We've been thinking about getting a living tree for Christmas this year. It's something I've always wanted to do, as it bothers us to throw away trees. We also need more trees for birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and anything else that wants to nest in or eat there.
We found a local grower who will dig the tree up, deliver it with the rootball intact, and teach us how to keep it healthy inside for about 10 days, at which point we can plant it outside. We went to the farm and picked out a Blue spruce (Picea pungens), which is about 4 feet tall and pretty narrow.
We chose a place that will fill in the area for wildlife, and hide the fence which leads to a a neighbor's property. Last year we threw out our pre-cut Christmas tree. We didn't plant it, just left it for the wildlife, so obviously it died. It was a perfect fit for the area, so we'd like to replace that with the Blue spruce. It gets mostly shade, approximately 6 hours per day, especially in the summer when nearby trees have their leaves. The farmer said Blue spruce needs full sun, so that would not be an ideal location. I'm inclined to trust him, since this is what he has done for a living for over 30 years, but I'd like to hear from some of our experts as to the importance of full sun, and approximately how many hours a day it needs.
Update: I'm adding more pictures and information to address the comments and answers.
As I said, we'd like to replace the dead tree, which is just sitting there, and was never planted, with the Blue spruce. (In the top picture, it's to the left of the big tree, not the dead branch that's leaning against it on the right.)
Rather than try to calculate a dripline formula, I'll just report the trunk measurements and tree distances. All references to the trees are from looking at the picture from the front.
The big evergreen on the right is about 60 inches in diameter. The "dead tree" is about 15 feet to the left of that and back about a foot. A few feet to the left is a bush. Directly to the left is another tree, about 10 inches in diameter. To the left of that is another bush (azalea I think) that measures around 11 inches at the widest point and blooms in the spring and fall. To the left of that (about 15 total feet away from the dead tree) is a tall deciduous tree that's about 20 inches in diameter. Approximately another 5 feet to the left of that is the great big evergreen tree (Norway spruce?). That trunk measures about 70 inches in diameter.
My husband has now dug the hole right where the dead tree had been. It's 36" round and 24" deep, as we were instructed. He only had to break a few roots from the tree to the right. They were shallow and not too thick, hopefully not enough to damage that tree. There were also a lot of large rocks beneath the surface, which he took out.
Now that the hole is prepared, we're back to the question of how well a Blue spruce will thrive in that spot, and whether or not it's a threat to the health of the trees around it. Slow growing is fine with us. In fact, that was the original goal because we have no evergreens that are short or full, and we wanted something mid-sized. If possible, we'd like to keep it pruned to about 6 or 7 feet. We'd be fine about getting rid of the nearby bush, if there's a question of fighting for root space.
The first pictures are from last May-July when everything is in full foliage. It's dark and shaded there most of the day.
The second group was taken in December, a few weeks ago. The leaves from the deciduous trees have fallen, putting the tree in full sun for most of the day.
Click on pictures for closer views. These were taken between May and July:
This group was taken during the first week of December: