How to Prune a Norway Spruce

Updated July 20, 2017

Many people think of ornamental plants as small exotic fruit or flowering shrubs, but the stately Norway spruce (Picea abies) is also an ornamental plant. According to the Purdue University Department of Horticulture, the Norway spruce can grow up to 60 feet in height. It is an evergreen tree with dense, narrow leaves, which allows it to work well as a windbreak or privacy screen. From year one to year six, the Norway spruce should be cut back 6 inches for every foot it grows.

Cut the branches at the bottom of the spruce that are growing too close together, or that are too long or too low; pruning them all the way back to the main branch/trunk using hedge shears or long-handled saw. Cut any branches that stop air movement at the base of the tree, pruning them all the way back to the main branch/trunk using hedge shears or a long-handled tree saw.

Snip off the lead bud or shoot on the tip of every branch after growth has started in the spring, using hedge shears (for smaller trees) or an electric hedge trimmer (for larger trees).

Slope the sides of the spruce proportionately by gently cutting inward as you move the hedge shears or an electric hedge trimmer up from the bottom of the tree.

Prune the branches that are growing too long at the top of the tree, using your hedge shears or an electric hedge trimmer. (The top of the tree should be pruned into a flat or rounded shape).

Look for larvae and cocoons or small holes in the tree stems left by white pine weevils. Look for black and orange spores, sticky resin and naked tree stems caused by the Cytospora canker also.

Cut all insect-infested or diseased branches back to the main branch/trunk using hedge shears or a long-handled tree saw.


Use a broad spectrum insecticide to kill weevils and/or a copper-containing fungicide (Bordeaux mixture 8-8-100) for Cytospora canker in early spring (April). You can also use fungicide after you have removed diseased branches to help retard the spread of the Cytospora canker.


Norway spruce trees do not grow well near structures that will obstruct the tree's roots (sidewalks, building foundations, etc).

Things You'll Need

  • Hedge shears (for smaller trees)
  • Electric hedge trimmer (for larger trees)
  • Long-handled tree saw
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About the Author

Barbara Freeman is a teacher and has been writing since around 1995. She's written curriculum for Discovery NutshellMath software and her NutshellMath tutorials appear on the Discovery Cosmeo homework website. She's also written for Freeman earned a Bachelor of Arts, a credential and a Master of Arts in educational technology.