Tree of the Month: Spruce

The majestic spruce tree displays individual needles, grey-green foliage, and purple/brown cones. Different from the needle-clusters of the pine tree, these conifers sport a thick needle that will thrive in many climates, and that deliver easy-to-plant seeds from fragrant cones.


While it is true that the spruce tree can be started by simply planting a seed from its cone - it is also true that the spruce tree produces both male and female cones. The female cones tend to be larger than the male, and contain what experts call "ovules" that actually develop into an egg cell. These are called female gametophytes. The male cones actually produce grains of pollen. These male gametophytes travel by wind to fertilize the egg cells in the female cone. The result is an embryo that is protected by a special coating, which takes about three years to mature. After maturation - these cones open, and the seeds are ripe for the picking and planting.

When To Harvest

The cones with seeds ready to be planted usually mature from late August through early September. The ripe cone can be recognized by the fact that the cone is closed tight. Once this cone opens up - the seeds are quickly taken by wind, chipmunks and squirrels.

Healthy spruce tree seeds are thick with a white colour. The cones pluck easily with a simple twist.

Prepare Your Seeds to be Planted

Ripe cones need direct sunlight in order to open and release their seeds. The scales will flare open, exposing the seeds which can be easily shaken out. Because the cones are harvested in August to September - the seeds need to wait until spring for planting.

Seeds for planting should be stored in moist sand. The storage temperatures range from 2 to 3 degrees Celsius. Many people store their seed sand in the refrigerator.

Seed to sand ratio can be around three parts seeds, to one part sand.

Because the seeds need to be stored in temperatures between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius, it is good to always check and adjust the temperature of your fridge. Most people set their temperatures between 1 and 4 degrees Celsius. At these temperatures your seed sand should be fine.

Recognizing Healthy Trees

When a spruce tree becomes unhealthy, it will begin producing extra cones. This means that you should adjust the trees' environment, or start growing new trees.

Healthy spruce trees produce lush, new growth each year. Anytime they fail to sprout new growth while also producing an overabundance of cones, you should immediately contact an arborist. There is likely something seriously wrong with the trees.

If you’re interested in planting spruce trees on your property, or your existing trees have started showing signs of stress or disease - please contact The Grounds Guys to take advantage of our comprehensive tree services. We are here to help you get the most from your landscaping and lawn maintenance all year long!

For Further Reading

Snow and Ice Management

Trim Trees to Get Them Ready for Next Year

Planning Your Landscape Lighting