Serbian spruce is elegant planted in groups or as a single specimen.

How to Transplant and Care for a Serbian Spruce

by Marie-Luise Blue

Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) with its narrow pyramidal shape, dark green needles and short ascending branches is one of the most handsome and elegant spruces. Children in your family may love its classic Christmas tree shape. It prefers sunny to partly shady sites and moist, well-drained soil, but it will grow in almost any soil, ranging from sand to clay. Hardy and adaptable, Serbian spruce can withstand pollution and is bothered by few diseases and insect pests. Growing about 12 inches per year, a Serbian spruce can reach a mature height of 50 to 60 feet and a width of 15 to 25 feet. Smaller cultivars or varieties of Serbian spruce include Bruns Weeping Serbian Spruce (Picea omorika "Pendula Bruns") and "Nana" (Picea omorika "Nana"). Serbian spruce grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 7.

Locate an appropriate site for replanting the Serbian spruce. The site should receive sun at least part of the day and preferably have moist, well-draining soil. The Serbian spruce also needs a location that is protected from wind. Consider the mature size of the Serbian spruce when selecting a site.

Root prune the Serbian spruce six months to a year before transplanting. If the spruce's trunk is more than 1 inch in diameter, transplant when root pruned. Root prune by digging around the spruce with a spade about 6 inches closer to the trunk than you will dig it up for replanting. Dig a trench, 6 inches wide, around the Serbian spruce and back-fill the trench with soil after removing roots and rocks. Highly branched roots will grow out from the cut roots improving the root structure for transplanting.

Dig the hole in the new site before digging up the Serbian spruce. The hole should be as deep as the root ball but at least twice as wide as the width of the root ball.

Mark the side of the Serbian spruce facing the sun so that you can replant it in the same orientation. Tie up lower branches so as not to injure them during digging and moving the spruce. Dig the spruce and with the spade sever any roots that have grown beyond the trench. Try and keep as much soil attached to the root ball as possible. Use burlap or heavy plastic sheeting to keep the root ball intact.

Place the Serbian spruce into the new hole and add soil all around the root ball. Gently tap down the soil and water generously to settle the soil. Add more soil if needed and water again.

Mulch the planting area, being careful not to let mulch contact the trunk of the Serbian spruce. Mulch helps to keep the soil moist, weeds down, and it protects the roots from temperatures extremes.

Water the newly transplanted Serbian spruce one to three times weekly for several months to keep the soil moist but not soggy. After the first few months, continue watering every week or every two weeks if there is insufficient rainfall.

Items you will need

  • Spade
  • Cord or string
  • Burlap or plastic sheeting
  • Mulch
  • Water source


  • The root ball for evergreen trees should be at least 12 inches wide for each inch of trunk, measured 6 inches above the soil line.
  • Keeping the root ball intact helps to avoid transplant shock.
  • Have a professional arborist or landscaper to move or transplant large Serbian spruces.


  • Too little watering or too much watering are major reasons for transplant failure of trees.
  • Although Serbian spruce is relatively disease- and pest-free, aphids, mites, scale, budworm and white pine weevil may be a problem.

About the Author

Based in Connecticut, Marie-Luise Blue writes a local gardening column and has been published in "Organic Gardening" and "Back Home." Blue has a Ph.D. in biological sciences from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and wrote scientific articles for almost 20 years before starting to write gardening articles in 2004.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images