The Norway Spruce is a native of Europe, and is commonly called the mountain spruce there. Due to its hardiness and adaptability it has been introduced around the world and thrives in the plant hardiness zones of 2 to 8 where there is adequate rainfall of at least 20” per year. In areas of less rainfall additional water will be necessary especially when young.
First stand back--if this evergreen is a tree that is 20 foot tall or larger it should have a dark green color with pendulous (arching upward) branches.
The foliage on these branches commonly “hangs” down from the main branches on larger trees. If the tree is over 20 feet tall look under the tree for the large cones, they are usually 4-8 inches long or they can be seen hanging down from the ends of the branches.
Remove one needle, it should be about 1 inch long and rotate easily between the thumb and forefinger. If it does not rotate and has 2 flat sides it is a fir tree.
Smaller trees are sometime hard to identify, look mainly for the dark green color, and needle rotation, and if all else fails ask a local tree expert, or a nursery, or some government forester, or me.
Soils and Rainfall
As with most plants it grows best on moist deep loam soils with 35” of annual rainfall per year. Due to their adaptability they can also grow on clay soils and sandy soils where there is adequate moisture to meet their needs. They seem to prefer a soil Ph of from 5 to 7.5 but have seen them on soils up to a PH of 9 with a reduced growth rate and density.
Height and Growth Rates
The Norway Spruce can grow 2-3+ feet per year their first 25 years under good conditions, in heavy or poor soils they may average 1 foot per year. Soil, moisture, and adequate sunshine are everything to a plant and its growth rate. On a perfect weather year, and no competition from grass or weeds, we have seen over 6 ft of growth in one year! This spruce if given sufficient room to grow will easily grow to over 100 feet tall and be 40 feet wide with spreading branches at the base and will live over 100 years.
This is not a tree for a small yard! Although they do best in full sunshine they can tolerate some shading up to 50% and still survive but the growth rate and density will be reduced. The Norway spruce has a fibrous deep spreading root system that makes this tree very wind firm able to withstand winds up to 100MPH.