Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens var. glauca) is a valued landscaping evergreen because of its symmetrical pyramidal shape, the silvery blue of the needles and its cold-hardiness. However, its mature size is 60 to 100 feet tall, making it too large for small- to medium-size gardens. The semi-dwarf cultivar "Fat Albert" allows its use in smaller spaces and enhances the desirable qualities of the species because of the uniformity of the blue color and predictable plant growth.
Slower-growing than the pure species, "Fat Albert" grows to a usual height of 10 to 15 feet tall and as wide in 10 years. If in an ideal situation, it may eventually reach about 40 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Although the tree has a more broad-based pyramidal shape than its parent, it can't really be considered a "fat" tree. The basal width varies from 10 to 20 feet wide on mature 30- to 45-feet-tall trees, depending on the growing conditions. "Fat Albert" has a consistent intense blue color wherever it grows because trees are propagated by rooting cuttings. Seed-grown Colorado blue spruce have wide color variations because of genetic differences.
"Fat Albert" is a naturally occurring variant chosen from thousands of field-grown seedlings by Oregon nurseryman Jean Iseli in 1978. Selected for its strong, upright growth that needs no staking or pruning as well as for its outstanding color, the cultivar name was chosen by longtime plantsman and Iseli family friend Don Howse to commemorate the then-popular Bill Cosby cartoon television show "Fat Albert."
Plant "Fat Albert" in full sun for the most compact growth, which will accentuate the broad-based outline, although it will also tolerate partial sun. Provide supplemental water during the first year after planting to establish a deep root system. Although "Fat Albert" is drought-tolerant, in climates with hot summers, regular deep watering as frequently as every week may be needed. Plants don't flower and are deer-resistant. Once in the landscape, "Fat Albert" needs very little maintenance, since it doesn't need pruning or shaping and doesn't produce litter. It is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 8.
"Fat Albert' lends itself to use as a specimen tree. It will fit into a corner to fill the space, and can serve as a living Christmas tree. It won't be overwhelming if placed in a small lawn area and provides a to-scale vertical dimension when combined with low-growing evergreens. It makes a suitable backdrop for colorful perennials. Because of the wide, densely packed lower growth, use "Fat Albert" as a barrier planting and for windscreens or a sound barrier. Space trees at least 12 feet apart to allow for the broad bases.