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A Floridata Plant Profile #907 Picea orientalis
Common Names: Oriental spruce, Caucasian spruce
Family: Pinaceae (pine Family)
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tree  Shrub  Has evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage

oriental spruce
A tall trio of Oriental spruce at the Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Oriental spruce grows in a dense narrow pyramid of glossy dark green foliage. This is a tall, symmetrical tree with attractive pinkish gray bark that cracks and exfoliates on mature specimens. The needles are very short, less than a 0.5 in (1.3 cm) long, and closely packed all around the twigs. They are blunt tipped and four angled. The large main branches of older trees come off the trunk in horizontal tiers, and the branchlets are slightly drooping. In its native habitat oriental spruce can get over 120 ft (36.6 m) in height, but cultivated specimens are usually 50-70 ft (15.2-21.3 m) tall with a 20-30 ft (6.1-9.1 m) spread. Male flowers are a showy brick red, appearing in spring. Fruiting cones are purple at first, maturing to brown; they are about an inch wide and 2-4 in (5.1-10.2 cm) long, and droop when ripe in the fall. A couple dozen selections are listed. 'Aurea' has golden yellow new growth in the spring. 'Skylands' retains yellowish foliage all year. 'Gracilis' is a shrub to 18 ft (5.5 m) tall. 'Nana' is a dwarf shrub that gets only 3 ft (0.9 m) tall. 'Pendula' or 'Weeping Dwarf' is a shrub with pendulous branches.

Oriental spruce comes originally from the Caucasus and Turkey.

Oriental spruce is a slow growing tree (slower than other spruces). It won't need any pruning; let it grow into its natural, graceful shape.
Light: Full sun to partial shade. The cultivars with yellow foliage develop their best color when grown in full sun.
Moisture: The spruces do best in moderately moist, but still well-drained, soils. Oriental spruce is a little more tolerant of dry, sandy soils than the other species, but cannot be considered drought tolerant.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8. Oriental spruce is marginal in zone 4. It should be given a location sheltered from strong winter winds. Said to be superior to other spruces in the south, oriental spruce can be grown to zone 8A at least, where it may benefit from partial shade.
Propagation: Oriental spruce can be grown from seed, which requires no pretreatment. Standard sized cultivars are grafted onto seedling rootstock, but dwarf cultivars should be started from cuttings because they grow too vigorously on normal rootstocks. Spruces tend to be difficult to start from cuttings and success rates are usually low.

oriental spruce branch
The oriental spruce's short, tightly packed needles support a snow coating.
With its extremely dense foliage and elegant habit, oriental spruce is an excellent specimen conifer for medium sized to large areas. Many professional landscapers consider it superior to the more commonly cultivated Norway spruce. Use oriental spruce as a lawn specimen or massed for screening. The dwarf cultivars are excellent in hedges and as anchors for foundation plantings and shrub borders.

Oriental spruce has a powerful and formal shape, and is perhaps the most graceful of the 30 spruce species cultivated in the U.S.

Steve Christman 02/02/01; updated 11/28/03

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