Dwarf Alberta Spruce Not Well-Adapted To Region

Some trees and shrubs don’t do well in our region, and shouldn’t be planted because there’s a nearly 100 percent chance of failure. Dwarf Alberta Spruce is like that.

It’s disappointing to see Dwarf Alberta Spruce being sold by the hundreds at local national chain stores’ garden centers. They’re often displayed right beside well-adapted evergreens like arborvitae, juniper and adapted spruce varieties. I feel sympathetic towards homeowners who buy Dwarf Alberta Spruce, not realizing the neat-looking evergreens aren’t well-suited for our landscapes. Not well-suited is putting it mildly. They usually end up dead.

Dwarf Alberta Spruce might grow for a season or two, or sometimes even five. But it eventually happens nearly 100 % of the time: they winterburn severely, causing death to all or part of the shrub.

They are so non-adapted they’re even included on the North Dakota Department of Agriculture Non-Hardy Woody Plants List, which by North Dakota law “must be labeled with the statement NON-HARDY IN NORTH DAKOTA.” Often, though, by the time the state inspector locates the offenders and requires the proper label, many have been sold to unaware customers.

The botanical name of Dwarf Alberta Spruce is Picea glauca ‘Conica.’

Now I just hope the national chains don’t show up on my doorstep to break my kneecaps.


2 Responses

  1. I was tempted to buy a dwarf Alberta Spruce so thank you for the warning. Are the new Star Magnolias or any other magnolias growing well in our North Dakota-Minnesota area?

    1. Don Kinzler

      Hi. Yes, the Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata, is doing very well. Several homeowners in Fargo have sent me photos of nicely blooming ones, and University of Minnesota is recommending it. Best to put it in a somewhat protected area, rather than a windswept prairie hillside. Thanks.

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