spruce wood is also popular in the production of musical instruments such as violins and guitars, as the lack of knots makes it an ideal sound conductor. These trees have an upright growth habit, which forms tall, thin cylinders or thin pyramidal shapes.
In their native habitat, the cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, spruces live for more than 200 years. The erect growth of the tree, the bushy foliage and the conical shape make the dwarf Norwegian spruce excellent as a cover plant, specimen tree or foundation plant. Along with the descriptions, images of fir trees and their scientific names will help you identify the most common fir trees. In the Pacific Northwest, Engelmann's spruce grows along the eastern slope of the Coast Range, from the midwest of British Columbia, southward along the crest and east slope of the Cascades, through Washington and Oregon, to Northern California.
Its wood is used in the logging industry and to make musical instruments, but the tree is not a great landscape specimen in warmer climates. The dense foliage of these firs makes them ideal for homes, privacy screens, windbreaks or hedges. Also called Alberta white spruce, this species of conifer is an essential part of the timber industry and its wood is widely used in construction. This slow-growing spruce is of no importance in the timber industry, since its wood is soft and of poor quality.
Black spruce (Picea mariana), also called swamp spruce, swamp spruce and short-leaved black spruce, is an abundant and widely distributed conifer that limits the northern limit of trees in North America. .