Norway Vs. White Spruce


5 year old buck +
I'm ordering 1500 Spruce trees to create a few screens for my property in Wisconsin. The DNR has 3 year old white spruce that I can get for pretty cheap. 22.40 per hundred trees. The DNR doesn't have norway spruce. Is it that important to have Norway spruce for screens or will white spruce get the job done as well?

I'm planning on planting 2 rows 6 feet apart, and 6 feet between trees. Is that the correct spacing?
That spacing sounds awfully tight. If you go that tight you are going to need to thin them out eventually. Think how big the tree is going to be when its older, 6 ft only gives the tree 3 feet around from the middle of the trunk. I would go somewhere 10-15 ft apart but that screen may take a little longer to fill in.

I would say white spruce is fine. You should be able to find some charts about growth rates and preferred soils for white spruce. I believe they are both pretty tolerant to soils and fast growing. Norway is a bit faster I believe.
I've ordered the white spruce from the WI DNR and they did well for screening purposes in Rusk County WI. I definitely recommend going with the oldest trees they offer since the root systems are a little more established and they can compete better with weeds. I planted a bunch of tree rows of trees surrounding my fields to act as a visual screen. I planted white spruce on the first rows and then alternating rows of red pine and white pine inside that. I also planted a row of hybrid poplars and shrubs as well. White spruce is a good choice because deer browsing is not an issue, but they are fairly slow growing for the first few years. My trees were planted in 2007 and are now around 5-8 feet tall. The spruces grow about 18" per year now that they are established but the first few years they just grew a few inches. I'm always a little paranoid about a new disease coming around years down the road, so I planted several different kinds of trees to minimize the likelihood that my entire planting would die.

Your planting width between the trees is good, but I like to add a little more space between the rows. If you have the room, I would go with 9-12 feet between the rows since that will give the trees more room to expand into the gap between the rows.
I would choose white spruce for lighter soils.

With Mn. bare root seedlings, the smaller trees did just as well as the bigger bare root seedlings-again on lighter soils.
I think a lot of people want to plant the norways since they grow a bit faster??

Like everyone else is saying, the only other thing to know more about is the soil type. I want to have a few different kinds of spruce as well balsam fir because I just like the idea of having a variety.
Spacing of 6x6 would grow the trees very tall and straight; however, you would have little screening as most lower branches would die off due to the crowding. I plant 9' apart. You then space the rows 18' wide (hazel, dogwood, etc.) and plant shrubs between the rows.

Norway Spruce is a much faster grower.

Some notes I have developed on both trees:
WHITE SPRUCE Moist/Shade Tolerant
(Picea glauc) 75' Zone 3. It has a silver-green foliage on pendulous branches. Tolerant of wind, wet soils. White spruce is tolerant of a considerable amount of shade and does not like high heat of the summer. Moderate growth rate and it’s best growth is on moist, acidic, loamy soils and is often found on stream banks, lake shores and adjacent slopes. The needles are single, four-sided and crowded along the branches. They are 1/2 to 3/4 inches long; sharply pointed; and dark bluish green when mature. The cone is 1 to 2 inches long, cylindrical, thin and flexible when mature. The cone scales are rounded and soft at the ends. The white spruce grows to about 60 feet tall. It is densely foliated and has a straight trunk. The bark is dark gray or gray-brown in color. Its foliage and twigs are eaten by white-tailed deer. The tree provides cover for many species of wildlife.

NORWAY SPRUCE Moist/Partial Shade
(Picea abies) 100-150' Zone 2. Very fast growth. Valued most for windbreaks in cold areas and timber production. Extremely hardy and wind resistant. A native of Europe, the Norway spruce has been planted widely in this country and Iowa for ornamental use and for windbreak plantings. It is a large, fast-growing tree requiring a fertile, moist soil. The needles are single, angular or four-sided, yellow-green in color, 1/2 to 1 inch long and slightly curved. More of the needles are borne on the upper surface of the twigs where they usually point forward. The foliage appears to droop or weep. The cone is 4 to 7 inches long; light brown; hanging down. Norway spruce grow 75 to 100 feet tall. They make good winter cover for wildlife.
Norway Spruce is a much faster grower.

How much faster? Will Norways give me a screen in 4 years where White's will be 7 years?
I've planted MANY Norway and white spruce over the last 20 yrs. The Norways are faster growing for sure and seem to do better in our heavier soils than the white spruce do. As Sandbur said, the white spruce seem to do better in lighter, sandier soil. I agree with West Branch's idea as far as variety goes. Spacing - it depends on how fast you want a screen to be effective. If you plant spruce on 6 ft. spacing, you'll get quicker " fill-in ", but for the trees to stay thick with lots of branches, you'll have to thin them out by dropping every other one after a few years so they don't crowd each other. If they get too crowded, the lower limbs will die off and you'll lose cover near the ground. I'd space the ROWS at 12 to 15 ft. Then if you want to plant some kind of shrub in between the rows, you have room. Just research what kind of shrub you may want to plant to see if it gets so big it crowds the spruce.

