How to Trim a Norway Spruce
Norway spruce is one of the toughest trees that ever lived. It looks sweet as a seedling, and is often placed too close to a house by those who don't know that it can reach a height of 60 feet or more in its long life span. In early stages, Norway spruce is a popular Christmas tree, and it is the annual choice for Rockefeller Center's outdoor Christmas display. Norway spruce needs pruning only for maintenance to make it a lovely addition to the home landscape.
Put on canvas gloves to protect your hands from needles and sticky sap. Put on safety glasses to protect your eyes from sharp needles if you're working on a spruce that's taller than you.
Prune Norway spruce in the late winter or early spring. For young trees, follow branch tips back until you find two branches growing to either side. Snip off the center branch growth. Doing this will encourage the side branches that remain to grow faster and make the tree bushier. Cut the lowest rung of branches on the tree to force more height.
For a 6- to 7-year-old Norway spruce, remove three rungs of lower branches to reveal a foot of the trunk. This age for Norway spruce is excellent for a small Christmas tree, indoors or out.
Prune whole, lower branches of mature Norway spruce if they are obstructing pedestrian or car traffic. Prune higher than that only if you see dead or dying branches, or if the tree is touching siding or your roof. Do not prune parts of branches, because this will cause browning and needle die-off in the remaining part of the branch.
Cut up large branches into manageable sizes, and place them in yard waste bags for disposal. Or use them for tinder in your fireplace after they dry out.
Allow a Norway spruce to grow with all of its branches intact if it is far enough from your house, driveway or sidewalk. These trees have a beautiful, pyramidal shape when left alone. Low-hanging branches, covered with snow, provide shelter for birds and small animals in winter.
Never "top" a Norway spruce. They are not suitable for hedge plantings.