Evergreen elegance: weeping white spruce
Evergreens such as pine, spruce and junipers fill our western landscapes, but seldom do we find choices that are as beautiful, functional and adaptable to our intense conditions as this elegant weeping white spruce. Standard forms of white spruce are native to the mountains of northern U.S. and Canada, thriving in rugged, cold conditions. This weeping selection, with its narrow silhouette and pendulous branches, is a natural adaptation to heavy snow loads. For gardeners, this tall-growing, narrow form offers drama and texture to the landscape without taking up a large footprint.
Over the years, Plant Select® has promoted a wide variety of perennials, shrubs, trees, vines and groundcovers, but this is our first conifer, chosen for its sculptural form, year-round beauty, easy care, and adaptability to a wide range of garden and landscape situations in the West. Grow it in sites with full sun and moderate soil and water conditions for best success. Because of its distinctive shape and texture, weeping white spruce is best used as a landscape specimen or garden focal point. Newly planted trees will need a year or two to become fully established – don’t forget to winter water! Also, staking the leader (central branch) on young trees to will encourage strong, straight growth for the future. Once established, this trees grows 1-2’ a year. What are you waiting for?
View the plant profile here.
Weeping white spruce (Picea glauca ‘Pendula’)
Height: 20 to 24 feet
Width: 4-6 feet
Light: Full sun to partial shade
Water: Moderate to dry
Soil Tolerance: Loam or sandy soils
Growth Habit: Narrow and upright with pendulous branches
How to Use: Garden focal point
Thanks to Pat Hayward for writing this piece.
Will it blow over as do the blue Colorado spruce?
We’ve never seen that happen in the region I’m sure because it has such a narrow profile and less bulk on top to make it “top-heavy.” They do fine in Cheyenne, so if they do well there, they should do well anywhere in wind!
Spruce blow over in large winds under the following conditions:
* Soil tends to be high clay, so tree is shallow rooted.
* Rise the ground water table causing death of anchor roots.
* Wind is exceptional — e.g. 90 mph winds after 30 years of max 50 mph winds.
* Large increase in wind exposure due to removal of other trees.
What is the hardness zone I live in southern Indiana zone 6, woukd it do ok in the humidity
It would love the humidity and probably grow faster than in CO. They do exist in IN and will do well. Enjoy! Truly one of my favorite Plant Select plants.
I was just reading elsewhere that they don’t grow well in humid conditions especially like St Louis and that it likes colder climates.. they struggle actually in humidity
I live in MD in growing zone 6a to 7a. How well would this survive in my area in clay. What would I need to do to make it happy in my non-sandy soil?
This tree should perform just fine if you do not plant it too deep. Dig a significantly larger hole than needed and back fill the planting with screened topsoil. That ought to do it.
Does it drop needles in the yard? Are they soft?
The needles drop off on the inside towards the trunk but do not fall off on the ground around the tree.
Our garden club is looking for a evergreen tree that we can plant at our back entrance to our community.
Our community is located at the Jersey shore, where summers can get hot and winter winds could be an issue. We also have visiting deer that seem to eat almost anything. This evergreen would be in a 30′ circle with other plantings. I would like to suggest the Weeping White Spruce but I am not sure if it would tolerate the deer and the summer temps here. Also I am finding conflicting sizes at maturity. Your opinion as to whether this may be a good choice or any other suggestions would be helpful. Thank you Geri
If there are spruce in the area where you are considering planting this tree, then it will do fine. The deer may rub it because it is narrow. There is a beautiful specimen of this tree at Red Buttes Botanic garden and that tree is taller than 25′ high. If you need a shorter tree than that, you might consider a Woodward juniper.
I planted one of these trees late last summer here in Minnesota. It survived the winter just fine and seems to be doing very well in its partially-shaded hillside Location. We have lots of deer in the area but they don’t bother our new tree at all. I do have one question however. Do these trees require a training stake to keep them growing straight up? Our small tree is currently about four feet tall and has no stake. Thanks!
