Colorado Blue Spruce is among the most widely used trees for landscaped backyards and holiday decorations. Thanks to its silvery-blue foliage color, fantastic smell, and pyramid shape, the tree is a classic option for Christmas trees.
In addition, seasoned gardeners use the Blue Spruce’s boughs when holidays are over to make shrub shelters to overwinter garden bushes.
Further, it features a relatively long life, the oldest being over 600 years old, and you can expect it to thrive when grown and cared for properly.
So, this write-up gives homeowners and gardeners accurate information on How to Grow and Care for Colorado Blue Spruce for a successful project.
The first step is to determine whether you’ll work with a Colorado Blue Spruce seed or seedling. This way, you’ll know what is expected in every stage.
For instance, purchase the seeds from a reputable store and fill a seedbed with sandy loam soil. Then, bury the seeds in various compartments and water them.
Next, keep the seeds in full sunlight for two to four weeks, then move the seedling to a sunny but shady location.
Conversely, purchase a seedling, cut its roots to match its height, and bury it in a pre-dug trench. Then, fill the trench with soil and water. Also, ensure you work in a sunny area with well-drained soil for optimal results.
Caring for Colorado Blue Spruce begins when you purchase the seed or seedling. In addition, the plant’s welfare depends on your area’s climate, soil type, and general maintenance routines such as pruning and fertilizing.
Thus, read this article for more guidelines on growing and caring for Blue Spruce and what fertilizers to use for a healthy garden or landscape.
What Is Colorado Blue Spruce?
The Colorado Blue Spruce, also known as the Blue Spruce, Colorado Spruce, and Green Spruce, belongs to the Spruce tree species.
Further, Colorado Blue Spruce’s Latin name is Picea Pungens. It originates from North America and is commonly found in USDA growing zones one through seven.
Picea Pungens is a coniferous evergreen plant featuring sharp and short needles. In addition, it belongs to the Pine family and is the official state tree of Colorado.
Blue Spruce naturally grows in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona. Also, over time, the tree has been widely introduced in various areas far beyond its native range and used for ornamental purposes.
This species grows to 75 feet in the wild, whereas it seldom exceeds 49 feet tall and 16 feet wide in gardens and parks. Moreover, the plant grows larger when you cut its tip at three years old.
Colorado Blue Spruce is conical or columnar with densely growing yellowish-brown horizontal branches. Its trunk features a scaly grey bark, making it easy to distinguish.
The tree also has waxy, gray-green leaves that are radially arranged on the shoots, and they grow up to one inch long and curve upwards.
The color of this Spruce species resembles human hair color, while certain growers graft branches of specific colors to another tree’s roots to deliver more intense color. In addition, you may notice a blue or bold hue over time.
Blue Spruce has pale brown cones up to four inches long. Further, the male cones grow on the entire tree, whereas the female ones are at the tree’s top. This positioning facilitates cross-pollination, ensuring the species reproduces.
The tree grows in elevations up to 11,000 feet above sea level. Its color ranges from silver to blue to green shades. Also, you can find this tree in mixed forests of deciduous or evergreen trees.
Colorado Blue Spruce is common for windbreaks in many countries. Further, its thickness reduces wind velocities and soil erosion.
However, the tree does not make lumber due to its weak nature and many knots. But you can use it for ornamental cutting and decorative purposes.
Types of Colorado Blue Spruce
This Spruce tree comes in various types, all with lovely silvery-blue needles. They include the following:
- Picea Pungens “Baby Blue Eyes.” This species is a semi-dwarf cultivar and fifteen to twenty feet tall.
- Picea Pungens “Moerheimii”. These trees’ branches droop and grow to thirty feet tall.
- Picea Pungens “Montgomery.” This Blue Spruce is another dwarf variety growing five to six feet high. It also has dense and blue needles.
- Picea Pungens “Bakeri.” These Spruces have a deep blue hue and grow between twelve to twenty feet high.
- Picea pungens “Glauca Globusa”. These species also belong to the dwarf variety and grow three to five feet high, three to six feet wide, and rarely bear cones.
