Sugarloaf spruces are pretty, but demanding, if they don’t like the keeping conditions, they will gladly acknowledge this with brown needles. Read below how to care for and transplant the “Diva” sugarloaf spruce and what to do when brown needles are developing.

Care of the Picea glauca

The sugar loaf spruce comes from mountainous countries in North America / Canada and is accordingly used to a climate with long, cold winters and short summers that are not too warm. With our climate it gets along well in any sunny to quite light, partially shaded location. Quite bright means: Quite bright all around, even a little shade from a neighboring plant could resent a sugarloaf spruce.

The soil should be fertile and permeable, but be able to hold moisture, the pH value can be normal to acidic. The sugar loaf spruce always wants to be slightly damp, it reacts quickly to both too much dryness and too much moisture. You can provide even moisture to the sugarloaf spruce by continuously mulching the soil in its root area.

With great heat, the tree from the fresh mountain country sometimes has difficulties, then you should definitely water regularly. But do not flood, the top layer of soil should always be dried again before you give in to water. To dry out does not mean to dry out, a large sugarloaf spruce can tolerate or need watering every day in hot summer weeks. When the bale gets really dry, the sugarloaf spruce begins to shed its needles.

You can fertilize a sugar loaf spruce from the beginning of vegetation, depending on the weather from March / April to August / October. You can give her some liquid fertilizer once a month, not necessarily pine fertilizer, organic fertilizer, such as that used for vegetables, is gladly accepted. If you have planted the sugar loaf spruce fresh in the ground, it does not need any fertilizer in the first year.

The sugar loaf spruce in the bucket

In season, hardware stores like to offer small sugarloaf spruces, which seem very suitable for decorating the balcony or terrace with a parade of plants.

Young sugarloaf spruces can be kept in a bucket or in a balcony box, in normal potted plant soil, pure or loosened up with clay granules, sand or pumice. Here, too, the location should be sunny to partially shaded, never in a small bucket in the full midday sun, never in a dark corner. You should let the sugar loaf spruce in the bucket get evenly sun from all sides by turning it every now and then.

In the bucket, however, the even supply of moisture is a little more difficult, you should always add water exactly when the soil has just dried, but not yet dried out. The sugar loaf spruce in the bucket is fertilized in the same way as its companions in the garden, only with appropriately cautious adjustment of the amount of fertilizer.

When you buy your Sugarloaf spruce at a hardware store, ask how and how long the Sugarloaf spruce was there. The sugar loaf spruces in the hardware store – because they are so easy to care for – are often shipped to the corner where there is space, until their big hour of the special offer has come. Then you may have had a month of UV deficiency behind you, behind glass and maybe wrapped in plastic film. If you then transplant such a sugarloaf spruce into the bucket immediately after buying it and then also place it in full sun, that could be the end of it. Such sugarloaf spruces should first be allowed to gather strength for a few days in the friendly light penumbra with good moisture supply, then they can be moved to their bucket,

Even if the sugarloaf spruces are very often offered as potted plants – they can actually no longer be described as particularly easy to care for when kept in pots, because the desired uniform moisture can only be guaranteed with some care when watering.

Planting or transplanting

Any sugarloaf spruce can be transplanted, you should just make sure that you cause the spruce as little stress as possible when transplanting. That means:

  • Freshly bought sugar loaf spruces are not turned over immediately, but are allowed to rest a little first.
  • If you want to plant the sugar loaf spruce in the garden, you should dig a fairly large planting hole.
  • The root ball should always be implemented as a whole in a sugar loaf spruce.
  • In contrast to shrubs or fruit trees, where only the main branches are allowed to develop before they are planted, a sugarloaf spruce grows all around from the start.
  • With the result that it develops a lot of green matter (leaves = needles), which of course should not be cut back before transplanting.
  • The root needs a certain size to take care of this green matter, if you cut or tear off roots when transplanting, the plant will have supply problems.
  • In the case of an older tree, it is then a huge root ball that you would have to dig up completely.
  • Therefore, while transplanting a Sugarloaf spruce is basically possible, it often goes wrong with larger Sugarloaf spruces.

If you put a sugarloaf spruce in a new pot, you will also get new soil, so no fertilization is necessary in the first year after repotting.


With sugarloaf spruce trees in the garden, there is nothing special to consider when it comes to wintering, whoever survives Canadian winters is completely hardy even in the coldest regions. Just remember that a sugarloaf spruce does not want to suffer from drought, even in winter – it should be watered moderately on frost-free days.

A sugarloaf spruce in a bucket is relatively hardy in our climate, but when it gets colder than minus 20 ° C, it even gets too cold for it, then winter protection is necessary. The sugarloaf spruce in the bucket is watered throughout the winter, moderately and of course only on frost-free days when the earth is not frozen.

To cut

Sugarloaf spruce is usually bought mainly for its decorative sugarloaf shape, and it should stay that way.