Great report about the deer not eating your spruce. You will like this report- your weeping spruce does not need training or stacking to keep it upright. It has a solid central leader that will continue to grow upward. If that leader breaks off, the tspruce will develop a new leader. Enjoy this great maintenance free plant for years to come!
Deer will ‘sample’ spruce, but rarely damage them. Worst case I have to train a new leader.
I have one in Bozeman Montana and it is many of the branches get 2-3″ of curling brown needles at the ends, it doesn’t happen to all branches. .. More water? less water? fertilizer.
It gets plenty of sun.
Water could be the issue or if this is occurring down low it could be animals marking the tree.
I would love this tree but the space I have , water will sit there after rains. Will it be okay ?
It will do just fine in that location.
I have a dwarf tree about 4 feet tall. It is planted in sandy soil. How much water should I give it
Give it LOTS of water for the first couple of years. As it matures, back off to watering just less than you’d water a bluegrass lawn.
I just planted mine June 2017 and soaked it a lot last year but not as much this year. Does it look like it needs more water? I have 3” mulch around it.
That actually sounds perfect. Each year it becomes more established the more it will grow. Within 4 years of being planted you should begin to see 10″ growth.
What is the root system like on these? Is it very invasive? I’d like to plant one in the middle of a 9’x6′ area next to my house but am afraid that eventually it may affect the driveway or sidewalk that it is right next to.
There should be no worries about root invasiveness or upheaving with this plant. It is very well behaved.
Love to plant a weeping white spruce in my front landscape – however I do not want it to grow wider than 3-4 feet width at base. I did see a tall (@least 12 Ft high) – yet still VERY narrow at base -(approx 2 ft width).
Would this particular tree likely remain at the 3-4 foot spread at maturity?
Struggling w/deciding which tree to plant there. My goal is to have something very narrow/skinny – or ornamental tree that doesn’t invade space or block view from window.
Yes it will stay narrow enough for you at the base. Perfect tree.
Lots of the literature says 4-6 feet, and it would be keeping with the general outline.
You can prune it up. — take off lower branches as needed if it crowds it’s location.
I want the branches to grow longer so that the tree is wider. If I keep it topped off will that happen?
Unfortunately, keeping this plant topped will not increase the width of the tree. It will only promote multiple leader growth at the top of the tree. Topping the tree will cause growth patterns that present a look where the top is out of balance with the bottom of the tree.
Would this tree survive in zone 7? I’m right outside Charlottesville, Va so we have a lot of humidity. Don’t know if it needs cooler summers…
That is a good question. Check in with the local nursery to see if they know would be best.
My weeping blue Spruce seem healthy, but the top leader is really sparse on branching. What should I do?
That is a sign of stress, probably due to lack of water. Check the flexibility of those stems. If they are brittle that’s a problem. Just because it sheds needles does not mean that stem is dead. To reduce plant stress, offer it lots more water, especially in the fall and through the winter when the ground is not frozen. Your tree can/will recover with supplemental watering.
Spruce tend to go through a gangly stage — similar to that grade 9 basketball player down the block — 6’2 and 115 pounds and all knees and elbows.
If it has buds on the side of the leader, and the branches a couple feet down are developing, don’t worry about it.
My local garden center said this tree wouldn’t perform well on the north side of my landscape (suburbs) in full sun. What do you think about that?
My experience is that it will perform fine if not better because the ground will stay frozen all winter and when snow melts the moisture slowly seeps into the ground where out in the sun moisture tends to evaporate. When the tree gets higher than your rooftop, it will be super happy!
Live in Denver, CO. Want to plant a more mature one (6 to 8 feet) next to my front porch as an achornto my landscape. I have a north facing house and the spot does not get tons of sunlight. It has its moments throughout the day. It would look beautiful there as a focal point. Should I be concerned with the sunlight issue? I realize it may slow growth, but want it to make it. Thx
This plant can manage in more shady spots. It will probably try to grow higher than the roof line more quickly. It should be fine. Enjoy!
My experience is that weeping white Spruce need full sun minimum of 8 hours a day. I have one that is not getting sun on its north side and it’s dropping needles and going bald in its lower branches due to fungus because without sun, the branches won’t dry out after rain.
