How to Grow and Care for a Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir

The Spruce

Many people choose the Douglas fir as their Christmas tree each year. The name is a bit misleading, as this does not belong to the fir genus (Abies). The Douglas fir is one of the tallest conifers. Oregon chose this as its state tree.

The Douglas fir is not a true fir tree. The genus name (Pseudotsuga) suggests that this is similar to hemlock trees. Pseudo- means false, and Tsuga is the genus for hemlocks. The species is menziesii.

This tree is one of many conifers included in the Pinaceae family. Others are cedars, the deciduous conifers (Glyptostrobus, Larix, Metasequoia, Pseudolarix, and Taxodium), fir trees, pine trees, and spruce trees.

Botanical Name Pseudotsuga
Common Name Douglas fir, doug-fir, false spruce, red fir, Oregon pine, Douglas pine, yellow fir, Douglas spruce
Plant Type Evergreen tree
Mature Size 40-300 feet (smaller are available)
Sun Exposure Full to partial sun
Soil Type Well-draining, moist soil
Soil pH Acidic to neutral
Bloom Time N/A
Flower Color Inconspicuous
Hardiness Zones 4-6 (USDA)
Native Area United States, Canada, Mexico

Douglas Fir Care

This tree can be enormous. If you're going to plant one, make sure it has plenty of room to grow. This tall conifer can reach heights of anywhere from 40 feet to over 300 feet tall, but there are smaller varieties available for the home landscape. As it grows, the Douglas fir forms into a pyramidal shape.​

The Douglas fir is monoecious and both male and female strobili are produced on the tree. The red-brown cones are long and have distinct bracts that come out between the scales.

Light

The Douglas fir must have full sun wherever you plant it. It can tolerate partial sun, but it prefers full sun.

Soil

The ideal soil for this tree is an acidic loam that drains. You can work on making your soil more acidic. It should be moist and well-draining.

Temperature and Humidity

If you live in zones 4 to 6, this could be the evergreen tree for you.

Water

Don't plant this evergreen in an area where there is drought. It requires moist soil, which could mean supplemental watering from you.

Douglas fir needles
The Spruce

Pruning

Douglas firs should have one strong central leader growing upright. If you have a young tree with two stems, pick the stronger of the two and cut the weaker one. Trees with co-dominant stems, particularly conifers, can be dangerous once mature. For aesthetics, Douglas fir is best left alone as far as pruning goes unless it needs to be trimmed for damaged, diseased, or dead branches.

Types of Douglas Fir

  • Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii is the coast Douglas fir
  • Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca may be called either the interior Douglas fir or the Rocky Mountain Douglas fir

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

There are quite a few pests and diseases that may potentially affect your Douglas fir, but you usually shouldn't have major problems. They include:

Pests

  • Black pine leaf scale (Nuculaspis californica)
  • Black vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus)
  • Conifer twig weevil (Pissodes spp.)
  • Cooley spruce gall adelgid (Adelges cooleyi)
  • Douglas-fir bark beetle (Dendroctonus pseudotsugae)
  • Douglas-fir bud mite (Trisetacus pseudotsugae)
  • Douglas-fir cone gall midge (Contarinia oregonensis)
  • Douglas-fir cone moth (Barbara colfaxìana)
  • Douglas-fir dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium do)
  • Douglas-fir pitch moth (Synanthedon novaroensis)
  • Douglas-fir seed chalcid (Megastigmus spermotrophus)
  • Douglas-fir tussock moth (Orgyia pseudotsugata)
  • Douglas-fir twig weevil (Cylindrocopturus furnissi)
  • Elongate hemlock scale (Fiorinia externa)
  • Fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea)
  • Fir coneworm (Dioryctria abietìvorella)
  • Giant conifer aphid (Cinara spp.)
  • Monterey pine aphid (Essigella californica)
  • Pine needle scale (Chionaspis pinifoliae)
  • Silver-spotted tiger moth (Halsidota argentata)
  • Spruce aphid (Elatobium abietina)
  • Spruce gall adelgid (Adelges abietis and Adelges cooleyi)
  • Spruce spider mite (Oligonychus ununguis)
  • Western pine spittlebug (Aphrophora fulva)
  • Western spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana)

Diseases

  • Heart rot fungi
  • Laminated root rot (Phellinus weirii)
  • Needlecast (Rhabdocline pseudotsugae)
  • Red ring rot (Phellinus pini)
  • Shoestring root rot (Armillaria mellea)