Where Do Blue Spruce Trees Grow Best?
Colorado Blue Spruce trees grow best in the Central and Southern Rocky Mountains. Further, these areas are at high altitudes, receive the most rainfall during summer, and have relatively dry winters.
Unfortunately, replicating the above conditions is difficult. Thus, garden-grown blue Spruces in most regions feature a shorter life span than they would in a natural habitat.
Also, selections in garden centers are blue, though these shades are more irregular. In addition, they have an occasional silvery or blue specimen shining out from an olive-tree bush.
How to Grow and Care for Colorado Blue Spruce
Evergreens are usually beautiful trees that remain green year-round, even during winter. Moreover, some adult evergreens grow to 40-60 feet, whereas others grow to four-ten feet.
Growing evergreens is straightforward. For instance, you can purchase pre-green seedlings or start seedlings from seeds. Then, pot or plant them in the yard.
Further, the plants need adequate moisture and space to remain healthy.
Colorado Blue Spruce falls in this category and follows the same procedure prescribed for evergreens. Therefore, check the guide below on how to grow and care for this evergreen species.
Step One: Planting Colorado Blue Spruce Seedlings
- Choose a Favourable Season to Plant
Generally, Colorado Blue Spruce benefits from warm soil after planting. Thus, plant the seedling during summer, spring, or early fall.
Otherwise, planting it too late in the fall causes it to turn brown over the winter.
- Remove the Seedling Packaging
Manufacturers store the seedlings in plastic bags. So, open them immediately to avoid overheating. Also, plant the seedling after you get it and wait not more than three to five days.
You can purchase Colorado Blue Spruce seedlings in plastic bags from a gardening store or online.
- Cut the Seedling’s Roots to the Height of the Plant
The seedling’s roots should be the same length as the plant’s. Therefore, measure the tree’s height with a tape measure.
Then, snip off the root’s ends with a pair of gardening shears. This way, the tree’s main stem matches the root’s length.
- Consider a Sunny Area with Well-Drained Soil
Most evergreens thrive in full or partial sun exposure and loose soil. Similarly, Colorado Blue Spruce seedlings need plenty of sunlight to thrive.
Also, mix the garden soil with the store-bought potting soil and cover all the planting areas. You can use a till or shovel to mix the soil thoroughly.
- Dig a Trench as Deep as the Seedling’s Roots
Find a sunny area to dig your hole. Then, ensure the depth matches the plant’s roots and move the dirt aside for future use.
Also, get a nine to 20-inch diameter pot when planting the tree in a pot. Or space the plants ten to 12 feet when planting more than one outside.
- Position the Seedling in the Trench
Lower the plant into the trench carefully, with roots first. Then, lean it against the trench’s side to stick it vertically.
Also, the roots should not bend or curl up in the hole. Thus, hold the seedling in place for more convenience.
- Fill the Trench With Water
Soak the roots thoroughly by filling the trench with water. This way, you’ll spur the seedling’s initial growth.
Further, let the water drain before proceeding to the next step.
- Fill the Trench With Soil
Take the soil you uncovered while digging the trench and push it down into the holes around the seedling. In addition, hold the plant’s central stalk when packing the dirt.
Step Two: Grow Colorado Blue Spruce Seedlings from Seeds
- Plant the Seeds In the Late Fall
Some spruce seeds go through natural dormancy to germinate during spring and summer. Therefore, planting them in the late fall allows them to maximize this phase naturally.
- Refrigerate the Seed In Sand
Sometimes, gardeners purchase seeds but do not plant them in the fall. So, refrigerating them in sand helps preserve them until planting time.
So, keep the seeds in sealable bags and fill them with wet sand. Then, place the package in a refrigerator for three to seven weeks.
Alternatively, you can use peat instead of sand.
Experts call this process stratification. It replicates the seed’s dormant duration and prepares it for germination.
- Fill a Seedbed with Sandy Loam Soil, or Well-Drained Sand
Most seedbeds comprise small compartments holding individual seeds. But you’ll have to fill them 3/4ths with sand or soil.
