Evergreens remind us of winter, fresh scents and the Christmas holidays. One of the fastest-growing and long-lasting evergreen trees is the Norway spruce, which, although non-native, is highly widespread in the UK. Due to its traditional green needles, conical shape and pine scent, many people like the idea of growing Norway spruce in pots or directly in their gardens and making it into their Christmas tree when the festive season comes. Moreover, this evergreen tree variety comes at affordable pricing.
If you don’t have experience in growing evergreen trees, you may be wondering how to grow a Norway spruce tree. Or you simply feel like you don’t know all there is to know and you want to make sure you are taking care of your plant the proper way. Frankly, growing a Norway Spruce tree is relatively easy. The main things the tree will need are space, enough water and light, adequate humidity and good drainage. To learn more about planting a Norway spruce tree and how to take care of it, read on. We have prepared some useful tips for you.
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Quick facts about Norway Spruce trees
Since Prince Albert introduced the old German custom to decorate Norway spruce trees for Christmas, this tree variety has become popular on the British Isles. To help you understand the specifications of growing a Norway spruce and familiarise yourself with its appearance, so you can tell it apart from other evergreens, we have put together some of the key characteristics of Norway spruce trees.
- Growth rate and mature size: Norway spruce grows at a medium to fast rate, adding approximately 60-90cm to its height each year. It is the fastest-growing tree of spruces and it can reach up to 30 – 40m in height and 7 – 10m in width.
- Needles and fruits: The needles are square-shaped, green in colour and release a rich, sweet scent. After pollinating, female flowers turn into long and diamond-shaped cones, which hang downward on the branches and have overlapping red-brown scales.
- Lifespan: Norway spruce can live for up to 300-400 years, although if grown in a pot, its lifespan is usually shorter, a maximum of 100 years. It takes from 50 to 80 years for the tree to reach its mature state.
- Wildlife value: Norway spruce is of a high wildlife value being the natural habitat of a variety of species, such as the beetles, hoverflies and weevils, as well as owls, hawks, and some songbirds. The tree serves as a shelter for deer, hare, grouse and woodcock. The foliage is food for the caterpillars of several moth species, while the cones are favoured by red squirrels.
How to plant Norway Spruce
Transplanting a Norway spruce tree is a fairly easy process, even if you have never done it before. Prior to beginning, make sure the location is appropriate for growing Norway spruce. Think about spacing, access to light, drainage and soil. Once this is settled, it’s time to get down to work. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to plant Norway spruce:
- Dig a large hole, preferably twice the size of the nursery pot or the tree’s root system.
- Take the tree out of its pot, along with the surrounding soil. If the pot is made from plastic, cut it away to avoid pulling at the trunk.
- Dampen the roots and set them into the hole, ensuring the trunk is standing straight.
- Pack the soil in by tamping it down around the roots to avoid the creation of air pockets that can dry out the roots.
- Water the plant.
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Norway spruce can grow swiftly and become very tall if given space to do so. The recommended planting distance depends on whether the tree will be used as a Christmas tree or a windbreak. Don’t plant the tree too close to a building, sidewalk and road. Having in mind that Norway spruce can reach a width of 7-10m, allow enough open space for your tree to grow freely.
Sun and soil preference
Norway spruce grows in a variety of conditions, however, the tree thrives when in full sun or partial shade. Do not plant the spruce in a full-shade location as it requires at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. The soil, where you will plant your Norway Spruce, has to be rich, moist, yet well-drained and slightly acidic. The tree does well in loamy, clay and sandy soils.
Norway spruce is a hardy tree that doesn’t require much maintenance once established, however, it is not a drought-tolerant plant. Young trees need adequate watering, which has to be more frequent especially during hot dry spells. Well-established trees require very little care. Nevertheless, deep water during the summer months or when you notice that the soil is on the dry side.
After the planting of a young tree, mild, slow-acting fertiliser can be beneficial for the plant during the initial growing season. Established Norway spruce trees don’t have any special fertiliser needs but if you want to make sure the soil is rich and fertile enough, you can feed your plant with fertiliser twice a month during early spring and once a month during the summer period. Never fertilise just before winter when the tree slows down its growth rate.
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Norway Spruce care
There are some habits that you can implement to ensure your Norway spruce tree stays healthy and strong. Here are some useful tips that we suggest you follow:
- Each spring spread a layer of mulch 5cm away from the tree trunk and at a radius of 10cm.
- During the summer, it is recommended that you water the tree extensively once a week, until mid-August. You can place a soaker hose around the tree and run it for at least 1 hour.
- Once you notice new growth in spring, begin applying a 20-20-20 fertiliser, following the instructions on the back of the product.
- Conduct regular inspections for mite infestation. The insects are very difficult to see but you might notice yellowing at the base of the older needles. To get rid of the pests, use insecticidal soap or a commercial miticide.
A disorder known as top-dying is found in Norway spruce trees, especially in Eastern Britain. The cause of the disease is unknown and it results in the weakening and dying of the tree. Norway spruce trees can also be affected by Stereum (decay fungi), Heterobasidion (root rot) and Elatobium (green spruce aphid), though the last one is not so common. Cytospora canker is a disease that weakens but doesn’t kill older than 15-years-old trees.
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Looking to buy a young Norway spruce?
If after reading this article, you feel excited about getting yourself a new living Norway spruce tree for the upcoming Christmas holidays, consider booking a delivery. Fantastic Services offers pot-grown 3-4ft Norway spruce trees, which can be delivered right to your home by a friendly team of gardeners. After the end of the holidays, the expert gardeners can also help you with transplanting the tree into a larger pot or right into your garden. For a sustainable and authentic Christmas, order pot-grown Norway spruce and book a delivery date that will suit your schedule.
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Image source: Shutterstock / Roden Wilmar