When planted right and in the right spot, Colorado Spruce are very easy to grow. 

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know regarding planting and caring for Colorado Spruce that'll have you growing them like the pros...


Cultural Preferences


Soil Preferences

Colorado Blue Spruce are adaptable to most soils however do not like constantly soggy soils, which can be problematic. Dry to consistently damp to moist but well-drained soils are preferred.


How To Test Soil Drainage  

If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your Colorado Blue Spruce, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. 

To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep in the planting area. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and is a caution you might need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.


Soil pH

Regarding soil pH, Colorado Blue Spruce are highly adaptable. They prefer a soil pH between 6.0 to 7.5 on the pH scale, however will tolerate extremely acid or alkaline soils. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.



Light Preferences

Colorado Blue Spruce prefer full to mostly sun. For best overall performance 7 hours or more of direct sunlight per day is suggested.





How To Plant A Colorado Blue Spruce

Scroll down for container planting instructions and care tips


Step 1

Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and as deep or not much deeper than the root ball of your plant. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.


Step 2

Depending on the type and porosity of the soil in the planting area, it might be beneficial to amend the native soil. To enhance porosity and ensure good drainage, when planting in heavy clay or other compacted soil it is beneficial to thoroughly mix in a good soil conditioner or sandy top soil at 50/50 ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. 


Step 3

To remove your spruce from the container it was growing in first squeeze the sides of the pot to loosen the root ball. Then firmly grasp the base of the tree and try to gently lift and remove it from its container. Avoid pulling so hard that the plant is damaged. If the root ball is stuck in the container use snips or a utility knife to cit the container away. After having removed the plant from the container, loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. 


Step 4

Set your spruce tree in the planting hole so that the top edge of the root ball is at or slightly above ground level to allow for settling. If necessary, add some backfill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height. 

Note: If the soil is poorly drained (constantly soggy or wet) improve drainage in the planting site or select a different plant species tolerant of wet soils. 




Step 5

After setting your spruce tree in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball. To avoid suffocating your plant, avoid placing any soil on top of the root ball.


Step 6 (Optional)

When planting your spruce tree far away from a water source, and in well-drained soil, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a 3-inch high water retaining berm (water catch basin / doughnut) around the outside perimeter of the planting hole, as shown in the planting illustration above. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing watering frequency. The berm can be removed after a growing season or when the plant has established itself.


Step 7 

Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted spruce tree with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces plant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants. 


Step 8

To conserve moisture and suppress weed growth, apply a 1 to 2" layer of shredded or chipped wood mulch or pine straw around the planting area. As the mulch decomposes it will add vital nutrients to the soil that your tree will appreciate. Avoid the use of freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of your tree as this could cause the bark to rot.




How To Plant A Colorado Spruce In A Container


Most varieties of Colorado Spruce (Picea pungens) grow big and tall to grow long term in containers. That said, they can be grown for many years in large containers. When the tree has outgrown the container it can be transplanted to the landscape. 

Colorado Spruce growing in containers appreciate a moist but well-drained soil. Constantly soggy soil can and often will cause root rot or other harmful or deadly plant diseases. Therefore, when planting in a pot or other container, I recommend using a quality potting soil and a container with a drainage hole(s). To enhance drainage, you can also add 10 to 20% pumice or Perlite to the soil mixture.

Choose a size container that will allow for many years before having to transplant your tree to the landscape. This might mean your planting pot would be 12-16 inches or more in width than the root ball of your tree. 

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the foliage color of your spruce tree you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.



Container Planting Instructions

Step 1

Before filling your container with the soil mix, I suggest lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil. If you use gravel or other material in the bottom of the container lay the fabric over it. 


Step2

To remove your spruce from the container it was growing in first squeeze the sides of the pot to loosen the root ball. Then firmly grasp the base of the tree and try to gently lift and remove it from its container. Avoid pulling so hard that the plant is damaged. If the root ball is stuck in the container use snips or a utility knife to cit the container away. After having removed the plant from the container, loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. 


Step 3

Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set your plant in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit 1/2 to 1" below the rim of the container.



Step 4

Backfill with your potting soil around root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.


Step 5

Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more potting mix if settling occurs during watering.


Step 6 (Optional)

Apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips, pea gravel, egg rock or sphagnum moss to soil surface to help conserve moisture. 




How To Grow & Care For A Colorado Blue Spruce

Feeding - Watering - Pruning

Colorado Blue Spruce are exceptionally easy to care for a maintain, requiring little if any maintenance. here's a few tips that will have you growing them like the pros.


How To Fertilize A Colorado Blue Spruce


Colorado Blue Spruce trees don't require frequent fertilization, but can benefit from the extra nutrients from fertilizer that can increase the length and improve the color of the needles. I suggest feeding spruce trees with a slow-release shrub & tree type fertilizer or a natural, organic plant food


Newly Planted Trees

After planting, lightly sprinkle a slow-release shrub & tree type fertilizer beneath and just beyond the canopy of your spruce tree. Keep the granules well away from the plant's trunk area. Water the soil beneath and around the plant well when you are done fertilizing. This helps the fertilizer dissolve so that it is accessible to the roots. 

Note:  If planting your spruce tree in late summer or fall, wait to feed until the following early spring. 


Established Trees

In late winter or early spring, before new growth begins to emerge, sprinkle a slow-release shrub & tree type fertilizer beneath and 1-foot beyond the canopy for every 5 feet of tree height. Keep the granules well away from the plant's trunk area. Water the soil beneath and around the tree well when you are done fertilizing. This helps the fertilizer dissolve so that it is accessible to the roots. 





How To Water A Colorado Spruce Tree


When established, Colorado Spruce trees are quite drought tolerant. That said, when young they will appreciate a consistently moist soil to establish roots. As with so many other ornamental trees, spruce do not like constantly soggy or wet soils, which can lead to root rot and other harmful plant diseases. So be careful to avoid over-watering them! 


After Planting 

Immediately after planting deep soak the soil in the planting area or the container, including the rootball, to a depth in the soil equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost to stimulate early root formation and stronger root development, consider watering your newly planted spruce trees with a solution of Root Stimulator. Root Stimulator reduces transplant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants. 


During the First Growing Season

In average garden soil you should not have to water your newly planted spruce trees every day. More often than not, this causes constantly soggy soil conditions that can lead to root rot and other plant diseases. In the absence of sufficient rainfall or irrigation, water only as needed to keep the root ball and surrounding soil damp to moist. 

Keep in mind that deep soaking less frequently is much better than splashing just a little water on the plants every day. Plants planted during the winter dormant season, when plants are not actively growing and evaporation is much slower, will require much less water. So, be extra careful not to overwater during winter.


Thereafter

When established, Colorado Spruce trees are quite drought tolerant plants. Only during prolonged periods of drought will plants require supplemental irrigation. 


Watering Container Plants

When growing a Colorado Spruce in a container. check soil moisture frequently and provide some water when the top 2 inches of the soil becomes dry.


Note:  When watering with an automated irrigation system it's best to set your timer to water during the early morning hours and not in the late evening or at night, which can lead to the onset of fungus and other foliar diseases. During the first few weeks after planting, check soil moisture often and adjust irrigation time if necessary to keep the soil moist, not wet.




How To Prune A Colorado Spruce


Colorado Spruce do not require pruning to keep their natural, dense, pyramidal form, however can be pruned lightly for shaping or to remove a stray or broken branch. Avoid pruning beyond new growth.

 



Plant Long & Prosper!

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