12 Easy-to-Grow Types of Fir Trees

Most Popular Choice for Christmas Trees

Korean fir tree with small oval cones on branches with short and broad needles closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Some of the most popular choices for Christmas trees belong to the fir genus Abies, one of several evergreen conifer genera in the Pinaceae family of woody plants. The most common Abies species used for traditional Christmas trees are the balsam fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, and Nordmann fir.

Firs are distinguished from other pines by needle-like leaves that attach singly to the branches. This is in contrast to spruce trees, which have paired needles with a hinge-like base, and pine needles, which are bunched in clusters. Fir trees are also distinguished by cones that stand upright on the branches like candles. Fir tree cones are softer than other cones of coniferous trees, and they come apart at the end of the season to spread their seeds.

Many trees in the Abies genus come in dwarf varieties, making them especially suited as potted living Christmas trees that can continue to be grown in pots or moved into the landscape after the holiday.


The best fir species for use as potted, living Christmas trees are the Fraser, balsam, white, Spanish, and noble firs. Choose a species with good cold hardiness in your region.

Firs are trees that do best in relatively cool, moist conditions. The soil should be fertile and well-drained. Loosen compacted soils by digging in compost or other organic amendments before planting the tree. Planting is best done when the potted tree is dormant in the late autumn, winter, or early spring.

Here are 12 popular types of fir trees for your landscape.

  • 01 of 12

    Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

    A cluster of balsam fir
    Kitchin and Hurst/Getty Images

    A popular choice as a Christmas tree, the balsam fir also yields aromatic oils and resins and is used for making paper. This narrow tree grows in a symmetrical, pyramidal to a conical shape with flat, shiny dark green needles up to one inch long. This tree is sensitive to heat and often struggles in climates warmer than zone 5. It is not very tolerant of urban climates but remains a common choice as a landscape tree.

    • Native area: North America
    • USDA growing zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 40 to 90 feet
    • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 02 of 12

    Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri)

    Rows of Christmas trees on tree farm
    arlutz73 / Getty Images

    John Fraser, a Scottish botanist, was the inspiration for this fir tree's name. The tree has flattened, shiny, dark green needles up to one inch long, and have white bands on the undersides. Similar in appearance to the balsam fir, the Fraser fir is also a popular Christmas tree. It is sometimes known as the she-balsam.

    • Native area: Eastern United States
    • USDA growing zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 30 to 50 feet tall
    • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 03 of 12

    Grand Fir (Abies grandis)

    Grand Fir Close-up
    Gerardo Martinez Cons / Getty Images

    The grand fir is one of the fastest-growing fir tree species, as well as one of the tallest. The three-inch cones turn reddish-brown as they mature. The two and a half-inch flat needles are shiny dark green on the top with two white lines on the undersides and release an orange fragrance when crushed. The bark is smooth and gray. This tree has a number of regional common names, including great silver fir, giant fir, Oregon fir, lowland white fir, Vancouver fir, western white fir, yellow fir, and great fir.

    • Native area: Northwest U.S.
    • USDA growing zones: 7 to 9
    • Height: 100 to 250 feet
    • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 04 of 12

    Himalayan Fir (Abies spectabilis)

    Himalayan fir

    Andrea Robinson / Getty Images


    The West Himalayan fir is a gorgeous evergreen and happens to be a rare and beautiful variety. It is classified by its long, shining-green needles which droop to the sides of the branches.

    • Native areas: Afghanistan, China, India, and Nepal
    • USDA growing zones: 7 to 9
    • Height: up to 100 feet
    • Sun exposure: Part shade to full shade
    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Korean Fir (Abies koreana)

    Korean fir tree branches with short and broad needles and purple in middle

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    The Korean fir is one of the smaller fir species. It grows slowly and fits into most landscapes. This conifer starts to produce cones when the tree is less than three feet tall. The distinctive cones appear in late spring and come in shades of blue or purple. The short, broad needles are up to 3/4 inch long, shiny dark-green on the top surfaces and silver on the undersides. This species makes a good living Christmas tree due to its small size.

    • Native area: South Korea
    • USDA growing zones: 4 to 8
    • Height: 15 to 30 feet tall; occasionally 50 feet
    • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 06 of 12

    Noble Fir (Abies procera)

    Noble Fir at Christmas tree farm in the Pacific Northwest
    blackestockphoto / Getty Images

    Also known as red fir or white fir, the noble fir is a popular choice for Christmas trees. Distinct tiers of branches with open spaces, allow you to showcase ornaments while avoiding the appearance of bare spots. Noble firs show attractive, smooth, silvery-gray bark with one inch gray-green or bright blue-gray leaves. The cones are five to 10 inches long and are purple-brown when ripe.

