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How do I prune a Spruce to fill out like a Christmas Tree?

I have a couple of spruce trees on my property and I was wandering if anyone knew how I should be pruning them so they will fill out like a Christmas Tree as they grow? Currently they range from 3 to 6 feet in height.


Re: How do I prune a Spruce to fill out like a Christmas Tree?

I am not an expert, but I do have over 50 spruce in just a 1/2 acre lot. After the new growth appears, snip just the new growth back 1/2. This will help get the tree fuller. If the tree is really leggy, just do the longer branches. This worked for me. Mine are now over 35 ft tall and dying on the bottom branches.

Re: How do I prune a Spruce to fill out like a Christmas Tree?

When I sheared Noble fir Christmas trees on a tree farm for three summers, I would shear with a knife (machete style, but with a lighter, sharper knife) removing the tips of the new growth but not cutting into the older growth. The more material removed, the fuller the tree will grow.

Spruce is similar in structure to Noble fir.

Since this will be the first time pruning, just prune back -- into older wood if necessary -- just enough to give the tree close to the general shape you want. You don't need to prune every tip. Since you'll be removing the terminal buds of the tips, this will force other buds to develop into branches, filling out the tree.

After the new growth comes on next summer (wait for it to finish growing), you can then begin shearing it to shape, trimming the new growth. It may take several years to fill out. You'll probably want to use hedge shears; swinging a machete or knife can be dangerous without chaps and steel-toed shoes.

Where it takes a little artistry and care is the top leader. Next year's lateral branches will naturally grow from the terminal bud cluster and a new leader will project from there, too. It may be necessary to trim the leader down to force the branches to be closer together or to keep the top within the desired cone of the tree. When you trim the top, be sure to cut it cleanly with a sharp bypass pruner just above a bud. (The buds are little brown dots on the side of the leader.) This bud will then grow to become the new top. If you can't find a bud, either don't trim the top, or remove the top and use the procedure in the next paragraph.

Occasionally you'll get a tree where the top breaks out (blasted crows!) or the bud (where you cut to the previous year) doesn't develop. In that case, select one of the top branches, gently bend it upwards and tie it in place vertically with a stick and surveyor's ribbon. Again, if this creates a leader that's too long, you can trim it back to a bud. This branch will become the new top. After 6 months, remove the stick and ribbon.

Interesting note -- you may notice a lot of buds on the sides of the branches. Without shearing, very few of these will develop into new growth. Left natural, nearly all of the new growth comes from the terminal buds on each branch tip. The buds on the sides of the branches only develop if the branch is damaged; shearing the terminal buds off will force those side buds to grow, filling out the tree.

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