Further, keep seedbeds inside to protect the seeds from potential predators and disease.
Buy sandy loam soil, sand, and a seedbed at a gardening store or online. Or use a plastic container to grow the seeds if you cannot purchase or access a seedbed.
- Bury the Seeds Into their Respective Compartments
Bury a seed an eighth to a quarter inch into each compartment. And plant multiple seeds to improve your germination chances.
Remember, some seeds will not germinate. Thus, accounting for that possibility when planting is prudent. Besides, even if the seed germinates, it may not be a healthy evergreen.
- Water the Seeds
This step keeps the soil moist. But avoid overwatering and over-saturating the seedbed. So, water the project thoroughly weekly during a drought in your location or if you’re storing the seedbed indoors.
Conversely, you don’t need to water the seeds if the seedbed is outdoors and it’s raining weekly.
Further, poke your finger an inch down the soil to check whether it is dry. This way, you’ll know whether to water the plant.
- Keep the Seeds In Full Sunlight for Two to Four Weeks
Generally, keep Colorado Blue Spruce seeds at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit for two to four weeks to guarantee proper germination.
A small green stem forms out of the soil for properly germinating seeds. Hence, you don’t have to guess whether the seedling is growing.
Alternatively, bring the seedbed indoors if the weather is under 60 degrees Fahrenheit. And position it near a window for sun exposure.
- Move the Seedling to a Shady, but Sunny Location After Germination
Identify an area that receives six to eight hours of light daily. Then, plant your seedlings. However, ensure they are out of direct sunlight to prevent overheating.
Also, there is a good chance that the seedlings won’t germinate if they do not germinate after a month.
- Let the Seedlings Grow for Three Months Before Transplanting
Ensure the seedling is healthy enough for transplanting after three months of proper care. Then, transplant it into a pot or directly to the ground.
In addition, water the planted seedlings weekly before transplanting. This way, the process is easier and safer.
Step Three: Caring for Colorado Blue Spruce Trees
Thankfully, an established Colorado Blue tree is easy to maintain. For instance, it only needs frequent watering after planting. Then, provide two garden mulch inches around the plant’s base to help retain the moisture during drought.
Moreover, your spruce trees will benefit from high-nitrogen fertilizers annually. Only ensure it’s in compost form.
Below is a detailed guideline for caring for Colorado Blue Spruce Trees.
- Keep the Soil Moist
Remember, giving young evergreen plants enough moisture encourages their initial growth. So, water the plant every seven to ten days if your area has limited rainfall.
However, you do not have to water the Spruce trees if you get weekly rainfall.
- Apply One to Two Inches of Mulch Around the Plant
Regularly mulching around the Colorado Blue Spruce improves moisture retention, regulates soil temperature, and prevents weed growth.
Buy organic or inorganic mulch online or from a gardening store, then sprinkle one to two inches of mulch around the plant. But ensure it’s around the soil.
Also, mulch one to two inches away from the tree’s truck, and replace the mulch annually for the best outcome.
- Spread a Nitrogen-Rich Fertilizer
Apply this compound around the plant and replace it every two to four years to promote its health and growth.
Also, remember evergreen trees require more Nitrogen than other species, Colorado Blue Spruce included.
Therefore, buy a nitrogen-rich fertilizer online or from a gardening store. Then, sprinkle it over the soil around the plant with your hands or a drop spreader.
Also, draw a soil sample to confirm which nutrients you need for your garden or lawn. Then, water the plant thoroughly after adding the fertilizer.
Finally, the first digit on the product stands for Nitrogen, the second for phosphorous, and the third for potassium. This formula helps you to determine the dominant nutrients in your fertilizer.
- Prune the Tree
This step helps control the tree’s growth direction. Hence, cut up to two-thirds of the last season’s growth if the tree spreads in an unwanted direction.
But most evergreens do not need pruning if they have adequate growing space. So, don’t force it.
Nevertheless, if necessary, prune Colorado Blue Spruce in the late fall and cut new growth at 40-degree angles. Also, apply wood glue over pruned areas to prevent the spread of diseases.
