How to Buy Spruce Trees

Overview

With more than 30 different species of spruce trees (Picea spp.) to consider for your landscape, make sure you can provide a sunny spot with deep, moist but well-draining soil that is not alkaline in pH. Research what mature size and needle color you desire in your garden so professionals can recommend plants for your needs and budget. Spruce trees need cold winters and not overly hot summer climates to grow well; they are not for subtropical regions.

Step 1

Decide what size spruce tree you need in your landscape. Consider your budget, your ability to lift heavy items and if you want a small tree to nurture over many years or a larger spruce that creates instant visual impact in the garden. Other characteristics, like a specific tree species, name or color of needle helps you choose the spruce to purchase once you visit the plant nursery.

Step 2

Visit the plant nursery in spring, when it's most likely to have the widest selection of spruce trees in stock in plastic containers, burlapped root balls or wooden crates. Ask questions regarding availability, pricing and suitability for your region's climate and soils of a tree you have interest in purchasing based on your notes from Step 1.

Step 3

Scan plant labels to identify the spruce tree type name or ornamental characteristic you like.

Step 4

Note the size of the spruce trees and how they are being sold. Smaller plants cost less while larger plants may cost more but provide instant effect. Larger plants weight more, too, and can be troublesome to move and plant on your own. Choose a price and size you are most comfortable with buying, transporting and planting.

Step 5

Examine the quality of the spruce tree selection in the price and size category you chose in Step 4. Pick a well-shaped tree with a single leader branch at the tip and a full, symmetrical shape. Avoid trees with yellowing or browned needles, broken branches or needles that shatter and fall away when you touch them.

Step 6

Tip the container or more closely look at the base of the spruce tree and ask staff for assistance if the plant is large and heavy. There should be no roots protruding out of a container's drainage holes, which suggests pot-bound and stressed plants. Check if burlapped root balls have been kept well-watered. The burlap should be snug around the root ball, and feel cool and damp to wet to the touch.

Tips and Warnings

  • Double check plant labels at nurseries or ask staff to confirm the USDA hardiness zone rating for the spruce you wish to purchase. You don't want to plant a spruce that will likely not survive the winters in your region. If you garden in zones 3 through 8, there is at least one spruce species suitable. Mail-order seedlings that are shipped bare-rooted are inexpensive but often dehydrate and die a few months afterward. Consider only buying local, soil-growing plants you can examine before buying and survive better once planted.

References

  • "A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants;" Editors Christopher Brickell and H. Marc Cathey; 2004
  • TalkTalk: Tips on Buying and Planting Conifers
  • International Society of Arboriculture: Tree Selection
Keywords: buying spruce trees, choosing spruce trees, Picea, tree buying tips

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," nonprofit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He's gardened and worked professionally at public and private gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He has written articles for eHow and GardenGuides.