Colorado Blue Spruce Planting Guide: Tips On Caring For Colorado Spruce


By: Jackie Carroll

The names Colorado spruce, blue spruce and Colorado blue spruce tree all refer to the same magnificent tree—Pica pungens. Large specimens are imposing in the landscape because of their strong, architectural shape in the form of a pyramid and stiff, horizontal branches that form a dense canopy. The species grows up to 60 feet (18 m.) tall and looks best in open, arid landscapes, while smaller cultivars that grow 5 to 15 feet (1.5 to 5.5 m.) tall are right at home in lush gardens. Continue reading for information on how to grow a Colorado blue spruce.

Colorado Spruce Info

Colorado blue spruce is a Native American tree that originated on stream banks and crags of the western United States. This sturdy tree is grown in farmlands, pastures and large landscapes as a windbreak and doubles as a nesting site for birds. Dwarf species are attractive in home landscapes where they look great in shrub borders, as backdrops for borders and as specimen trees.

Short, sharp needles that are square in shape and very stiff and sharp attach to the tree singly rather than in bunches, like pine needles. The tree produces 2- to 4-inch (5 to 10 cm.) brown cones that fall to the ground in autumn. They are distinguished from other spruce trees by the bluish color of the needles, which can be quite striking on a sunny day.

Colorado Blue Spruce Planting Guide

Colorado blue spruce grows best in a sunny location with moist, well-drained, fertile soil. It tolerates dry wind and can adapt to dry soil. The tree is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 7.

Plant Colorado blue spruce in a hole that is as deep as the root ball and two or three times as wide. When you set the tree in the hole, the top of the root ball should be even with the surrounding soil. You can check this by placing a yardstick or flat tool handle across the hole. After adjusting the depth, firm the bottom of the hole with your foot.

It’s best not to amend the soil at planting time, but if it is poor in organic matter, you can mix a little compost with the dirt that you removed from the hole before backfilling. Compost should make up no more than 15 percent of the fill dirt.

Fill the hole half full with the fill dirt and then flood the hole with water. This removes air pockets and settles the soil. After the water has drained through, finish filling the hole and water thoroughly. If the soil settles, top it off with more dirt. Do not mound soil around the trunk.

Caring for Colorado Spruce

Caring for Colorado spruce is simple once the tree is established. Water it regularly to keep the soil moist through the first season and only during dry spells thereafter. The tree benefits from a 2-inch (5 cm.) layer of organic mulch that extends just beyond the tips of the branches. Pull the mulch back a few inches (11 cm.) from the base of the tree to prevent rot.

Colorado blue spruce is susceptible to cankers and white pine weevils. The weevils cause the leaders to die back. Cut off dying leaders before the damage reaches the first ring of branches and choose another branch to train as a leader. Stake the new leader into an upright position.

Some insecticides remove the wax coating on the needles. Since the wax is what gives the tree its blue color, you want to avoid this if at all possible. Test insecticides on a small, inconspicuous part of the tree before spraying the entire tree.

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How Long Does It Take for a Colorado Blue Spruce to Grow?

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Although it's not a quickly growing tree, per se, Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens 'Glauca') will grow at a moderate rate once established, if you provide the correct growing conditions. The tree is adapted to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, but it also may grow better in the slightly cooler range of USDA zones 2 through 7. In the wild, it usually grows at elevation, between 6,000 and 11,000 feet.

The Colorado blue spruce grows at a slow to medium rate, according to the Arbor Day Foundation, although it picks up a bit as it gets older. This blue spruce grows from 12 to 24 inches a year. So it will require 30 to 60 years for a Colorado blue spruce to grow from seed to 60 feet tall.


The Colorado blue spruce is such a delight that nature seems to have kept it a well-guarded secret for a very long time. It was not until 1862 that this spectacular species was discovered growing in enchanted meadows and stream sides high up in the Rocky Mountains. Once found, the fame of this blue spruce spread quickly, and today it is one of our most widely planted landscape trees as well as the state tree of Colorado. When writing Handbook on Conifers in 1969, Henry Tuescher, curator emeritus of the Montreal Botanical Garden, called the Colorado blue spruce one of the five finest conifers. Tuescher gave no reasons for this honor except for the tree's exceptional beauty.