I would like to grow one of these in a spot that it has about 42” between face of fence and edge of landscaping rock. It will have plenty of room side-to-side in the other direction to grow. Can I do a little pruning at the front and back to keep it where it needs to be or do I need to pick another specimen? Thanks
This narrow plant will elegantly fit that space for many years. You may have to trim off lower branches that grow and lay on the ground at the bottom. The perfect plant for this space.
My soil is pretty much clay below 4” of top soil, will this tree do well in clay soil? How much deeper and wider should I make the hole for best results?
This tree will perform fine in your soil if it makes it past the transplant/establishment period. In Oregon, these plants are grown in a wood mulch potting mix, which creates issues with planting clay soil environments. Be sure to water this spruce heavily the first year. The wood mulch potting mix can dry out while the surrounding clayish soil feels wet. Don’t be fooled, water it well and your tree will be great.
We also have heavy clay soil – we had our first weeping white spruce (planted July ’19) die this spring after looking great last fall & when unwrapped of its burlap winter jacket.
It was dead by May -when they pulled it out it had been sitting in a ‘bowl’ of water the surrounding clay soil had made. We replanted another – this one was a bit taller – it also looked great at first – now it has a slightly yellow tinge to the needles & the bees are swarming it. We have a drip line supplying water to this landscape bed. How do we know if it is getting too much water or not enough?
If the soil feels wet (a lot more than slightly moist) every day, that is too much water.
White spruce don’t know how to swim. If you have standing water in the hole it will die.
* Plant black spruce. It is much more flood tolerant.
* Plant tamarack instead. This is a very different looking tree.
* Create a ‘pitchers mound’ for it. Make a mound about a foot high and 10-15 feet across, out of half topsoil, half clay, and plant your tree on the crest of this mount. It will develop roots on top of the mound, and will spread to have surface roots off the edge of the mound.
Would a weeping white spruce do well in East Texas. I’m about 45 minutes from Louisiana. There are quite a few spruces around, including pines and bald cypress. I have a huge open spot and just love this tree.
That is a good question. It might need some nights in the winter that get below freezing so the plant can set its season straight. Give a try and send pictures!
i just planted the weeping white spruce just a month ago. It came stacked to the top of the leader but now the leader has grown 6 more inches and is acting like a branch dropping off to one side. Do I need to continually stake the leader to get it to grow straight?
A new leader should take over. There is no need to stake it. Enjoy!
I’ve found that damaged leaders on spruce often result in multi-top trees. Use a stick like a kite spar as a split, and tape it to the trunk from about a foot below the branch point. then tape the side branch you want to be the new leader to the stick. Masking tape is fine. Remove it after a year.
If other branches look like they want to be leader, prune the tips off.
Straight species of spruce will develop double leaders, but it is almost unseen in this weeping white spruce.
Will a weeping white spruce grow well in zone 9? Summer temps can get as high as 110 degrees and winter lows can be low to mid 20s.
Not likely, but check in with a local nursery.
I planted a weeping white spruce about 3 months ago and it looks like the needles are thinning out. Is this a sign of not enough water or too much water or needs to be fertilized? See photo
I don’t see the photo, but if it is dropping inner needles it is most likely stressed due to lack of water or heat. This plant needs regular watering 3 times per week in the first year to get established.
I have a newly planted ~10 ft tall, weeping white spruce in southwest, Co. Unfortunately, the soil is clay soil but it is planted a bit above grade and a bag of compost soil amend was added when planted. Also, it is on a slight slope so it should drain OK, I think. My fear is the clay soil may trap water. Two questions: 1) If some of the needles are looking a bit on the yellowish side toward the branch/trunk — is this normal or a sign of trouble? Does it need more water? Less water?? and 2) Should I try to further amend the soil by digging a wider bowl around it and mixing in more sand an/or better soil? The new growth came out beautifully in early summer right after it was planted, so it otherwise looks pretty healthy. Thanks!
