Picea abies 'Wichtel' / Wichtel Norway spruce

Picea abies 'Wichtel' is a miniature form of Norway spruce, arguably among the smallest selections ever named. Its structure is extremely tight and congested with very short, 0.25 inch (6 mm) long, dark green needles. Typical rate of growth in most areas is 0.12 inch (3 mm) per year, resulting in, for all intents and purposes, something resembling a 3 to 4 inch (7.5 to 10 cm) moss-covered rock after 10 years in the garden.

This cultivar is extremely difficult to site and maintain in the garden. In full sun the foliage will burn resulting in dead spots throughout the plant. In too much shade, the insides will tend to rot, particularly in damp areas. An absolutely critical task is for the gardener to "clean out" the internal parts of the plant, removing as much dead material as possible on a yearly basis. This will allow for air to circulate, lowering the risk of fungal issues and rotting.

Günter Horstmann is credited with first propagating, naming and introducing 'Wichtel' through his family's nursery in Schneverdingen, Germany in the late 1990s. Its ortet was a witch's broom on a specimen of Picea abies 'Humilis' found at the Hillier Arboretum Rock Garden, Hampshire, United Kingdom. It should be noted that 'Humilis' is well-known for producing vastly divergent rates of growth within the same plant. The passage of time has proven that 'Wichtel' has proven to be extremely stable in its miniature form, proving its unique genetics. Translated from the German language "Wichtel" means "Gnome" in English.

'Wichtel' was one of three plants selected in 2012 for inclusion into the ACS Collectors' Conifer of the Year Program.

Picea abies 'Wichtel' — a nice potted specimen at Conifer Kingdom nursery, Silverton, Oregon.
Photo by Sam Pratt
Picea abies 'Wichtel' — the original plant with broom at Hillier Arboretum, UK.
Photo by Steven Grubb
Picea abies 'Wichtel' — a closeup of the original broom in 2006.
Photo by Steven Grubb
Picea abies 'Wichtel' — Edwin Smits photographing the original plant in 2002 — an historic plant with a legendary plantsman.
Photo by Edwin Smits



Do you know where I can purchase?


Maxwell Cohn

Hi Elizabeth. I rate this one a 10 out of 10 with respect to difficulty in locating one. It's nearly impossible to propagate and once successful, it can take 10 years to get it to the size of a golf ball.

Normally I'd recommend finding somebody with a plant and beg for cuttings. The problem is that it's also bloody difficult to keep alive long enough to be able to harvest from it.

Good luck.

Ronald Schlak

wasn't Wichtel a collector plant of the year a couple yrs. back ?
who supplied those ?

Maxwell Cohn

Hi Ron, that was from 2012 (8 years ago). I'm pretty sure that they came from Bob Fincham at Coenosium Gardens. As we all know, he retired from active propagation around 5 years ago.

Ronald Schlak

So Elizabeth , call or send a message to Conifer Kingdom .
I think they bought Bob's stuff