Experts recommend disinfecting the cutting tools with isopropyl alcohol before and after pruning the tree. Further, wear gardening gloves to improve your grip on the cutting devices and protect your hands.
- Prune Branches to Remove Infections
Evergreen trees are prone to various plant diseases and fungi that damage them. Therefore, frequently inspect the plant’s branches for fungi, brown spots, and discoloration. Then, prune off the branches immediately.
Also, replace badly damaged or rotted spruce trees for a healthy lawn or garden.
- Remove Ice Buildup During Winter
Here, use a rake to clear ice from the tree during winter. Remember, snow buildup on Colorado Blue Spruce trees causes branches to snap off, eventually leading to damage.
Also, shake off the branches frequently with the rake to prevent snow from accumulating on the branches.
- Kill Pests Using Insecticides
Occasionally, Colorado Blue Spruce trees suffer from aphids and other tree-damaging pests. Hence, purchase an insecticide online or from a gardening store and spray the trunk’s base and plant’s limbs.
If the infestation persists, catch one of the pests and present it to a cooperative extension to know the exact insecticide to use.
Finally, wear protective clothing such as a face mask and hand gloves when handling the pesticide.
Here’s a Video On How to Grow Colorado Blue Spruce:
What Is the Best Fertilizer for Blue Spruce?
Most trees appear healthy as winter rolls, and they lose their leaves. But not so with Blue Spruces, as they need fertilizer this season to remain healthy and appealing.
In addition, although the trees are lovely, they are notoriously difficult to care for as they are susceptible to diseases and have multiple nutrient needs. Therefore, figuring out the best fertilizer for the plant is prudent for a successful venture.
The best Spruce fertilizer should be a high Nitrogen Compound with a 12-5-6 formula. Further, this formula suits the species as it’s more acidic and aids faster growth with a more vibrant color.
These fertilizers include:
High Nitrogen Fertilizer For Spruce Trees
Typically, any high-nitrogen fertilizer works very well for Blue Spruce trees. For instance, Urea is a perfect option for high-nitrogen fertilizers.
Its NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium) ratio is 46-0-0, giving the highest Nitrogen percentage per volume.
Further, the formula shows that Urea comprises NH3, CO2, and ammonia, making it an excellent fertilizer for plants.
In addition, it does not leave chemical residue in the soil around the plants.
You can use these fertilizers for indoor and outdoor seedlings, including houseplants, vegetable gardens, and trees.
Interestingly, this 46% nitrogen compound is a perfect base for handmade tie-dye products holding color vibrantly. Thus, you can use it for other projects if you have some leftovers.
So, Urea helps plants grow and lets the colors flow!
However, please be careful when using the product. First, it takes a while to take effect and causes damage when over-applied. Then, please wear protective clothing when spreading it around by hand.
Although you can decide how to place the high nitrogen fertilizer, we have some tips to reduce runoff and wastage while enhancing efficiency.
For example, use a sprinkler system to spread the fertilizer in small, consistent increments.
Alternatively, you can utilize the ‘surface application method,’ which involves applying fertilizer above the soil.
Also, you can combine the strategy with an irrigation system. But remember that the system does not distribute the fertilizer but reduces surface runoff and wets the soil.
Organic Fertilizer For Spruce Trees
Generally, compost is a perfect fertilizer containing any organic matter. Besides, you’ll often see it as food scraps in a compost bin or appliances that collect compost.
Next, the compost rots or decomposes into a dirt-like compound.
Nutrients from this substance help give plants extra nutrition while feeling good about proper food disposal.
Moreover, it is better for food scraps to help Blue Spruce grow than end up in a landfill.
However, the fertilizer is less effective depending on the materials in the compost. Therefore, ensure you monitor the plant and soil to determine whether they need additional nutrients.
Allow the food scraps to decompose and turn into compost. Then, spread it on top of the soil. In addition, mix some of the compost into the soil for better results.
- Shredded Bark
Shredded bark is organic and a perfect fertilizer option. Bark decomposes slowly because of its size, meaning nutrients soak slowly into the soil around the tree.
The fertilizer also retains moisture and rainwater in the soil, keeping the plant more hydrated.
