Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 745 Picea glauca var. albertiana

Common Names: dwarf Alberta spruce, dwarf white spruce Family: Pinaceae (pine Family)
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dwarf Alberta spruce
Dwarf Alberta spruces grow very slowly so they are good choice for small gardens and container culture. This handsome individual was planted in 1968 (44 years ago) and is still less than 6 ft tall!


Dwarf Alberta spruce is a naturally occurring dwarf form of the Alberta white spruce. It has dense, bright green foliage and grows in a miniature compact cone shape, rarely more than 10 ft (3.1 m) tall, and usually stays around 3 ft (0.9 m) tall. It grows no more than 1-3 in (2.5-7.6 cm) per year. The evergreen needles are about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) long, slender and curved. They are crowded together and packed all around the stems like little bottle brushes.

Several branch mutations from this clone have been selected. 'Alberta Globe' is spherical in habit and has needles less than 0.25 in (0.6 cm) long. 'Elegans Compacta' is even more tightly conical and has yellowish twigs.

Dwarf Alberta spruce foliage
Dwarf Alberta spruce has very attractive foliage that is soft and dense.


White spruce, Picea glauca, occurs in the northern coniferous forests throughout most of Canada and Alaska. It just barely ranges into the Lower 48 in Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The variety, albertiana, occurs in the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia, Alberta and Montana. Dwarf Alberta spruce derives from a natural dwarf specimen that was collected at Lake Laggan, Alberta, in 1904. That specimen was brought to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and has been the source of all subsequent specimens and cultivars.


Dwarf Alberta spruce is very slow growing even under the best of conditions. They appreciate protection from strong winds. All the white spruces tend to suffer from red spider mites, which can be controlled with growing season (summer) horticultural oil. Light: Full sun. Moisture: Dwarf Alberta spruce needs plenty of water in the growing season, especially young specimens. It suffers during hot, dry periods. Hardiness: USDA Zones 2 - 8. Dwarf Alberta spruce seems to do best in zones 5 to 7. Propagation: Dwarf Alberta spruce is easily propagated from cuttings. It is easy to transplant small specimens.


Dwarf Alberta spruce is one of the most common dwarf conifers in cultivation. It is used to frame doorways and walkways throughout much of the American north. This is a miniature tree which grows very slowly and stays in a neat, formal cone shape, rarely needing to be pruned. Use dwarf Alberta spruce in borders and formal groupings. Many people use them as foundation plantings, to anchor corners, and in rock gardens. Dwarf Alberta spruce is considered a novelty plant and often grown in containers. They are frequently decorated with tiny ornaments and bells at Christmastime. With its natural tendency to stay small, dwarf Alberta spruce is very popular for bonsai.

dwarf Alberta spruce
Dwarf Alberta spruces are often employed as sentinels to guard entries, drives and walkways.


Curiously, the miniature dwarf Alberta spruce is a selection of Alberta white spruce which gets more than 150 ft (46 m) tall and is the tallest variety of white spruce and the second tallest (behind Sitka spruce) among seven North American spruce species!

Steve Christman 7/17/00; updated 11/28/03, 4/24/12

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Picea species profiled on Floridata:

Picea abies

( Norway spruce, common spruce )

Picea glauca var. albertiana

( dwarf Alberta spruce, dwarf white spruce )

Picea orientalis

( Oriental spruce, Caucasian spruce )

Picea pungens

( Colorado spruce, Colorado blue spruce, blue spruce )

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