Sheading needles after planting is most likely due to transplant shock and that is ok. Be sure to water this spruce a lot during the establishment period for a year or two, especially on a slope. Be sure not to let the water just run down the hill. The soil you planted in should be fine and it won’t need additional amending. Just keep the plant well watered and mulched with woodchips to reduce evaporation.
Do you know of anyone who has planted this pine tree in Arizona, I am closer to the mountains where winters are chilly and get some snow occasionally but not as much as snowflake or flagstaff.
But we are usually 20 degrees lower than Phoenix
Zone 8 I believe. I see lots of pine trees but haven’t noticed this white spruce.
This spruce should be ok in AZ with ample watering. Enjoy!
How can I correct my weeping white spruce it’s taken on a life of its own.. was there something I should have been doing to prevent the multiple leaders?
Choose wisely and trim one leader off. It is unusual that it is not growing uniformly. So be sure one of the leaders isn’t beginning to take on the weeping position.
My weeping white spruce has some branches of needles yellowing under the overlaying branches. I’ve had the tree in for three years and it is the first time I have seen this happen. Any thoughts?
If that is occurring down low, it might be from male dogs marking it. Otherwise, spruce do drop their older needles after 3-4 years and will turn yellow first.
The leader tip of the WWS broke off this past summer just above three side buds. Should I splint one and leave the other two, or remove two and let the third develop on its own as a new leader; with or without a splint?
Splint the strongest and leave the other two. This plant has proven to correct itself on its own, but a splint will help. Remember to remove it after a year or two.
Can a weeping white spruce survive in the horrible heat and sun that we have in southwest Oklahoma (zone 7b). I desperately want to plant one, but have been told our heat is too much for this tree.
It might be too hot in the sun, but if you plant it under a deciduous tree or shadier spot, you might have some luck.
Will deer eat this tree?
They might, I’d worry more about them rubbing their antlers on it in the fall.
My weeping white spruce has little green worms on it the last two summers that are eating the needles off the branches. What can I use that will get rid of the worms and prevent any more needle loss?
What is your location? That’s not common in the Rocky Mt. region.
I am finding a variety of answers about their width. I want to keep it to under 6 feet. I live in Wyoming. Is this possible?
Yes, it will grow well in WY with supplemental watering and yes it will stay more narrow than 6 feet. A great plant for tight spots.
My landscaper planted a Weeping White Spruce here in MN. My concern is it doesn’t look like it has a leader, it’s flat on top. This was planted in Aug 2019. Should I be concerned?
These trees have proven to correct their leader issues, however, you may end up with two leaders and you’ll have to prune one off. Your tree should recover just fine.
I live in a part of Utah that has a very high water table and a lot of clay in the soil. Do you think this tree would be alright? We love the look of them and think it would fit in our yard nicely.
It should work just fine here too.
I live in Washington Stae and I have one about twelve ft. tall. I have been staking it and I have forgot to raise the stake and now it turning, but it is as high as I would like it to be. High can I control how high it is.We really like the tree. Thank you for your time…..Lane Whitmore
I live in South Jersey and I planted a weeping white spruce several years ago. It’s about 8-10 feet tall now. Two things I noticed, last year the lower longer branches at the bottom that started stretching out on the ground all of a sudden died at the tips. I think it was the new growth that just went brown suddenly. This year, I’m seeing something similar but it’s the new needle growth all over the tree that’s got a bit of a brown tinge and those needles are slightly curled up. I’ve watered it pretty well, and it’s got full sun, so what do you think? I hope the whole tree isn’t in jeopardy, but the older growth looks ok so far.
Great observations. If you did not have a late cold snap this spring then the tree could be a little under stress. Reduce watering if annual rainfall in your area is above 30 inches per year. Also, try spraying a liquid fertilizer all over the foliage of the entire tree. Something like an indoor plant Miracle-Gro fertilizer. That will give the plant immediate nutrients to combat any stress and allow it to grow if it’s getting too much water. It might be worth having a professional look at it or just keep observing it to see if the new growth returns to normal. Good luck.
