Tree of the Month: Picea orientalis, Oriental Spruce
Posted: February 16, 2012
Oriental spruce has a surprisingly delicate texture thanks its small needles that rarely exceed one-half inch in length. These elegant conifers are native to Asia Minor, where they can reach heights of 120 feet. Oriental spruce can grow 50 to 60 feet tall, but 25 to 40 feet is more typical in the landscape with a spread of 15 to 25 feet. USDA Hardiness Zones 5 – 7. They are not known to be invasive.
Oriental spruce is best in full sun and acidic, well-drained loam, but tolerates a range of soil types as long as drainage is sharp. They are sensitive to drought in winter and intolerant of drying winter winds and air pollution. Considered pest resistant, although common conifer pests such as mites, bagworms and white pine weevil can be a problem.
Best used as a specimen in a protected location, Oriental spruce makes a graceful addition to the landscape. The growth habit is strongly pyramidal and the tree is densely branched. The straight species has lustrous dark green needles that hold their color well through the winter months. Oriental spruce makes an ideal backdrop for other plants that have colorful winter stems or fruits, or other conifers with lighter green or yellow foliage. Be sure to allow sufficient room to retain the lowest branches to display Oriental spruce at its best.
The straight species is difficult to find in the trade, but certain cultivars are more available. The most common cultivars include:
- Aurea – New growth emerges creamy yellow, then hardens off to green.
- Gowdy – Slow growing, narrow, columnar form with small, deep green needles. Grows to 10 feet.
- Nana – Dwarf mound-shaped specimen, grows to three feet tall with a slightly greater spread.
- Skylands – Same growth habit as the species, but with golden needles. Golden color may fade in heat of hot summers or where the tree shades itself.