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15 Easy Steps to growing A Blue Spruce Tree

  • Place the seeds in the bowl. Cover with an inch or two of water. Leave overnight
  • Wash the pots in warm soapy water, rinse and dry. Make a small hole in the bottom of the yogurt pots
  • If the soil looks dry, mix it in a bucket with enough water to make it damp, but not wet
  • Fill the pots with soil almost to the top, without shaking or pressing it down
  • Press down the soil evenly. You should now have an inch or two of space.
  • Place a seed on the top of the soil, or space them evenly over the surface of your 4-inch pot
  • Fill the pot almost to the top with more soil – don’t pack it down
  • Stand the pots in a flat-bottomed bowl and add cold water untill it is halfway up the sides of the pots. Leave until you see the surface looking wet. Remove from the water and let drain for an hour or two. Don’t disturb the soil
  • Place the pots inside the Ziplock, upright, and close it, trapping a little air
  • Put the bag and pots in your fridge. Leave for at least 6 weeks, and preferably longer. Check occasionally to make sure they are still moist. They can stay there until the end of winter
  • Remove the bag from the fridge, and the pots from the bag
  • Place in a warm, bright place, with temperatures above 60 degrees F.
  • Water carefully if the soil begins to dry out
  • Keep the young plants in a sunny spot, preferably outdoors, once they begin to sprout. Water as needed, and feed monthly with ½ strength liquid evergreen fertilizer
  • Transplant into a larger pot the following spring

White Spruce

White spruce (Picea glauca) is regarded as one of the most widely grown coniferous trees. It is hardy and easy to grow. White spruce can mostly be seen near streams or in well-drained, moist areas.

White spruce trees achieve a height of up to 140 feet with a diameter of nearly 3 feet or more. They can be efficiently grown in drained and acidic soils and usually survive for nearly 250 to 350 years. The blue-green needles are nearly two centimeters long with a whitish powdery and waxy layer.

Growing White Spruce

Growing white spruce is easy and safe, as long as the climate is accurate. While it stands tough against the harsh winter conditions, it prefers at least six hours of direct sunlight per day and is also tolerant of shade.

When planted in the right conditions, it doesn’t require much time to grow. White spruce can be grown through the means of seeds and cutting. Its seedlings transplant very easily.

Fun fact: rabbits, birds, deer, small rodents, and porcupines feed on the bark, seeds, buds, and branches of the white spruce. It’s also known to provide shelter to a range of species.

It’s important to note that the white spruce is susceptible to diseases such as needle and stem rusts, cankers, and eastern spruce beetle. These infestations, if not identified early, can cause serious harm to the tree.


Colorado Spruce Info - How To Grow A Colorado Blue Spruce Tree - garden

I moved to the Ozarks in Arkansas and love the thick oak woods.
However, I rarely see pine trees ( lots of cedar)

This spring I bought (3) Colorado Blue Spruce from Walmart garden center ( about 18 inches high )
I planted them in my front yard and watered every week the rainfall wasn't sufficient.
They have grown 12 inches since early spring.

Will they thrive in Arkansas.
I ask because I have not seen them here and a neighbor said. " wrong zone for Colorado Blue Spruce "

The higher the elevation the better the chances are of them to do alright, since that will be more similar to their natural habitat. Most of the time people worry about their "zone" (the USDA climate zone for cold hardiness) like those found here: 2010 Arkansas Interactive Plant and Tree Hardiness Zone Map in this case most of the Ozarks fall into the warm end of the Colorado Blue Spruce survival range.

There are other "zones" to consider in this case. The heat and humidity of your area may effect their health over the long run. If you are in Heat Zone 6 or cooler it will probably do fine, but Heat Zone 7 (and up) may mean the trees will need a little extra coddling (mostly watering) in the summer months when the heat and humidity is at its worst. Here's the Heat Zone map for you to check if you don't know what it is for your area: Arkansas Interactive Gardening Heat Zones Map

How Far South For Colorado Blue Spruce?

We grow Colorado Blue Spruce in Delaware, and they do just fine in Zone 7, no "coddling" necessary. They are more expensive, though, as compared to other evergreens. We bought two balled Colorado Blue Spruces for Christmas a few years ago, planted them at our previous location (Delaware) in January and they are still thriving. Here's a link from the Delaware Christmas Tree Growers Association:
Delaware Christmas Tree Growers Association - Firs, Spruces and Pines

Thanks to everyone for their informative answers.

I paid $63 for the 3 of them at Walmart this spring,but they already were 18 inches tall.

They truly are my " pride and joy" because we bought our retirement house in April of last year and these 3 Blue Spruce are the only trees of my planting.

Thanks to everyone for their informative answers.

I paid $63 for the 3 of them at Walmart this spring,but they already were 18 inches tall.

They truly are my " pride and joy" because we bought our retirement house in April of last year and these 3 Blue Spruce are the only trees of my planting.

I know how that feels, retirement is a whole new chapter and starting new in a different area means learning all new rules for what works. It also never helps to be told how great something grows elsewhere or how easy it is for others in much more moderate climates to grow something.

Your part of the state is the most likely part to work for getting the Colorado Spruce to thrive. It sure is a beautiful evergreen and I miss being able to grow one as I have previously, but it just is too hot for them here. If it makes you feel any better the Cooperative Extension for your state also mentions that it for much of the state Colorado Blue Spruce don't thrive except for the most northern portion. Colorado Rambler has real life experience in the kind of extra care they will need but I believe he/she gave you the best guidance to make it work.

