How to Prune a Norway Spruce

Written by barbara freeman
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How to Prune a Norway Spruce
The Norway spruce can reach 60 feet in height. (spruce image by Tatuana Badokina from Fotolia.com)

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.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

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

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Instructions

  1. 1

    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.

    How to Prune a Norway Spruce
    Cut branches at the bottom of the spruce. (rusty garden shears image by hazel proudlove from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    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).

    How to Prune a Norway Spruce
    Cut off the new tree growth. (budding spruce image by Inger Anne Hulbækdal from Fotolia.com)
  3. 3

    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.

    How to Prune a Norway Spruce
    Trim the sides of the spruce. (Green tree with red tree image by Lee Mann from Fotolia.com)
  4. 4

    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).

    How to Prune a Norway Spruce
    Prune the top branches of the spruce. (Blue spruce on a background of the sky image by Maslov Dmitry from Fotolia.com)
  5. 5

    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.

    How to Prune a Norway Spruce
    Look for insects or disease. (weevils image by siloto from Fotolia.com)
  6. 6

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

Tips and warnings

  • 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).

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