Spruces (Picea spp.) are coniferous evergreens that can be extremely versatile when it comes to their landscaping uses. They’re available in a variety of colors from yellow green to silvery blue green making them easy to pair with all sorts of other plants in the landscape. Some types of spruce trees don’t grow taller than a few feet while others turn into huge trees allowing them to be planted in a variety of places in your front yard or backyard.
If you’re looking for a new plant to add to your landscape design that looks gorgeous year-round, look no further. Spruces can be used as accents in front yard flower beds or to create a privacy screen in your backyard. We’re sure you’ll be delighted if you decided to add one of these exceptional, low-maintenance plants to your yard. Let’s dive in and learn how to landscape with spruce trees.
Common Types of Spruce Trees for Landscaping
There are around 35 naturally occurring spruce species in the world. However, not all of them are popular landscape plants. The following list includes the 14 most commonly used spruce species for landscaping.
- Picea abies (Norway Spruce)
- Picea asperata (Dragon Spruce)
- Picea breweriana (Brewer Spruce)
- Picea engelmannii (Engelmann Spruce)
- Picea gemmata (Szechwan Spruce)
- Picea glauca (White spruce)
- Picea koyamae (Koyama’s Spruce)
- Picea mariana (Black Spruce)
- Picea omorika (Serbian Spruce)
- Picea obovata (Siberian Spruce)
- Picea orientalis (Oriental Spruce)
- Picea pungens (Colorado Spruce)
- Picea rubens (Red Spruce)
- Picea sitchensis (Sitka Spruce)
- Picea wilsonii (Wilson’s Spruce)
Due to their popularity, many of these species have been selectively bred to create cultivars with unique characteristics. Cultivars can be a different color, shape, or size than the parent species but don’t differ enough to be considered a new species.
For example, Picea Engelmannii ‘Bush’s Lace’ is a weeping variety of Engelmann Spruce. Picea Abies ‘Pumila’ is a dwarf cultivar of Norway spruce. Picea Orientalis ‘Skylands’ is a variety of oriental spruce that has bright yellow new growth.
How To Grow & Care For Spruce Trees
Before planting spruces in your yard, you’ll want to know what they need to grow into beautiful, healthy plants.
USDA Hardiness Zone: Perhaps the most important factor to consider when choosing which spruce species to plant is the USDA hardiness zone you live in. Spruce trees can be grown from zone 2 through 8 depending on the species. Most local nurseries will only carry plants that grow well in your area. If you shop online, make sure you know which hardiness zone you live in and check the requirement of the plants you want before purchasing.
TIP: Colorado spruce trees are the most heat-tolerant species, while white spruce trees are the least heat-tolerant species of spruce.
Soil Preferences: When it comes to soil, the ideal pH is 6 to 7.5 but spruce trees can adapt to soils a little above or below this range. The soil can be sandy, loamy, or clayey but needs to be well-draining to avoid root rot issues. Sandy soils will likely need to be amended with organic matter to allow them to retain enough moisture to keep your spruces happy.
TIP: Black spruce trees handle wet soils better than any other species. White spruce trees tolerate high soil pH the best.
Water Needs: Established spruce trees typically don’t need supplemental watering unless it doesn’t rain for several weeks. Young spruces should be watered at least once a week if it doesn’t rain to keep them healthy while their roots grow. To conserve soil moisture and reduce the need for supplemental watering, add 3 to 4 inches of mulch around your spruce tree.
TIP: Colorado spruce trees are the most drought-resistant spruce species. Norway and Siberian spruces will tolerate mild drought conditions.
Sunlight Requirements: Spruces grow best in full sun which means 6 or more hours of direct sunlight per day. Some species like white spruce will tolerate partial sunlight but may grow more slowly.
Maintenance: To improve the growth of spruces in your landscape, add fertilizer once a year in spring. Any fertilizer labeled for use on trees and shrubs will work, provided they have no more than 10% nitrogen.
If you need to prune your spruces, the best time to hand prune new growth is in spring. If you want to shear your spruce tree, wait until late spring for the best results.
Insect & Disease Issues: Spruce trees don’t usually have any major insect or disease issues if they are grown under the right conditions. Insects that can feed on them include aphids, budworms, scales, and spider mites.
The two most common diseases of spruce are Cytospora canker and Rhizosphaera Needle Cast. Both of these diseases are most common in trees that are suffering from drought. To avoid disease issues, make sure you water your spruce trees during periods of drought.
13 Spruce Landscape Ideas
1. Dwarf Spruce Types As Accent Shrubs
Accent plants are an important feature used to create a stunning landscape design. They are strategically placed to help draw your attention to different parts of the yard, or to emphasize a particular feature like an entryway or walkway. Plants with colors, textures, and forms that stand out work best as accent plants.