Moreover, shredded bark helps keep weeds away naturally. This way, it maintains the soil, whose primary role is to support the growing tree.
The shredded bark fertilizer adds an aesthetically pleasing touch to your flowerbed and tree’s base. In addition, the compound’s benefits outweigh the cost as it’s organic.
Shake the fertilizer from the bag and shake it out. Then, spread it uniformly around the tree. Also, ensure the compound covers the soil directly surrounding the tree.
- Acidic Fertilizer For Spruce Trees
These fertilizers help lower the soil’s pH. Remember, certain nutrients are unavailable to certain trees when the soil is at high pH levels.
Therefore, an acidic option is perfect for Spruce. But ensure you do some soil tests to confirm your soil needs it.
An acidic fertilizer helps the tree access nutrients in the soil instead of relying on those it always receives. In addition, it refreshes the soil around the plant and enhances its growth level.
Add sulfur directly to the soil to slow the results while delivering a more enduring overall shift in its pH.
You can combine sulfur with other chemicals to achieve a quicker result. But it will be a short-lived one.
So, mix sulfur with aluminum to deliver aluminum sulfate when looking for a quick, temporary outcome until something else materializes.
- Combinations of Fertilizers
Fertilizer combinations work best if the available organic material is suitable for Spruce trees but not enough for your project.
For example, say you have tea leaves whose formula is 4-1-1. Here, Nitrogen is the main chemical, but the fertilizer is not strong enough.
Thus, consider adding other nitrogen-heavy or acidic fertilizers. You will reap the benefits of using food waste and save some cash.
The recommended strategy depends on the products you’re using. However, spray some water on the soil to be safe.
How Long Do Colorado Blue Spruces Live?
Colorado Blue Spruce trees live 200 years or more in the wild. On the other hand, the plant stays healthy for 40 to 60 years in a home’s landscape. Then, it begins to fail.
Fortunately, you can keep the tree living for a long duration with proper planting and care. For instance, plant the tree in full sun, neutral to acidic soil, and in a well-drained area.
Also, place mulch around the plant to keep it cool and ensure the soil’s moisture level is dry to medium-wet.
Lastly, Colorado Blue Spruce’s lifespan is significantly reduced when planted in geographical locales outside its native range. For example, blue spruces in the bitter cold of Minnesota live less than 30 years.
How Long Does It Take to Fully Grow Colorado Blue Spruces?
Generally, the Colorado Blue Spruce tree grows at a slow to medium rate but picks up later once established.
The tree’s growth is moderate to quick, with some growing a scant 12 or 24 inches annually. Hence, it needs 30 to 60 years to become 60 feet tall.
Further, you can encourage the tree’s growth by planting it in areas with consistent moisture. Otherwise, arid sites stunt its growth or cause it to struggle.
Frequently Asked Questions
- When and How Do I Fertilize Colorado Blue Spruce Trees?
Fertilizing these Spruce species is essential if you want them to get the needed nutrients. Besides, this strategy helps to get more out of the plants and to keep them healthy.
Experts recommend fertilizing Colorado Blue Spruce trees in the spring and fall. Besides, although you can fertilize the plant all year long, spring and fall are optimal as they characterize significant growth periods.
Fertilize the plants in early spring before new growth begins. It gives them sufficient time to take root and grow before winter.
Then, repeat the process after growth slows down or stops during winter, especially in cold climates with fewer daylight hours.
Further, fertilize Blue Spruce trees during summer if you live in warm and tropical areas. This exercise provides enough nutrients when the plants need more energy than usual due to increased humidity and temperature levels.
However, follow the recommended tips to guide the process. For example, choose an organic fertilizer suitable for conifers (trees with needles). Thankfully, you will find it in multiple garden centers, home improvement stores, and online.
- How Do I Choose a Fertilizer For Blue Spruce?
The best fertilizer for this species should have high nitrogen levels, balanced nutrients, and be pH adjusted for acid-loving plants. Further, Blue Spruce trees thrive with one nitrogen pound per 1,000 square feet of soil.