In case the term sugar loaf doesn’t mean anything to you (anymore): In terms of shape, sugar loafs look exactly like sugar loaf spruce, that was the normal way of selling sugar in the 19th century. B. to prepare a Feuerzangenbowle. What is meant is the uniformly conical shape (which is why the sugarloaf spruce is botanically also called Picea glauca “conica”), and this shape can only be preserved to a limited extent by pruning.

Because, like all conifers, the sugar loaf spruce cannot be pruned well. In contrast to typical hedge shrubs, conifers develop a certain type of tissue called meristem when they grow, the genetic task of which is to form new cells only at the tip and end of the branches of a plant. The older parts of the plant lose the ability to form new cells after a while. If you cut off so much when pruning a conifer that the remaining branch is just such a branch that has already lost the ability to divide cells – that’s it, if you can no longer divide cells, you will not be able to form new shoots from the divided, new cells.

You can certainly tell that the ability to divide cells has been lost by the fact that this branch area is brown – the cone shape is quite typical for conifers, and many of these cones are only green on the outside.

However, a young sugarloaf spruce is completely green for quite a long time, and you could probably prune it with impunity that long, but this is seldom necessary because it grows “well” as a cone anyway. If it gets bigger and grows a little “messier”, there is nothing to prevent you from slightly trimming a few green branches on the outside to achieve a perfect cone shape.

Whenever a trim is really necessary, however, you usually cannot avoid cutting deep into the sugarloaf spruce to bring it back into proper shape. Exactly this pruning would then almost always go deep into the area that is no longer programmed for growth, and that leaves holes in the plant, forever. For example, if you try to give a half-brown sugarloaf spruce a completely green dress again through a cut. If a sugarloaf spruce has brown needles and bald spots, usually nothing will grow back in these areas; you can only remove the complete branches in the lower area and give the sugarloaf spruce a more pleasing appearance.

This is why it is so important to react immediately if a sugarloaf spruce develops brown needles:

Brown needles – causes and treatment

Brown needles are unfortunately anything but a rarity in a sugarloaf spruce, they appear for a wide variety of reasons, sometimes quite quickly.

When the first brown needles appear, the first thing to do is to analyze the housing conditions quickly:

  • Too much sun / heat or too much darkness?
  • Neighboring plants too close, shading?
  • Earth too dry or soaking wet?
  • Wrong pH value (calcareous)?
  • Too much or too little fertilizer?
  • Wrong fertilizer, too little magnesium (rarely, manifests itself as yellowing, usually first around the middle of the plant, from the tip of the needle to the base of the needle)?
  • Have weed killers been used in the neighboring garden?

If you notice any deficiency here, you should change the housing conditions as far as possible. An overly alkaline pH value of the soil can, for. B. can be changed more towards neutral / acidic through various measures, against a magnesium deficiency (determined by a soil analysis) an Epsom salt cure helps.

If everything is fine with regard to the culture conditions, the brown needles can have many other reasons, here is a list for your research into the causes:

  • A common cause is sunburn, e.g. B. Sugarloaf spruce trees that were in the greenhouse before they were sold.
  • Such sugarloaf spruces often turn brown suddenly if they get too much sun, they have to be slowly accustomed to the sun.
  • Incorrect transplanting under caps / tearing off half the root is also a not uncommon variant.
  • Especially dry heating air is usually a problem for you quite quickly.
  • But even constant temperatures are not what the genes of a sugarloaf spruce are programmed for.
  • A Picea Glauca “Conica” is therefore not permanently suitable for exclusive housing.
  • Because the natural form comes from Canada and Alaska, a sugarloaf spruce definitely wants a cold winter rest period here too.
  • If the sugar loaf spruce turns brown from the inside out towards the needle tips, it is usually the sitka spruce louse to blame.
  • The small green aphid with red eyes usually invades in early spring and is fought using a strategy that will continue into the next year.
  • Then the common honey fungus, stem or root rot, fungal diseases or spruce spider mites can cause browning and / or fall of the needles.
  • These pests can also be combated, but first you would have to determine exactly which animals / fungi are tampering with the sugarloaf spruce.

If no cause can be identified, you may be comforted by the fact that partial browning of sugarloaf spruce is considered normal. If no remedy at all helps to let the needles grow green again, the last resort in case of doubt is to dispose of the old sugarloaf spruce and take a few cuttings beforehand, from which you can then pull new sugarloaf spruce.


The special cultivated form of the silver fir, known as sugar loaf spruce, is decorative and easy to care for, but only if the cultivation conditions suit it. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, which is why you always have to expect losses with the slow-growing dwarf shrubs. If you don’t feel like doing it right from the start or are exhausted from struggling with a sugarloaf spruce that is developing stubborn brown needles: the next time you simply don’t buy a sugarloaf spruce (for € 3.99, in the furniture discounter), but a normal spruce (Picea abies , the only native species) – for 0.49 cents in the nursery.

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