In this flower bed, Montgomery dwarf blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’) is being used as an accent plant. Their bright silvery blue foliage stands out from the background of green grass, grabbing your attention. Their stature among the other plants also allows them to shine. The low-lying yellowish and dark green plants surrounding the blue spruce bushes make their foliage pop even more.
The blue spruce shrub used on the left side of this landscape design pairs well with the surrounding features. Its round shape and size balance out the two boulders on the right side well creating symmetry. The silvery-green foliage contrasts well next to the other shrubs with their green to yellow-green coloration.
In this landscape bed, blue spruce has been paired with a yellow thuja and burgundy pygmy barberry shrub. Their colors and textures complement one another beautifully. Together, this group of shrubs placed among a sea of plants with light green foliage beckons your attention. The placement of the spruce in the background is perfect as it will ultimately grow taller than the thuja or barberry shrubs.
2. Specimen Plant Idea
Here’s another example of an accent plant called a specimen plant. Specimen plants are placed on their own to draw your eye to a specific landscape feature. In this design, the tall conical spruce tree draws your attention to the neighboring light post.
3. Unique Landscape Designs with Weeping Spruce
Weeping spruces have an unusual form to them that can help create a whimsical feel in your front or backyard garden. This weeping Norway spruce (Picea abies ‘Pendula’) pairs amazingly with the tall Delphinium flowers surrounding it. When the flowers fade in winter, the evergreen spruce will keep the garden from feeling empty. Mixing flowers with evergreen plants is ideal when landscaping to keep your yard looking outstanding year-round.
In this backyard garden, the weeping pine (Picea abies ‘Inversa’) is paired with white roses. They’ve added some dwarf blue Colorado spruce trees in the background which will provide extra color in the landscape during winter. The smattering of red flowers throughout the garden contrast with the green of the spruces, adding even more visual interest to the overall design during summer.
If you want to make a big statement with your weeping spruce tree, there are larger varieties available too. The focus of this landscape design is a Picea engelmannii ‘Bush’s Lace’ tree which can slowly reach a height of up to 25 feet. To the left of the bench, they’ve planted a dwarf Norway spruce (Picea abies ‘Elegans’) which has lovely dark green foliage. On the right side, they’ve added a low-lying juniper (Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Daub’s Frosted’) and a weeping Larch (Larix decidua ‘Puli’).
This landscape design is a wonderful example of how you can mix different evergreen conifers to create a garden that still has some variation. What it lacks in color, it makes up for by being extremely low maintenance. If you want a backyard garden that’s easy to care for and still looks great all year, consider planting a mixture of evergreen conifers.
4. Lining Walkways And Driveways
Another way you can use spruce trees in your front yard landscape is along walkways. Here they’ve lined a short walkway from the gravel driveway to the patio with dwarf spruce shrubs. The spruce shrubs create a nice, short hedgerow that doesn’t block the view of the rest of the yard.
In this example, they’ve planted a row of pyramidal shaped dwarf spruces between the driveway and fence. Using pyramidal spruces to line driveways in the front yard creates a more open look since they aren’t growing into a solid hedge row. Even as they mature, you’ll still be able to see each individual tree rather than having them growing into one solid hedge.
The spruce trees used to line this walkway have matured enough to require pruning to keep them from encroaching onto the path. Spruces handle pruning and shearing without issues which is why they work well to line walkways and driveways. You can simply go out in spring and shear them back to where you want them.
5. Custom Topiaries
Since spruce trees tolerate pruning, you can transform them into works of art known as topiaries. Here, a dwarf Alberta spruce has been trimmed into a fancy spiral topiary. Topiaries can be used to create a more formal looking garden in your backyard. Even though they look super fancy, they are easy to create and maintain since spruce trees are slow growing.
Another type of spruce topiary shape you’ll commonly see is known as a poodle topiary which is pruned to have three spherical sections. Dwarf spruce topiaries can be grown in containers which means you can place them on your backyard patio or deck as shown here.
Poodle topiaries are a great alternative to spiral topiaries since they are much easier to create and maintain. If creating a topiary seems intimidating, you can easily find spruce topiaries to purchase. Then all you’ll need to do is maintain their shape with a quick pruning once or twice a year.
While topiaries make terrific additions to porches and patios, they can also be used to accentuate entryways. Placing a spiral spruce topiary on either side of the front do will make it feel more inviting. They can also improve the overall curb appeal of your front yard.
Spruce topiaries can also be used to frame windows on your home. They’ll have plenty of room to grow without blocking the windows and will draw attention to the architecture. You can plant them in decorative pots to give your yard some extra color in the winter. Place lower growing plants beneath the window to add more dimension to your landscape design.
