Picea pungens 'The Blues' / The Blues weeping Colorado blue spruce

Picea pungens 'The Blues' is a strongly weeping selection of Colorado spruce with drooping branches and branchlets. Imagine a weeping Norway spruce but with larger, bright-blue needles and you'll begin to develop an idea of this plant's potential in the landscape. 'The Blues' has to be staked to desired height, then allowed to ramble, eventually becoming horizontal with all branches cascading downward. A relatively fast-growing plant, 'The Blues' will increase at a rate of about 1 foot (30 cm) at the terminal leader every year.

This cultivar originated 1982 as a side sport on P. pungens 'Glauca Pendula' found by Larry Stanley of Stanley & Sons Nursery, Boring Oregon. It was one of two plants selected in 2008 for the ACS Collectors Conifer of the Year Program.

Picea pungens 'The Blues' at the ACS Reference Garden, Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR. This is how the cultivar is best displayed.
Photo by Oregon State University
Picea pungens 'The Blues' in the Larned garden, Stamford, Connecut, visited during the 2013 ACS National Convention.
Photo by Sean Callahan
Picea pungens 'The Blues' — a 2007 photo donation.
Photo by Daniel Wols


Paul deGroot

Happy New Year, and all the appropriate greetings!
I heard a rumor that Picea p.p. Slenderina® is the same as p.p. 'The Blues'.
Do you have any enlightenment for me?

Maxwell Cohn

That's what I've always been led to understand as well. Here's the source of the controversy:

Tony Harris

Once this selection reaches its desired landscape height, say an upright 12’, can you prune the tree’s leader to maintain it at that height and, more importantly, keep the tree from becoming more prostrate?

Maxwell Cohn

it's not in this tree's nature to grow upright. It always grows to the top of a stake, then starts sprawling outward. From there it can be like a Medusa: remove a leader and 3 will take its place. It's a really impressive cultivar.

Tony Harris

David, I don’t mind removing a couple or three leaders every season or two to maintain the specimen’s staked height and — ha, ha, its more or less columnar — form. There’s simply not enough space for it to grow horizontally, as pictured.

I just want to be sure I won’t inflict long term damage by wrestling it into (my desired) shape.

Maxwell Cohn

why don't you select a cultivar with a naturally narrow-weeping upright form instead of forcing 'The Blues' into a form that it doesn't naturally grow?

Tony Harris

Mature height. This cultivar should top out at 15’, so it ought to fit into the allotted space — unless, of course, it chooses, instead, to grow horizontally. I also love its weeping form.

Most Colorado blue spruces grow much taller, if more slowly, over time. Same is true of weeping forms of Serbian and white spruces, I suspect.

Maxwell Cohn

aha. There's the flaw in your thinking. "Mature height" simply means the height at which it starts looking the way the originator intended. No conifer (or excurrent woody plant of any kind) will grow to a pre-ordained height then stop, unless it's dead. They keep going at a predictable rate for many decades, if not centuries.

in the case of 'The Blues', terminal leaders will elongate by about a foot every year for a very long time. Just do the math.

Tony Harris

I thought The Blues was a “dwarf.” And if, as you suspect, it and Slenderina are actually the same cultivar, a mature specimen, in weeping, though columnar, form shouldn’t be very wide. Actually, quite narrow or — ahem! — slender.

In any event, I gather that aside from possibly falling off my Niwaki while annually loping new leaders off my specimen, there’s no real harm in that approach?

Or would annually pruning a stray leader or two be akin to topping the tree or a heading cut?

Maxwell Cohn

nope. 'The Blues' is definitely *not* a dwarf; it's among the faster intermediates, growing up to 12 inches per year (mostly outward). It's also *not* columnar; it's officially a mounder/spreader. I've seen a lot of specimens and have never seen anybody successful in turning it into a dwarf, narrow, weeping upright.

All pictures I've seen of 'Slenderina Pendula' are 4- to -5-year old plants that have been staked to height. At the top of the stake, they all knuckle over and start to sprawl, confirming that they are a renaming of 'The Blues'.

Tony Harris

Great advice, David! Thank you so much for taking the time to set me straight. And narrow.

Madelyn Helmle

Hello David. All the information you have posted here is extremely helpful. I thought I might ask you for some advice as I am looking for similar to what Tony is seeking. I have a new construction home in northern California (zone 9) and I am trying to choose plants for my backyard. The yard is not very large so I have size constraints and I am trying to choose some trees that will not grow too tall or wide. The back fence line requires a retaining wall which will be two feet high and six feet from the fence. I plan to put a few 'Emerald Green' arborvitae along the back fence in the raised bed. I would love to put another contrasting conifer right in the center. A blue color would look nice with the green of the Arborvitae. I would like the tree to be columnar in shape and I am drawn to anything with weeping branches. Most of the trees that catch my eye will grow too tall and wide for my space. Can you think of an upright conifer that will grown no wider than 6 feet or taller than maybe 20 feet, in zone 9 (full sun) and would look nice between the 'Emerald Green' arborvitaes? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.