The magnificent Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens), the state tree of both Colorado and Utah, is a silver blue-green tree widely planted on landscapes in amenable climates out of its native habitat in the Rocky Mountains. The Colorado blue spruce is an introduced species in New York state and is grown by numerous nurseries there.
Internet and magazine images of striking silver, blue-green foliage on blue spruce trees growing in the Rocky Mountains may be far different from the same species growing in your part of New York state. Blue spruce varies greatly in small, local populations of trees. Altitude is one factor. The color of locally grown blue spruce trees varies as does their shape, growth rate and when they set buds.
Home Sweet Home
Blue spruce is native to the southern range of the Rocky Mountains including parts of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah, where it grows in moist canyon bottoms and on mountain slopes up to timberline. Popular as a Christmas tree, it is widely grown in nurseries in the Northeast, where it has escaped cultivation and become established in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
Growing Zones It Likes
Blue spruce will grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 7. The blue spruce native range spans USDA zone 3a at higher elevations in the Rocky Mountains to 5a and 5b at lower parts of the range. The New York state USDA zones range from 3b in the Adirondack mountains of northeastern New York to 5b in the Catskill Mountains of southern New York, 7b on Manhattan island and 5b and 6a in western new York.
Wait, Wait. Not So Fast
If you think that all you have to do is match your local USDA plant hardiness zone with the blue spruce’s known growing range, you should know that USDA zones don’t tell the whole story. The USDA zones are based on the average range of winter low temperatures in a particular area. In the warmer part of its natural growing range, the blue spruce grows only at altitudes between 6,000 and 11,000 feet. The Catskill Mountains, about 100 miles from New York City, top out at about 4,000 feet. Your best bet is to find a blue spruce that has been grown at a nursery near you and is adapted to your climate.
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: Blue Spruce Picea Pungens
- National Christmas Tree Association: Colorado Blue Spruce
- Arbor Day Foundation: Spruce, Colorado Blue Picea Pungens
- Cornell University: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map New York
- Plantmaps.com: Interactive Colorado USDA Plant Zone Hardiness Map
- Christmastreemap.com: Christmas Tree Farm Map – New York
- Catskill-3500-club.org: Catskill 3500’ Summits
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images