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There are precious few pyramidal evergreen trees which stay small, a fact which makes the delightful and dapper Dwarf Alberta Spruce that much more special. This popular petite conifer naturally assumes a perfect Christmas Tree shape without any pruning at all, and it will never outgrow the space it’s given. Use it in your entryway garden, mixed border, or patio plantings to bring structure and refreshing greenery to your landscape 365 days a year. String it with lights during the holidays to give your garden an especially festive, warm and welcoming touch in winter.
- Hardiness Zone: 2-6
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Believe it or not, Dwarf Alberta Spruce is a miniaturized version of the White Spruce Tree of our northern forests, which can grow over 100 feet tall in the wild. In fact, the largest White Spruce Tree, in Minnesota, reaches 130 feet in height! This Mini-Me Spruce was discovered in Alberta, Canada in 1904 by two men who happened to be on a plant-hunting trip on behalf of Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum. While waiting for their train at a remote outpost in the Canadian Rockies, they glimpsed a group of teeny Spruce seedlings. One plant survived the 2,700-mile trek back to Boston and became the original source for all of the many thousands of Dwarf Alberta Spruce Trees that have been propagated since.
Dwarf Alberta Spruce is the offspring of a “witch’s broom,” an odd mass of dwarf, clustered growth that appears once in a while on conifer branches. Witch’s brooms are highly prized by conifer enthusiasts (or “coneheads,” as they call themselves) and are the source of most of the dwarf conifers you can buy at nurseries and garden centers. ‘Little Gem’ Norway Spruce is another example of a plant that came from a witch’s broom.
How to Grow
Being originally a tree of northern woodlands, Dwarf Alberta Spruce is much happier in the northern half of the country than it is in the Deep South. It likes full sun but will put up with light shade. One issue with Dwarf Alberta Spruce that you’ll want to be on the lookout for is spider mites, which cause stippling of the needles and in severe cases, browning. The problem is much more likely to occur in hot, dry weather when plants are drought-stressed, so keep your tree well watered and mulched, and you will have few problems. Another issue you might possibly have is reversions, or large branches that appear like those on a full-sized White Spruce, but this is easily solved. Simply prune out any rogue branch as soon as it appears.
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