Help! We planted our weeping white spruce (GTA Ontario) last September and was doing great until two weeks ago. Had new growth this year and all. But now its going brown. I have two junipers close by one started browning early spring, the other same time as my spruce. I was told overwatering (everyday) all were planted in September. Thought they needed lots of water first year. Could it be fungal? Is there any saving these?
This could be a challenge. Get a horticulturist to look at it specifically, but you may have simply overwatered. Junipers and spruces have different water requirements and watering one way for one plant can affect the other and vice versa.
We are planting 3 weeping white spruce trees around our home in Nebraska. We have clay like soil. Any recommendations on anything we should add to the soil when we plant? Thank you!
These plants can live in this soil. The transplant shock can be a challenge though. Be sure to water these plants well (not drown) for the next few years. The most important thing planting these is to have good root to soil contact. If the clay you dig out of the hole is very clod-like, do not use it. Buy a bag of screened topsoil that is loose and will settle well and prevent from air pockets forming. Enjoy!
We just planted 2 Picea Glauca Pendula 3 weeks ago and one of them has started to turn brown at the tips… what happened?
Could be a lack of water or winter burn. Look at others in the neighborhood. If those ones show the same signs, the problem is winter burn, and if not the spruce may need more water.
I planted out white spruce 1 yr ago. It is doing well. The tip fell over and we left it to grow a new leader. But instead of growing a new leader, it tip that bent over started to grow up. So now the top of the tree looks like it zags to the right and then grew straigt up. Do you recommend staking it to straighten it back up?
It should straighten back up on its own.
I just planted a weeping white spruce and the very bottom of the skirt tips are turning brown. Please advise.
The tree should be okay if it’s just on the skirt that is on the ground. Sometimes male dogs can burn tips too.
Hi I live in the Niagara region Canada. My zone is 6b. I planted my weeping white spruce this spring. I had to break up the roots a bit from the container it was in. We have heavy clay in our area. Dug a big hole and added garden soil, compost and peat moss to the soil. Planted the root ball slightly higher than the soil level. Now for the past couple of months it has been dropping needles. Please help.
Could be transplant shock. Send a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a wheeping white spruce recently planted about a month ago and about halfway up the tree starts to get crooked. There is a stake in the leader which they said to keep for a year. Will the rest of the tree straighten out eventually?
Depends how old the tree is, the caliper size of the crook area and how noticeable the crook is. If the tree is young, it will grow through it and look straight when it’s older. The tree grows quicker the taller it gets if it young so it may not take that long.
I planted my weeping spruce in May was doing awesome until a month ago and started looking brown and losing needles. I asked around and some said I was maybe over watering I was watering morning and evening and haven’t watered in a few days and ground still feels damp but tree looks brittle and dry ? I don’t know what to do ?
It could be overwatering if you irrigated every day. You might poke around in the soil at the base to see if there are any air gaps that could be drying it out. Ants or other burrowing critters can create sizable cavities that dry out the roots. To fix that, just push sand down in the holes where you find gaps.
Hi there, we bought a 6′ Weeping White Spruce in the spring and at that time the trunk had a slight bend in it, veering maybe two inches from the center and then growing straight up from there. Do you think this kink in the trunk’s line will eventually look straighter, or will the tree’s shape continue to reflect the kink as it grows larger? (I’ve seen photos of these trees in which they have grown huge and have a bend in the form.) Thank you very much.
Typically and unfortunately, tree truck bends visibly remain until the caliper size is more than one foot across. Even after that, you will still see it.
How would it do around a back yard pond
How far from a house foundation should it be planted? I’d like to make it a feature near a backyard wall.
Make sure it is futher out from the eave of the house at 4-5 feet from the wall. It will look fantastic!
I’m experimenting with spruces in the Mojave desert. We have a few Colorado blue spruce around and they do okay. Not great but not horrible. I’m curious to see how the weeping white spruce will do in a hot and dry area. We are a zone 8 here in the western Mojave.
It will need supplimental water for sure. Let us know how it turns out!
Hello. How much space is needed between these trees if planting several together? Thank you.
They can get 4-5 wide when they are 25 feet tall. Plant on 5-foot centers and you should be good for 25 years.