In case they show signs of being out of their element there are some alternatives mentioned by the help desk of your Cooperative Extension here: Ask Janet Carson Reference Desk


Your best resource for any garden questions is the local Master Gardener Association. All Master Gardeners are supposed to trained in local climate conditions and understand the specific climate issues that may effect your choices for what you plant. Most of them have years of experience growing things right where you live. You can contact them by finding your county or the next closest one on this list: Active Master Master Gardener Counties in Arkansas

Best of luck in your retirement adventures!

I know how that feels, retirement is a whole new chapter and starting new in a different area means learning all new rules for what works. It also never helps to be told how great something grows elsewhere or how easy it is for others in much more moderate climates to grow something.

Your part of the state is the most likely part to work for getting the Colorado Spruce to thrive. It sure is a beautiful evergreen and I miss being able to grow one as I have previously, but it just is too hot for them here. If it makes you feel any better the Cooperative Extension for your state also mentions that it for much of the state Colorado Blue Spruce don't thrive except for the most northern portion. Colorado Rambler has real life experience in the kind of extra care they will need but I believe he/she gave you the best guidance to make it work.

In case they show signs of being out of their element there are some alternatives mentioned by the help desk of your Cooperative Extension here: Ask Janet Carson Reference Desk


Your best resource for any garden questions is the local Master Gardener Association. All Master Gardeners are supposed to trained in local climate conditions and understand the specific climate issues that may effect your choices for what you plant. Most of them have years of experience growing things right where you live. You can contact them by finding your county or the next closest one on this list: Active Master Master Gardener Counties in Arkansas

Best of luck in your retirement adventures!

Well, I'm no expert at growing Blue Spruce in Arkansas, but I can tell you about growing Blue Spruce in the most extreme southwest part of Colorado. It's just too warm in this region for Blue Spruce to do well if left to their own devises. They responding to the stress of too much warmth by transpiring like crazy and you will need to make up for the resulting water deficit they will undergo. Besides the two huge Blue Spruce in the front yard, there is also a nice wind break of about 15 of them at the back of the property. I was quite surprised when I moved here and observed this highly unusual number of healthy Blue Spruce trees. In fact, mine is the only property around here where any can be found growing. The secret is that this is part of an alfalfa farm that gets plenty of irrigation water in the summer. Whoever planted all my Blue Spruce was smart enough to realize that they would probably do just fine since the property is getting all that water anyway thanks to the alfalfa production.

I guess we always wish for what we can't have. I miss being able to grow some of the beautiful hardwood trees that are common in my original home state of Kentucky (and likely, Arkansas as well).

Well, I'm no expert at growing Blue Spruce in Arkansas, but I can tell you about growing Blue Spruce in the most extreme southwest part of Colorado. It's just too warm in this region for Blue Spruce to do well if left to their own devises. They responding to the stress of too much warmth by transpiring like crazy and you will need to make up for the resulting water deficit they will undergo. Besides the two huge Blue Spruce in the front yard, there is also a nice wind break of about 15 of them at the back of the property. I was quite surprised when I moved here and observed this highly unusual number of healthy Blue Spruce trees. In fact, mine is the only property around here where any can be found growing. The secret is that this is part of an alfalfa farm that gets plenty of irrigation water in the summer. Whoever planted all my Blue Spruce was smart enough to realize that they would probably do just fine since the property is getting all that water anyway thanks to the alfalfa production.

I guess we always wish for what we can't have. I miss being able to grow some of the beautiful hardwood trees that are common in my original home state of Kentucky (and likely, Arkansas as well).

The area you live in now is certainly a bit different from Kentucky but it is beautiful in its own way. We were seriously thinking of moving there after we traveled up from NM through CO. We loved being close to the mountains and the feel the area had. The southern CO areas we drove through had a feel of transition and it was quite dry. That was in late spring so I can imagine how hard it is on the spruce. I suspect the Ozarks provide a similar kind of challenge, especially in summer.


Interesting that your trees were planted so that they would get better irrigation. I would agree someone was pretty smart. Gardening in places with big swings in temperatures over the year must be a challenge and it struck me that you must have pretty cold winters and pretty warm summers. We wound up living in the transition zone one state south of your old home state, which has swung through drought and flooding, hotter than normal and colder than normal in the last several years. Transition zone gardening and tree care can be tricky in both directions since you are on the edge with the more heat sensitive and cold sensitive plants, shrubs and trees. The basic training in Master Gardener classes usually emphasize that depending on the overly simplistic zone thinking makes for bad advice for just this reason.


Watch the video: How to Plant a Blue Spruce in a Container


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