The Oriental, or Picea orientalis, is a fantastic and under- utilized evergreen in the landscape. Native to the Caucasus mountains in eastern Europe, it performs quite well in the Eastern United States in USDA Hardiness zones 4-7. Growing in a conical or pyramidal shape up to 125 feet tall in its native habitat, it typically only reaches 60-80’ in the northeast by approximately 20-25’ wide.
The needles are a glossy, shiny dark green, and among the shortest of all spruces at only ¼-1/3 inch in length. The needles are blunt tipped and arranged radially around the branchlet facing towards the tip. The branches themselves have a tendency to have a pendulous, drooping habit.
The bark is a smooth gray with hints of pink when young, becoming slightly platy with age. The male cones are reddish in color with the female cones emerging purple and becoming a dark brown as they mature. The mature cones are smaller than some of our other common spruces at only 2-4” in length.
This hardy tree resembles a smaller, more compact Norway spruce, which is commonly overused in the landscape. The Oriental spruce requires a bit more water when being established, but once adapted to its location, this medium growing evergreen can provide a nice spice of variety to your evergreen palate.