How to Grow and Care for Bird’s Nest Spruce

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Bird’s nest spruce (Picea abies nidiformis) is a cultivar of the Norway spruce. This species of dwarf evergreen is a conifer that is native to Europe. It is a plant commonly grown to provide evergreen ground cover. 

This perennial is useful in gardens as it is slow-growing, evergreen and dwarf in height.


Norway spruce is probably the most widely grown spruce, grown for both ornamental and economic purposes throughout Europe. 

The bird’s nest spruce is a very early cultivar of the main species plant, first introduced into the European nursery trade in the early 1900s.

Plant Facts

Scientific namePicea abies nidiformis
Common namesBird’s nest spruce
Height1 to 2 feet (0.61 meters)
Width2 to 5 feet
USDA Plant Hardiness ZoneUSDA zones 3 to 6
Native toEurope
Blooming seasonnon-blooming
Flower colorsnon-blooming
Plant specific featuresEvergreen, low spreading branches, slow-growing dwarf habit

How to Plant and Grow a Bird’s Nest Spruce

Choose your planting site with care. The bird’s nest spruce is a slow-growing dwarf conifer with attractive needled branches. 

Nevertheless, it will spread in width. If neighboring plants are too close, the bird’s nest spruce will deprive them of light and impede air circulation.

Where to Plant

This dwarf shrub is very versatile and find a site that receives plenty of sunshine. It can be planted alone, as a specimen tree. Or, it could be planted amongst rock garden plants, in a woodland garden, or in a massed planting scheme.

It can be grown as a container plant, and positioned on a patio. 

When to Plant

Picea abies nidiformis is a dwarf conifer that should be planted in the spring or fall. 

Bird’s Nest Spruce Care and Maintenance


Bird’s nest spruce is easy to grow. The soil should be slightly acidic and free draining. It performs well in sandy soil, provided it is regularly enriched with organic matter. 

The most important soil requirement is drainage; the bird’s nest spruce will not tolerate its roots left in soggy soil. The plant’s roots will rot, and the shrub will not survive.


Young plants need to be kept moist. They should be watered regularly, particularly in hot, dry conditions. 

Once the plant is established, the bird’s nest spruce will have a good root system and be able to absorb nutrients and moisture from the soil. By this stage, it will have acquired some drought tolerance.


The bird’s nest spruce is very easy to care for. Its fertilizing requirements are simple and few. Just an annual spring application when the new growth begins to show with a slow-release, general purpose fertilizer. 

Similarly, if you are growing your conifer in a container, you will need to give your plant an annual fertilizer application following the manufacturer’s instructions.


This is a shrub that will perform best if planted in full sun, and it won’t do well at all if planted in full shade. But don’t despair if your planting site is in partial shade, as it will also thrive in such conditions. 

Depending on the temperature, the picea abies nidiformis will appreciate some shelter from the hot afternoon sun in very high temperatures. 

Pruning and Repotting

This is a very slow-growing cultivar of the Norway spruce. It is also a dwarf shrub, rarely growing more than a couple of feet tall. For this reason, pruning is only rarely needed. 

The main reason to prune is to keep the shape of the bird’s nest spruce bushy attractive and to preserve its rounded top. 

This pruning is best done in late winter and shouldn’t be carried out until the shrub is growing well, probably around its second growing season.  

But if you notice any dead, diseased, or decaying wood, then these branches need to be removed straight away. And it doesn’t matter when you carry out this removal – much better to clear away damaged growth than to leave it, as it can be a cause of disease and pest problems.

If you need to transplant this shrub, it is easy to do so because bird’s nest spruce, like all spruce trees, has a shallow rooting system that spreads sideways rather than downwards.


If you wish to propagate your bird’s nest spruce, then you can do so by taking hardwood cuttings at the end of the summer. 

In the wild, the spruce will drop its seeds into the soil or birds will carry the seeds to a new location. Either way, the seeds will germinate. If you wish to grow a new tree from seeds, then purchase seeds or harvest the seeds from the fir cones on your own tree. 

You can assist the seed to germinate quicker, by lightly scratching the seed’s surface immediately before planting. This is a process known as scarification, and it works by helping the seed absorb water. 

Pests and diseases

This dwarf conifer is generally disease free. It isn’t resistant to deer, but it is very unusual that deer will be attracted to it. 

The only insect that occasionally attacks P. abies nidiformis is spider mite, which will not do severe damage and can be controlled easily.

Temperature and Humidity

P. abies nidiformis is hardy and resistant to wind damage. It tolerates the cold extremely well, but won’t do so well in hot and humid conditions.

Other Uses for Bird’s Nest Spruce

This is a great plant to use for landscaping purposes; with its evergreen foliage, and an attractive, dwarf habit, it is also good to plant where space is limited. 

You can prune a mature plant to reveal its arching branches and is a great addition to a Japanese planting scheme.

Types of  Bird’s Nest Spruce You Can Grow

The bird’s nest spruce is a cultivar of the Norway Spruce; there are other excellent varieties of Picea abies that are available. Most grow tall, but there is another dwarf cultivar called P. abies “Pumila”. 

Like the bird’s nest, Little Gem is a dwarf cultivar of the Norway spruce. It also is slow and low growth in form, but Pumila forms a more rounded, cushion-shaped top.

This won’t grow much taller than 4 feet (1.22 meters) in height and is covered in evergreen, bright green needles.


This attractive shrub is very useful to grow in cold climates. It is adored for its evergreen foliage, its slow-growing and attractive form, and it will attract birds and other wildlife to your garden.

*image by Robson90/depositphotos

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