How to Grow and Care for Noble Fir

America’s Largest Fir Does Best in Cool Mountain Climate

Noble fir tree branches with short silvery-green evergreen needles in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Noble fir is called noble because it is the largest American fir and the largest of the true firs. In its native habitat in the mountains of Pacific northwest, it grows 180 to 270 feet tall. When grown as a specimen tree, it is shorter but this tall, narrow tree still needs a large, wide open landscape setting. Because the noble fir is also grown as a popular Christmas tree, it is popularly referred to as such.

Its bark is silvery-gray and the needles are gray-green or bright blue-gray. The stiff, short branches grow almost horizontal. The crown of the young tree is conical and develops a round shape when mature. The tree is long-lived and only starts producing seeds at around 50 years of age.

Noble fir provides food for many different birds, including chickadees and jays and other animals. Its dense foliage provides shelter and winter protection for wildlife.

 Common name Noble fir, red fir, white fir 
 Botanical Name  Abies procera
 Family  Pinaceae
 Plant Type  Tree
 Mature Size  50 to 100 ft. tall, 30 ft. wide
 Sun Exposure  Full sun, part shade
 Soil Type   Loamy, sandy, clay, silt, moist, well-drained
 Soil pH   Acidic (5.0 to 6.5)
 Hardiness Zones  5-6, USA
 Native Area  North America

Noble Fir Care

Noble fir is a low-maintenance tree, provided that it’s grown in a suitable climate and location similar to its native habitat.

The care for commercially grown noble fir Christmas trees is different. Noble fir Christmas trees require much more care, ranging from regular fertilization to maximize their growth to frequent pruning to make them more marketable.

Noble fir tree in middle of landscape with bright blue-gray needles on branches

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Noble fir tree branch with short bright blue-gray needles closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Noble fir tree trunk with silvery-green bark surrounded by needled branches

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Noble fir tree branch with short gray-green needles with tiny round seeds in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

Noble fir grows both in full sun or part shade with at least four hours of direct sunlight.

 Soil

The tree can grow in a wide range of soil types but the soil needs to be cool, moist, and well-drained. Noble fir prefers deep soil but can sometimes grow in thin, rocky soils. The tree does not tolerate soil with a high pH (alkaline soil). 

Water

The tree needs constant moisture, and it’s important to keep in mind that in its native habitat, three quarters of the precipitation consists of snow that falls between October through March. It would be difficult to duplicate this pattern by irrigation. For this reason noble fir should be grown in a climate with frequent and ample precipitation from fall through spring and with frequent snowfall. 

Temperature and Humidity

The native habitat of noble fir in the Pacific Northwest is a moist, relatively cool, maritime mountain climate. The tree is not suitable for hot, humid climates. 

Fertilizer

The tree requires no fertilization. 

Noble fir branches grow almost horizontal

Meindert van der Haven / Getty Images

Types of Noble Fir 

There are numerous cultivars of noble fir. Cultivars suitable for home gardens with limited space include: 

  • Abies procera ‘La Graciosa’, a slow grower that can be grown as a 2- to 4-foot mound or a 6-foot-tall, pendulous tree with a leader. 
  • Abies procera ‘Compacta’, also a slow grower with long sweeping branches that reaches 20 ft. in height and 10 ft. spread at maturity. 
  • Abies procera ‘Glauca prostrata’, a two-foot tall, groundcover-type cultivar with silvery blue foliage that spreads about 6 feet in 10 years. To keep it low, remove any emerging vertical leaders.
  • Abies procera ‘Rick's Foxtail’, a narrow, upright cultivar with a strong central leader and blue-green needles. In ten years, it grows to a size of about 6 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide.
  • Abies procera ‘DelBar Cascade', an upright cultivar with a sinuous central leader, pendulous branching, and greenish-blue needles. In ten years, it reaches about 7 ft. in height and 2 ft. in width.

Pruning

Noble fir does not require pruning other than removing broken or diseased branches.

Propagating Noble Fir

You can grow noble fir from the seeds found in its cones which mature in early August. Let the cones dry until they are brittle, then shake them to remove the cones. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours, then place the drained seeds in a sealed plastic bag or an airtight container with a soilless potting mix, such as peat moss or vermiculite. Keep them in the fridge for six to eight weeks. This chilling period called stratification is necessary to break the plant’s dormancy, without it, the seeds won’t germinate.

Fill seed trays or small pots with good potting mix. Plant the seeds no deeper than one-quarter inch, which is about as much soil as is needed to cover the seeds so you don’t see them. and keep them moist. You can expect the seeds to germinate in a few weeks. The light requirements for growing seedlings are the same as described above. Keep the seedlings consistently moist and repot them as they grow. 

Common Plant Diseases 

Noble fir is mainly affected by different diseases caused by fungi: Phytophthora root rot, stem canker, current season needle necrosis (CSNN), and interior needle blight. 

FAQ
  • How fast does noble fir grow?

    The tree has a slow to medium growth rate of about 12 to 24 inches per year.

  • Can I propagate a noble fir from seed?

    Yes, noble fir can be propagated from seed but it takes up to three years until the seedlings are ready to be planted in their permanent location.