Abies (Fir)

ABIES (fir) Pinaceae A. Species

HABITAT:  Native to N. America, Europe, N. Asia, N. Africa.  Zones: dependent on species.

USES:  Specimens, Christmas trees, medium to low-grade lumber.

HABIT:  Stiff and conically-shaped evergreen trees up to 200' but usually up to 75' in home gardens.  The 1-2" soft, blunt-edged, flat needles are aromatic and vary in color from dark green to blue green, usually with silver undersides.  Seeds are borne in early summer in erect cones on older trees and mature in late fall.

SEED GERMINATION AND CULTURE:  Sow seeds in flats of moistened Park's Grow Mix.  Place flat in a plastic bag and place in the bottom of the refrigerator for three months, then remove and germinate at 70°F soil temperatures.
Transplant when large enough to handle to small peat pots and shift to larger containers when roots emerge from pot walls.  Grow on in a protected (Cold Frame, etc.) spot until large enough to place into their permanent location.
Firs do not tolerate areas with heavy air pollution and generally dislike hot, dry areas.  Plant in moist, well-drained, light and sandy acid soil.  Young trees tolerate light shade but thrive best in full sun.  Very little pruning is necessary.  Removed branches do not force out new growth in the same place.  Each tree should have one central main stem.  Fertilize in early spring with a fertilizer such as 10-10-5 at the rate of 2 lbs. per 1" of trunk diameter.  Punch holes in soil around the tree 18-24" apart and 12-18" deep, placing holes at the drip line (2/3 of the distance from the trunk to the outer edge of the leaf line).  Water in well.  Keep sprayed for insects and diseases.

SPECIES:  A. alba (Silver Fir) 150' (50-60' in garden).  Zone 4.  Central and Southern Europe.  1" needles.  3-5" cones.  Cool, moist climate.
A. balsamea (Balsam Fir) 75'.  Zone 3.  Labrador to West Virginia and Minnesota.  Cool, moist area.  1/2 - 1-1/4" aromatic needles.
A. concolor (White, Colorado or Concolor Fir) 50-60'.  Bluish green.  3-5" greenish purple or yellowish cones.  Zone 4.  Narrow, stiffly pyramidal.  West and Southwest United States.  Spreads 15-20 feet.  Growth rate about 1-1/2' per year.
A. grandis (Giant Fir) 175-300 feet, (90-150 feet in garden).  Spreads 1/3 of height.  2-1/2" evergreen, rounded needles notched at the tips.  3-4" greenish cones.  Zone 4.
A. homolepsis = a. brachyphylla (Nikko Fir) thick, dark green needles with silver undersides arranged in "V" shape.  40-50 feet.  3-4" deep purple cones.  Zone 4.  Stiffly pyramidal.  Dense.  Wide spreading.  Japan.
A. junsapo (Spanish Fir).  Stiff, symmetrical shape, sharply pointed bright green needles, slow.  25-40'.  6" greyish brown cones.  Dense.  Zone 6.  Spain.
A. koreana (Korean Fir) 50'.  Zone 5.  Stiffly pyramidal.  Evergreen needle-like.  Dark green with whitish undersides.  Dense.  Slow.
A. magnifica (Red Fir) to 200' (90' in garden) Zone 5.  Pyramidal.  Stiff.  Evergreen, needle-like.  Dense.  Oregon and California.  Variety Glauca with whitish needles.  Does not tolerate pollution.  West Coast.  Rich soil.
A. nordmanniana (Nordmann's Fir) Dark green, shiny with silvery undersides.  50-75'.  4-6" reddish-brown cone.  Spreads 1/4 height.
A. procera glauca = A. nobilis glauca (Blue-leaved Nobel Fir).  Washington to California.  Spreads 1/2 to 2/3 height.
A. spectabilis (Himalayan Fir) 200-250 feet (75 ft. in garden).  Zone 7.  Broadly pyramidal.  Wide spreading.  1-2" needle-like.  Himalayan Mts.  Good in South.
A. veitchii (Vetch Fir) Dark green with silver undersides.  Smooth, grey bark.  25-50'.  2" bluish-purple cones.  Zone 3.  Stiffly pyramidal.  Evergreen, needle-like.  Central Japan.  Hardiest of firs.  Spreads 1/3 height.

DISEASES:  Needle cast;  Use an approved fungicide, such as lime, sulfur or bordeaux mixture.
Needle rust;  Use an approved fungicide, such as Ferbam, Maneb or sulfur every 7-10 days.  Destroy infected plants.

INSECTS:  Aphids;  Use an approved insecticide such as Malathion, Lindane.
Saw Flies;  Use an approved insecticide such as Malathion.
Budworm;  Use an approved insecticide such as Malathion, Diazinon.
Barkbeetle;  Use an approved insecticide such as Sevin.
Borers;  Use an approved insecticide such as Sevin, Malathion.
Spruce mites;  Use an approved insecticide such as Malathion, Diazinon.

PROPAGATION:  Grafting, hardwood cuttings, seeds.

REMARKS:  Some main differences between firs, spruces, and hemlocks are:  Fir Cones:  1.  Cones held in upright rather than pendant position.  2.  Cones fall apart quickly at maturity.  3.  Needles, when falling, do not leave a rough leaf base, but rather leave twigs, branches smooth to touch.