The fertilizer should also have phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium.
- What Pests and Diseases Attack Colorado Blue Spruce?
The Blue Spruce is susceptible to two Adelges species, an aphid-like insect causing galls. Further, the Pineapple gall adelgid nymphs form galls at the twig’s base, while the Cooley’s Spruce gall adelgid causes cone-shaped galls at branch tips.
We also have the Spruce budworm’s larva that eats the plant’s buds and growing shoots, whereas the Spruce needle Miner hollows out the needles, making them coalesce in a webbed mass.
The Pine needle scale, an elongated white scale insect, feeds on the tree’s needles, causing fluffy white patches on the twigs. Also, aphids suck sap from needles, making them fall and possibly die back.
Another insect pest affecting Blue Spruce is the Spruce beetle or Dendroctonus Rufipennis. It bores under the bark but usually, first attacks trees blown over by the wind.
In addition, a major outbreak happens, and vast beetle numbers attack nearby trees when the larvae mature two years later.
Mites also infest the Colorado Blue Spruce, especially during dry summer. As a result, you’ll notice old needles yellowing.
The tree is vulnerable to various needle-casting diseases. The needles turn brown, mottled, or yellow before they fall off. Also, various rust diseases affect the plant, causing the needles to turn yellow and fall later.
Finally, we have the Canker disease caused by Cytospora. It attacks the lower branches first and gradually works up the tree.
The first symptom turns the needle reddish-brown and makes them fall off. Then, before the tree dies, you will see white resin patches on the tree’s bark and branches.
- What Are the Ideal Conditions For Growing Blue Spruce?
These trees are slow growers, needing up to ten years to mature. Further, they require full sun to partial shade, well-drained sand with a 5.5 to 7.0 pH, and an annual fertilizer application during the first two years after planting.
However, Blue Spruce’s unfussy nature allows it to tolerate highly alkaline or acidic soils. In addition, it can adapt to various soils, including sand, loam, and clay, as long as the particles are not compact.
Finally, ensure the tree gets at least six hours of unfiltered sunlight. Otherwise, low-light areas increase disease incidence and severity.
- How Do I Prune Colorado Blue Spruce Tree?
Pruning Spruce trees typically control their overall size and shape and improve their health.
Moreover, you can prune the plants any time between mid-winter and early spring, giving them ample time to recover before summer. Thus, you are sure that the tree will grow in full bloom by summertime.
To prune the Colorado Blue Spruce correctly, start at the base with an elevated platform or ladder. This way, you access an above heads height.
Then, remove damaged or dead branches with loopers or clippers. But examine the tree first because this step is unnecessary if the branches are healthy.
The next stage involves cutting back about half of each damaged branch, except for ground-level ones. As a result, you encourage healthy growth from the tree rather than from one side.
Finally, trim new growth and ensure it does not exceed halfway through each branch. It ensures uniformity without too much foliage covering sky views through windows.
Colorado Blue Spruce is an excellent option for those looking for an ornamental and decorative tree. Besides, it is widely available globally and easy to grow, making it affordable for gardens, parks, and landscapes.
Further, the best time to plant the tree depends on your area’s climate. For instance, you can plant it year-round in mild climates.
However, consider planting it during early spring or late winter if you live in locations with harsh winters and frosts. Otherwise, the tree is prone to winter injury and dies in early fall.
There’s a lot to learn about Colorado Blue Spruce, and the above write-up helps to avoid guesswork while guaranteeing a successful project.
How to Grow and Care for Colorado Blue Spruce
Generally, the tips for growing this tree are the same for seeds and seedlings. The difference is that you’ll grow the seed into a seedling before transplanting it to the ground.
In addition, ensure that you purchase the seeds or seedlings when ready to plant. Otherwise, you will need more resources to store them till the perfect planting time comes.
Thankfully, established Colorado Blue Spruces are easy to maintain as they only need regular watering after planting. Also, spread two inches of garden mulch around the tree’s base to enhance moisture retention between waterings or drought periods.
Lastly, fertilize the trees annually and expose them to several hours of filtered sunlight daily.