Picea purpurea: Anyone growing this in Zone 4 or 5a?

wassercom(5a)May 3, 2014

A local nursery just got a shipment of these from Bizon and I'm sorely tempted to try it. It has an extremely dense, pyramidal form and produces beautiful purple cones (hence the name).

What gives me pause is the online descriptions variously rate it to either Zone 4 or Zone 5. Given that its native range is Sichuan/Gansu, China, I'm not sure how well it would handle a brutal Midwest winter like the one that just transpired.

Does anyone have experience growing P. purpurea (formerly Picea likiagensis var. purpurea) in Zone 5a or colder? Also, the online descriptions of its 10 year height range from 4 feet to 8 feet. What's your experience?

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Mine came through this last winter without any problems.

It sounds like the density of they plants you saw is due to the pruning at the nursery that produced it. There was a specimen at Porterhouse (ACS tour Oregon 3 years ago) that was more open than you describe.

Either way it's a fine plant that you just don't see very often.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 6:21AM
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The U of Minnesota Landscape Arb, which is a solid z4, has mature P. purpurea. I don't think P. likiagensis is nearly as cold hardy as purpurea.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 11:41AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Yes, but those Chinese provinces are big, and it also occurs in Quinghai province on the Tibetan plateau...500 or so miles north of the mild zn 9/10 parts of Sichuan, and a world apart in climate.

Compare Xining at 7000 ft: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xining

to Chengdu at 1600 ft. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chengdu

then to Kunmimg at 6000 ft.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunming

So since it occurs on the "cold" side of those western Chinese mountains, it is very hardy.

Update: it's actually very interesting that Wuhan & Chengdu are at the same latitude, Chengdu is at a higher elevation of 1600 ft; but the record low for Chengdu is only 21F, for Wuhan it is -1F. It seems those mountains and plateaus protect the areas immediately to the south of them from the worst of the cold. That's why on the USDA zone map of China there's a big upward blip of zn 9 & 10 in the west, but the bands compress faster there, too, as you go up into the cold Tibetan plateau. Yellow on this map is 7, so since this Spruce is native to the area where Sichuan, Quinghai, and Gansu come together, it is indeed zn 5 there.

This post was edited by davidrt28 on Sat, May 3, 14 at 16:29

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 3:40PM
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Thanks for the informative responses. Based on this feedback, I am going to give P. purpurea a try here in Zone 5a Chicagoland.

Here are a couple of pictures I took today at the nursery while I was scoping out my purchase:

Pushing new growth...it still thinks it's in Oregon:

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 12:09AM
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If I may ask, what is the name of nursery these pictures were taken?

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 8:17PM
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Basic: It's Red's Nursery in Northbrook, IL. They are a relatively small nursery, but they always seem to have some interesting conifers in stock.

Here is a link that might be useful: Red's Nursery

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 8:27AM
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Thank you. We're planning on taking a long weekend trip to Chicago this summer and I'd like to check out a couple of nurseries.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 8:38AM
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