How to grow and care for Norway spruce

Picea abies. Getty Images

The Norway spruce (Picea abies) is a fast-growing, evergreen conifer with tiers of horizontal branches that form a triangular shape. It has dark green, glossy, needle-like leaves that have a strong pine scent. In summer and autumn, red-brown cones appear. 

A Norway spruce can be grown as specimen tree in a large garden but it is probably best known as the traditional Christmas tree that we bring into our homes during the festive season. The tradition was inspired by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, who introduced the German tradition of decorating a live tree with candles to Britain. The Norway spruce was actually introduced to the UK centuries before, however, for use in the forestry industry, and can be found growing all over the country.

A Norway spruce can ultimately reach at least 30m and 8m wide tall, putting on around 1m of growth a year, so is best grown in a large garden. More compact cultivars are available, however, suitable for smaller spaces.  

How to grow a Norway spruce

Grow Norway spruce in any moist but well drained neutral or acidic soil, in a sunny spot. Water the tree well during its first year, after that it should get all the moisture it needs from rainfall. A Norway spruce does not need regular pruning or feeding.

Norway spruce: jump links


Where to grow a Norway spruce

Young shoots on Norway spruce. Getty Images
Young shoots on Norway spruce. Getty Images

For best results grow Picea abies in moist but well-drained, slightly acidic soil, in full sun. As it reaches quite a large size, it is best grown in a large garden.


How to plant a Norway spruce

Norway spruce has shallow roots, so when planting, dig a hole twice the width of the root ball or container. Plant at the same depth as it was in the container. Water in well and add a mulch of bark or well rotted manure to help conserve moisture.

Where to buy a Norway spruce online


Caring for a Norway spruce

Keep your tree well watered for the first year after planting. Once it is established it should get all the moisture it needs from rainfall.

There is no need to prune a Norway spruce regularly – this may spoil the shape. However you can remove dead, damaged, crossing or diseased branches if they appear.


Growing Norway spruce: problem solving

Norway spruce is usually problem free. 


Advice on buying a Norway spruce

  • Bear in mind that Norway spruce is fast-growing and can ultimately reach 30m in height. If you have a smaller garden, consider a more compact cultivar
  • Look for a healthy tree, with dark, shiny needles and no sign of pests or disease

Where to buy Norway spruce online


Varieties of Norway spruce to grow

Picea abies 'Little Gem'. Getty Images
Picea abies ‘Little Gem’. Getty Images

Picea abies ‘Little Gem’ – a dwarf cultivar that is suitable for growing in a border or rockery or in a pot. H x S: 50cm x 75cm

Picea abies 'Nidiformis'
Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’

Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’ – Known as the bird’s nest spruce, this small, spreading conifer is more suitable for a small garden and looks good in a rock garden. Height x Spread: 1.5 x 4m

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