Growing Colorado Blue Spruce In Container - Knowledgebase Question

Watkinsville, GA
Question by reynolds99
January 14, 1998
I have a Colorado Blue Spruce currently growing in a 16-inch pot. I bought it a year ago from a reputable area nursery, and last spring it did put out new growth. However, the center top spike lost its needles, as did a few of the lower branches. Should I prune these off or leave them bare? I realize the tree is dormant now but it is looking a little dry. I have never fertilized it and we have received ample rainfall over the last few months. I hate to go ahead and put it in the ground because I'm not in a permanent location yet. Any tips for bringing this back to a healthier tree?
Thank you.
Lisa Reynolds


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Answer from NGA
January 14, 1998

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It sounds like the Spruce could use a new pot. After being in there for a year there is a possibility it is root bound. Gently remove the plant from the pot by laying the container on it's side and tapping the sides. Try to "wiggle" it out, don't pull it by the trunk. If the roots are growing 'round and 'round in a circle or, if you just see a whole lot of root, it needs repotting. Go up gradually in container size, perhaps an 18" or 20" pot. The tree could probably also use some nutrition. Remember, it is in a closed system and can't reach out it's roots to find food the way trees in the ground can. When you repot, add a good helping of some organic material such as compost, leaf mold, or composted cow manure to the pot (think of the rich soil a spruce grows in in the forest). You can also apply a fertilizer such as a 5-10-10 periodically, be sure to follow package instructions. If it stays outside year round, be sure to protect it from freezing (not sure what kind of freezing you get in Georgia) and being baked in the sun. Keep an eye on soil moisture also, perhaps a layer of mulch on top of the soil would be helpful. Something like cypress mulch works very well, or, of course pine needles!

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