A conical blue spruce
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Common name: Sanders Blue dwarf Alberta spruce
Latin name: Picea glauca ‘Sanders Blue’ aka P.g. ‘Sanderi’
Plant type: Dwarf conifer
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9 (winter protection in Zones 3-5)
Cultural needs: Moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil, sun or part shade
Plant size: 4-6′ high by 2-3′ wide in 10 years, if not pruned
Among railroad gardeners, dwarf Alberta spruce is number one in popularity, for its fuzzy, conical shape and needles that stay small. It’s easily pruned into a sparsely limbed rugged-mountain survivor or a street tree with branches resting on a scale lawn. Whereas the famous Colorado blue spruce hails from Colorado, a high dry climate far south of Alberta Canada, this spruce also originated in high, dry-desert plains, where it is much colder in winter and cooler in summer. Keep them watered because these dwarf varieties do not have as much hardiness as their native parents. To grow them in Zones 3-5, water them well in late fall before the ground freezes. Evergreen leaves will continue to dry out all winter, causing desiccation unless covered, as with burlap or plywood A-frames. In the south, most damage is caused by prolonged sun exposure without sufficient irrigation, sometimes browning a whole side of the little tree. Like many cultivars, this one can revert back to its parent, as you can see in the photo, where the top left side of the tree is growing “sports” (difficult to see) of the green variety (which is also shown growing behind, slightly bigger than the blue). Just remove the sports for a nice conical blue tree.