Though the Norway spruce is native to Europe, it is one of the most common spruces through much of Canada and the northern sections of the United States. The tree still grows in Europe in the colder regions and at high elevations, to much greater sizes than it does in North America.
The form of Norway spruce is distinct, with horizontal branches and pendulous limbs that arch upward from the trunk. As the tree matures, these pendulous branches weigh down so much that they begin to droop. The Norway spruce needles point forward on the branches, while the cones hang straight down from the end of the limbs.
The Norway spruce is a tree that requires cool climates. Full sunshine is a requirement as well. The tree, like most spruces, grows fine in acidic soils, but the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website notes that the Norway spruce is as adaptable an evergreen as there is. It will grow in rocky ground, clay and alkaline locations, and it can even grow in crowded cities.
The showy seed cones of the Norway spruce are up to 6 inches in length. This makes them the largest of the spruce species. The cones will fall off the limbs once they open up and disperse the seeds. This can create a litter problem beneath the tree. The cones will ripen throughout the fall before dropping from the tree.
The hybrids of the Norway spruce have a variety of features that separate themselves from each other. Some have variegated needles, while others only grow to very short heights. Some Norway spruce cultivars have columnar-shaped tress, and others develop drooping and weeping branches.
Norway spruces and its hybrids serve an assortment of purposes. The tree is a useful windbreak species, and you can use them to create hedges and screens. The dwarf cultivars work well in rock gardens. The Norway spruce is a specimen tree when you have a large enough area to allow it to grow to its full size, which can be as tall as 80 feet. As a Christmas tree, the Norway spruce falls short in terms of needle retention; if you select this type for the holidays, you must keep it watered and not put it up well before the holiday if you want it to stay green and fresh.