When I plant for a screen, I space the rows and trees so that where there's a gap between trees in one row, that's where I plant a tree in the NEXT row - so you have a solid wall of green - no gaps. Like a letter W or saw-teeth. This is the pattern. If you have room to plant 3 rows, that would be great. Spruce can't be beat for screening - IMO.

Edit - I just saw your q on years to a good screen. Stu is right. The first 2 or 3 yrs. not much happens in the way of fast growth. The trees are developing their root system. What I found helps is to spread some 10-10-10 around each tree starting in year 2 or 3. I do that each year then for the next 4 yrs. Once the trees get their root systems established ( after year 2 ), they are better able to absorb the fertilizer and the growth speeds up. By year 7, I usually have a 6 to 8 ft. tree ( with Norways ). White spruce are slower.
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How much faster? Will Norways give me a screen in 4 years where White's will be 7 years?

What do you expect for a screen height?

Remember these are conifers, not hybrid poplar. Lots of variables impacting growth ... soil type, moisture, grass/weed competition, etc. You might see a couple feet of growth in 4 years under good growing conditions.

Red Pine would be faster, maybe 3-4' in 4 years.
Another thing, Paul says to fence your white pines or norways. I really can't justify fencing a mile of 7000 feet of screens I am planting this spring. Will I be alright without fencing them?
Another thing, Paul says to fence your white pines or norways. I really can't justify fencing a mile of 7000 feet of screens I am planting this spring. Will I be alright without fencing them?

Are you talking white pines or spruce?

White pine is a delicacy to deer ... they will be browsed very quickly. Bucks also love to rub spruce.

Absent fence or caging, you can consider Deer Away or Plantskyd repellents.
Another thing, Paul says to fence your white pines or norways. I really can't justify fencing a mile of 7000 feet of screens I am planting this spring. Will I be alright without fencing them?

The white pines I planted three years ago were not mowed by the deer, the drought too care of most of them though. I got the 12-18" trees from the DNR and they are now close to 30" as this was the first year they really grew. I would not worry about deer browse in our area younggun1849.
Thanks fellas! I'll be planting 2 acres of white pines for cover, what is recommended spacing when planting white pine for cover?

Treespud, I meant white spruce, that's what i'll be using for screens, and I'll be using white pine for cover.
If you're going to be buying both white pines and white spruce, I would mix them up and use some of each for both your screen and your cover. That would decrease the likelihood of a total failure of either the screen or cover. In Rusk County I had to use bud caps the first few years to get the terminal bud above the reach of deer and the deer density up there was pretty low. The pines they browsed didn't die, but they were kind of odd shaped once the terminal bud was gone. I also like red pines and on my land the growth rate of red pines was better than either white spruce or white pine (our soil is a sandy loam). Perhaps that will change in the future, but I'm on year 7 and the red pines are generally a foot taller. Red pines are also drought tolerant, so that might be another reason to look at them. The deer will eat the buds off the red pines, but they seem to prefer the white pines if available.

If you're planting for cover, you could either increase the spacing or plant them tight and plan on coming back in a few years and remove every other tree.
Black Hills Spruce is a tough tree and they do not get browsed by deer. Mine are about 12-16 feet tall in 10 years
Great thread! I like the idea of mixing them all together. If a guy had five flats, each of different species, he could fill the bucket with plugs by grabbing outta each one equally until your bucket was full and go plunk at random. I like it.
One thing to remember with pines - eventually they'll open up at the bottom. The lower limbs get thin and die off ( self pruning ) and you'll be able to see thru where you once had cover, either for screening or security / thermal cover. This will happen even if all other conditions are ideal - it's just what pines do. We have a LOAD of white pines at my camp and after about 10 to 15 yrs. they aren't much for thick cover any more. The tops are good but the bottoms get thin and you can easily see thru them. That's why we started planting spruce in some cut-over areas and for road screens. The spruce make great security & bedding cover that hold the deer on our property in the coldest, windiest weather. In amongst the spruce on a windy day, it's calm.

If what you call red pines are really RED PINES ( local names are sometimes different ), here in Pa. they grow up to be tall, straight matchsticks and are no good for screens OR cover. Totally open up to 30 ft. off the ground.
I've got red pines on my place - horrible for cover. Might as well be an oil pipe stuck in the ground.
Scotch Pine and Norway Pine are not bad mixed in with Spruce. They seem to do well if mixed.

Stand alone not the best. I have some mixed in in a future bedding area and they look promising
I've got red pines on my place - horrible for cover. Might as well be an oil pipe stuck in the ground.

One of the things I hope to get a handle on at my land what to do with my Red Pines.