How to Grow and Care for the White Fir

White fir tree growing in a tall triangular shape next to cement pathway

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

In This Article

If you are looking for a large gorgeous evergreen conifer that is a stunner for your landscape that comes in numerous cultivars that lets you choose any number of forms and sizes the look no further than the white fir (Abies concolor). White fir is renowned for use in large spaces like parks and public gardens but you can use a white fir in your home landscape, whether you have an acre or a balcony, as long as you select right cultivar.

Often used as a Christmas tree this evergreen is attractive in any season and will bring cheer to your landscape with blue-green tones and easy-going maintenance. Though it is native to the western mountains of North America, white fir is beloved as an evergreen that is often planted in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions because it is fantastically hardy.

Common Name White Fir
Botanical Name Abies concolor
Family Pinaceae
Plant Type  Conifer
Mature Size 40-70 ft. tall, 20-30 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Sandy, well-drained soil
Soil pH Slightly Acidic
Bloom Time Non-flowering
Flower Color Non-flowering
Hardiness Zones 3 to 7, USDA
Native Area  Western United States, Mexico

White Fir Care

Growing a white fir is easy; you will devote various amounts of time, patience, and space to the tree, depending on the cultivar you choose. It all comes down to planning. How big is the yard you plan to place the tree into, and how much space you want to allow the tree to consume now and in the future? Those considerations will tell you what cultivar of white fir you want to get and how to plan for its planting and its future in that space. Wild type Abies concolor can live up to 300 years, so there will be a long amount of time invested in a tree that is not going anywhere soon if it is taken well care of.

That is the best care you can give your tree—plan for its success. Where will it get the best light? Will it still be the proper distance from the house even when it's three times its current size? Plan for the tree's mature height, and you will be doing the best job caring for it that you possibly can before you even put your shovel to the soil.

White fir tree trunk and branches with blue-green needles closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

White fir tree 'Compacta' with blue-green needle branches in a triangular shape in middle of forest

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

White fir tree 'Compacta' branches with blue-green needles growing upwards

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

White fir 'Piggelmee' tree growing as a short shrub with clustered branches of blue-green needles

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

Your white fir will be happy if it is given full to partial sun. When the tree is young in severely dry weather before it is established, it has the chance to burn its needles some in the severe sun, so be prepared to keep younger trees that are in full sun either shaded or well irrigated.

Soil

Used to sandy, gravelly soil, the white fir thrives in soils it would find in the mountainous regions it is a native of. It is very adaptable, though, and will take to almost any conditions other than standing water. Providing it with slightly acidic, gravely soil is the perfect condition for white fir, but there won't be much of a fall-off in performance or health in other soils.

Water

The white fir is extremely drought-tolerant once it has established itself. Giving your tree supplemental irrigation is important to ensure healthy root growth during the first growing season or two. Watering the fir at about ten gallons per inch of trunk diameter is a great guideline to follow that will get your tree going in a healthy direction.

Temperature and Humidity

This mountain terrain native can handle warmer temperatures and is very accustomed to the dry air of the western ranges of North America during the summer months. During the cold winter months, it can easily handle temperatures that plummet at high elevations down to −22 °F, making winters anywhere else in the United States in all but the most northern extremes a cakewalk. The white fir will be quite happy in USDA Zones 3-7.

Fertilizer

There is no need to fertilize a mature white fir once it has been established. You may want to help your young tree along a bit by using a fertilizer specifically formulated for evergreens. Often these come in the form of slow-release spikes inserted at the base of the tree and will disintegrate over time. Once your tree reaches maturity, it will not need supplemental fertilizer; just sit back and enjoy your tree.

Types of White Fir

The white fir has numerous cultivars to choose from to help you pick the best one for your landscape needs.

  • Abies concolor 'Compacta' a dwarf cultivar over a century old that grows in an oval form that reaches only five feet in ten years.
  • Abies concolor 'Blue Cloak' a weeping intermediate cultivar that grows to eight feet in ten years with powder blue needles.
  • Abies concolor 'Candicans Nana' a dwarf shrublike cultivar that grows to only four feet tall with a spread of six to eight feet wide.
  • Abies concolor 'Wintergold'  a tall upright unique seasonally variable gold-colored dwarf cultivar that begins chartreuse in the spring, turning bright green, and then finally to gold in the winter.