6. Corner Garden Idea
Another important aspect to consider when creating a landscape design is mixing plants of different heights. This adds dimension and interest to the overall appearance.
You can use spruce trees to add height to your landscape as seen above. The spruce tree in the corner helps to balance out the height of the fence in the background with the low-lying plants being grown alongside it in the flower bed. For more landscaping ideas for corner gardens, check out our Corner Garden Ideas article.
7. Accentuating the Walkway
Normally you place taller trees in the back of landscapes behind smaller plants, but these spruce trees are placed in the foreground. This works well if you have walking paths through your backyard garden. The trees accentuate the walkway and block just enough of the garden view to encourage you to walk beyond them to see what you’re missing.
8. Potted Dwarf Spruces
Dwarf spruce species can be grown in planters, allowing you to move them around your yard as you please. It also allows you to incorporate them into your front yard porch or backyard patio. This dwarf weeping spruce has been planted in a large container on the backyard deck. Adding plants to your deck helps it feel like you’re fully immersed in your garden, even while you sit back and relax on your patio furniture.
Potted spruces can be used as decor on your deck to enhance its design. Choose a flower pot that matches your style. If you want them to stand out, pick a pot that has bright colors or an intricate pattern. For a more subtle feel, go with something like this pot with a neutral color and simple design.
9. Improving Front Yard Curb Appeal
Many people have at least one large tree in their front yard. They provide shade and can improve the curb appeal of your home. While hardwood trees are often used, conifers are much easier to maintain. They look great during every season, and you won’t have to worry about raking up thousands of leaves from your yard each fall. This large Colorado spruce fits the yard fantastically and even provides a little privacy to the home.
When choosing a spruce species to plant in front of your home, make sure it will fit the space you plan to plant it when it’s fully grown. The two spruce trees on either side of this house’s windows are a little too big for the allotted space.
They’re both up against the house which can cause a variety of issues in the long run. The one on the right is also starting to block the window which is less than ideal and makes the tree look overgrown. While you can prune back spruce trees, it’s less work if you pick a cultivar that fits the space appropriately to begin with.
10. Fence Landscaping Ideas
Fences are an appealing feature to have in your yard. They provide privacy and security in your back or front yard. However, around a large yard they can appear somewhat monotonous. Planting spruce trees in front of them can help to liven them up with greenery all year. Blue spruce trees look magnificent in front of a brown fence since the colors play really well off of one another.
If you want a more subtle look, consider planting white spruce trees which are less flashy with their medium green foliage. These homeowners have added a row of thuja shrubs in front of their white spruce trees. The feathery, bright green foliage of the thuja gives the design more texture and color variation.
Even if you don’t plant spruce trees the whole length of your fence, consider adding them on either side of the gate. The trees will garner attention to the gate which is desirable if you have a fancy gate like the one shown above.
11. Creating a Secluded Backyard Oasis
Spruce trees can be used to create privacy in your backyard. A single tree next to your back deck will give you a secluded spot to enjoy a morning cup of coffee. It can also provide a little extra shade during the summer. The blue-green needles of this Colorado spruce look bewitching next to the dark stained deck and light brown wicker furniture.
If you want to create privacy for your entire backyard, consider planting a row of spruce trees. They can be sheared each spring if you want a more manicured look. Make sure you check their recommended planting distance before installing a row of spruces. If you plant them too close together, they may start looking unhealthy as they mature.
12. Spruces As Shade Trees
Spruce trees naturally hold on to their limbs, often leaving little space between their foliage and the ground even on large trees. However, they can easily be limbed up from the bottom to expose their trunk. That means you can use spruce trees as shade trees in your front yard. As they mature, you’ll have plenty of space beneath them to add some seating so you can enjoy the shade during hot summers.
TIP: Most grass species won’t grow well underneath the shade of a large spruce. Consider adding a ring of mulch under the tree instead which will help the soil retain moisture and reduce weed growth.
13. Adding Color To Rock Gardens
Spruces make delightful additions to rock gardens. They don’t lose their leaves in winter which means they won’t make a mess you have to clean out of the rocks. Plant a golden, blue, or silvery variety to add color to the landscape. Here they’ve used a silvery blue spruce which matches the rocks perfectly.
The weeping spruce in the center of this rock garden adds height to the landscape and some interesting character. It also goes with the weeping juniper in the background. When the flowers and grasses fade in winter, the evergreen trees will keep this rock garden from feeling cold and empty.
Gillman, J., McKinnon, J.P., Brown, D.L., Weisenhorn, J. (2018). Choosing Evergreens for Your Landscape. University of Minnesota Extension.
Spangenberg, B. (1999). Pines and Spruces for Landscape Use. University of Illinois Extension.