We just removed some overgrown landscaping around our beautiful weeping white spruce to find that one of the lower sides was blocked so much it appears dead. Do you think anything will grow in? Or should we look for something to plant in front of that spot?
Yes, Spruces do have the ability to grow in. Just give it some time.
Hi, is there any way to keep these trees to a certain height? I don’t know if I want it to reach 25 feet in my yard.
It will take a long time for them to grow 25 feet here in the intermountain region. There really is no way to keep them small while looking so elegant.
I’m so glad I found this site. I live in Minnesota and I planted a Weeping Spruce in May when it was still cool and we had rain often. Now we’ve had 2 weeks of 90+ temps and dry conditions. Many of my newly planted plants are looking a little rough but the Spruce especially is showing brown needles. I’ve been watering often in the early morning hours but I’m a little concerned about over watering as I have some clay under good soil. I’m crossing my fingers that everything will recover. Any advice?
If there is clay below, back off on the watering a bit.
I am interested in planting a weeping white spruce in my yard within 4 feet of a concrete sidewalk. Will that hinder growth of roots and potentially be a problem for the tree?
It will not hinder any tree growth there. The tree should perform well there.
Great info here. Keep it up. I had two weeping white spruce trees (~5 feet tall) planted within a 4 foot wide plant bed to anchor
the front of our home. The trees were planted in late june and it has been a very warm/humid summer in the midwest US. One of the
trees is losing many needles in what seems to be a (mostly) localized area. The tree is watered every other day (assuming no rain).
The side of the tree losing needles faces south east. Are these branches dying? Is this transplant shock (even though it has been
over 3 months)? Any advice is much appreciated!
Any chance you have a male dog that could be marking that localized spot? Urine will cause those needles to drop. If the needle cast is higher up the tree, give it another year and see what happens. The best part about spruce trees is that they will leaf out again from the truck and grow new branches. Good luck.
I am seeing quite a range for height (25-50′). Can I get clarification please? Also, I don’t see anything on the weeping white spruce’s roots and whether there is anything to be concerned about? Should you make sure it is far away from the house or are the roots an issue?
The tallest white spruce I have seen is at Red Buttes Botanic Garden and It is about 24 feet. It’s very old and I would plan for that height 27 years ago. Of course, height is also dependant on the amount of water it is offered and it will need supplemental water.
This is really a unique and attractive tree. It has the fun appearance of a Dr. Seuss design, with a randomness and playful aspect. It makes a great feature and works well between windows against lighter colors. The fastigiate form allows for use in smaller spaces where height is needed, and its uncommon use means you’ll likely be the only plot with one nearby. We’re planting one in our conservation garden and I’d like one at home too.
I loved reading through the questions and answers in this forum. I had a weeping white spruce planted 2 years ago and this year it looks spectacular with about 6 in or more of new growth. Full. Great color. My problem… the lovely forming new skirt of the tree was sprayed with herbicide catching two of the lower branches. Now that I’m over my anger I’m wondering what to do. There are two branches brown/dead, three or four inches back on the skirt on the ground. Do I prune this off, will it rebud, do I leave it alone? The skirt was just beginning to form and looking elegant. Thank you.
That is tragic. Prune those branches off to living buds or even back to the trunk. The nice thing about spurce is that they will bud new branches from the trunk, but it will take time to get them to “skirt” length. Liquid fertilize the plant regularly to help speed growth.
My Weeping White Spruce is nearing 20 feet. I was considering topping it but am having second thoughts after reading some of these posts. I thought that they grow to 50 feet which would be an issue in its current urban Buffalo, NY location. It is a beautiful specimen!
1. Are there any plants/bushes that should not be planted near to a Weeping White Spruce? 2. If planted on a small slope, are harsh Minnesota winters a concern?
There are no restrictions on shrubby companion plants for weeping white spruce. Planted on a slope in MN should not be any concern. Enjoy!
Is there a way to keep this tree short 12’ or so
Unfortunately, pruning the tip off all the time in order to keep it short will change its shape. It wants to grow 30 feet tall over the decades. I would not recommend trying to keep it short.