    • Native areas: Western Oregon, Washington, and northwest California
    • USDA growing zones: 6 to 8
    • Height: Standard height is around 50 feet but some varieties can be over 240 feet tall; some have grown to 300 feet tall.
    • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 07 of 12

    Caucasian Fir (Abies nordmanniana)

    Tender Green Needles From Abies nordmanniana
    karayuschij / Getty Images

    This tree is also known as the Nordmann fir, named after Alexander von Nordmann, a Finnish zoologist. The branches are densely packed with flattened, glossy dark-green needles up to 1 1/4 inches long, and have two white bands on the undersides. The bark is charcoal gray. The cylindrical seed cones are 6 inches long and are dark reddish-brown in color. The cones are blue-green when immature with brown bracts peeping out between the scales.

    This species can tolerate living in a container (as long as it was started in one), so it can be a good choice for a living Christmas tree. 

    • Native areas: Northern Armenia, Russian Caucasus, Georgia, and Turkey
    • USDA growing zones: 5 to 7
    • Height: 40 to 80 feet; occasionally over 200 feet
    • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 08 of 12

    Red Fir (Abies magnifica)

    A small cluster of red fir trees

     Jeff Foott/Getty Images

    Also known regionally as California red fir, Shasta fir, or silvertip, the red fir gets its principal common name because the bark turns dark red as it matures. The smooth, gray bark of young trees becomes rough and orange-red on older trees. The blue-green needles are typically 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches long. The seed cones are 3 1/2 to 8 1/2 inches long, yellow-green in color, ripening to brown. This tree does not handle drought well but has good frost tolerance.

    • Native areas: Southwest California and Oregon
    • USDA growing zones: 4 to 8
    • Height: Up to 200 tall
    • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Silver Fir (Abies alba)

    Top of young Abies alba tree on the blurred background. Also known as European silver fir or silver fir.
    Igor Kramar / Getty Images

    This fir species has flattened needles that are 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches long, a glossy dark-green with two whitish bands on the bottom sides. The seed cones are 3 1/2 to about 7 inches long, greenish when young and dark brown when mature. Historically, this was the first species to be used as Christmas trees in Europe.

    • Native area: Southern and Central Europe
    • USDA growing zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 50 to 80 feet
    • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 10 of 12

    Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo)

    Spanish fir


    NLink / Getty Images

    This fir tree species has female cones that look like raspberries. The needles are very sharp, inspiring another common name, hedgehog fir. The smooth bark is dark gray, gradually turning rough and scaly as the tree ages. The needles are short (about 1/2 inch long) and pale green-blue in color. The cylindrical cones are 3 1/2 to 12 inches long.

    • Native area: Morocco and southern Spain
    • USDA growing zones: 6 to 8
    • Height: Typically 25 to 75 feet, possibly up to 100 feet
    • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 11 of 12

    Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa)

    subalpine fir tree with brown berries background in winter
    Jaimie Tuchman / Getty Images

    The subalpine fir tree is a medium-sized fir tree that grows very slowly; it is frequently used in bonsai craft. Bark on young trees is smooth and gray, becoming rough and scaly as the tree ages. The flattened needles range from 1/2 to 1 1/4 inches long, with stripes on the undersides. The cylindrical seed cones are 2 1/5 to 5 inches long and a striking violet-blue ripening to brown in the fall. This subalpine fir does well in areas with some shade. It is also known as the Rocky Mountain fir.

    • Native area: Western North America
    • USDA growing zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 30 to 50 feet tall with greater height when growing wild
    • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 12 of 12

    White Fir (Abies concolor)

    white fir
    gaffera / Getty Images

    This fir tree is often grown in western landscapes where it is known, regionally, as the Rocky Mountain white fir, California white fir, and Colorado white fir. It has soft, flattened pale blue-green needles up to 2 1/2 inches long. The barrel-shaped cones are 3 to 6 inches long, green or pale blue maturing to brown or purple, but they may not appear on the tree for the first 40 years. The bark is light gray and smooth but gradually becomes furrowed as the tree ages.

    • Native area: Western North America
    • USDA growing zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 50 to 100 feet tall
    • Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
Article Sources
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  1. “Abies Pindrow (West Himalayan Fir) Description.” Accessed August 17, 2021. https://www.conifers.org/pi/Abies_pindrow.php.