Korean Fir – Abies koreana


General: Introduced in 1908, A. koreana is native to the isolated mountain regions of Korea. It is a slow growing evergreen tree reaching only about 30′ high by 10′ wide.

Leaves: Needles 1/2 – 3/4″ long by 1/16- 1/12″ wide tightly arranged along stem. Silvery grey in spring turning to a deep green with glaucous blue backing when mature. Two whitish stomatal bands divided by a thin green midrib line the underside. Notched or rounded at apex.

Cones: Deep bluish- purple, 2-3″ long, 1″ wide. A striking contrast to the deep green foliage.

Bark: Soft, smooth and grey with resin blisters. Reddish-brown inner bark.

Attributes:  From its deep purple, arguably blue cones in the spring, to its silvery, green-blue harmony of colors year round, this slow growing beauty is a wonderful specimen that should not be overlooked in the landscape


Hardiness:  Zones 4- 7. Colder end of the spectrum preferred

Growing Conditions: Although A. koreana appears to be the most heat tolerant of all the firs, they prefer a colder climate situated in full sun with moist, well-drained, acidic soil. Light shade is also acceptable but foliage will not be as dense.

Maintenance: Pruning is not recommended except to eliminate a competing leader. As for the prostrate forms, any upright branches that may arise must be diligently removed.

Transplanting: Spring is optimal but can be dug any time of the year. Try to avoid this when in new or soft growth.

Propagation:  Seed

Our Experience

Experience at Great Hill
These trees typically have few issues. Recently we’ve observed some needle fungus and even some level of scale on a few of our specimens. Some of this could be contributed to extreme weather. Both recent harsh winters and drought periods have put a level of stress on these trees. These issues could also be related to a lack of beneficial insects that would keep pest problems in check. We are continuing to monitor pest levels seasonally.

Historical Winter Data
Winter 2016-17: 
No issues

Winter 2017-18: Minor winter injury on the tips of a couple exposed firs that are in direct sunlight in the winter. Could also be the reflection of the sun off the snow drying out the plant tissue.


Balsam Fir – Abies balsamea


General: Stiff, pyramidal to conical native evergreen growing 45-75′ high and 25′ wide.

Leaves: Dark green needles up to 1″ long in two rows. Arranged horizontally in a v shape along the stem.

Cones: 2-4″ long, resinous and dark purple when young maturing to gray brown. Cones disintegrate after the seeds ripen.

Bark: Dull green- gray and smooth in young trees, with the development of reddish brown scaly plates and blisters of oily resin with age.

Attributes:  Used as a specimen tree as well as a Christmas tree. Does not, however, hold its needles long in a dry house (fraser firs perform much better as indoor Christmas trees)


Hardiness:  Zones 3-5.

Growing Conditions: Prefers well drained, moist, acid soil and high elevations. Can withstand some shade but not tolerant of pollution.

Maintenance: Spruce budworm is an issue as well as wooly adelgid and several canker diseases.

Transplanting: These firs are shallow rooted and can be balled and burlapped for transplant readily.

Propagation:  Seed

Our Experience

Experience at Great Hill

Balsam fir is a popular woodland tree in NH, especially at higher elevations. We have planted these trees in a long hedgerow of firs which provide a natural barrier between our Monet garden and the road surrounding the estate. They are, so far, working as an attractive evergreen screen.


Fraser Fir – Abies fraseri


General: Narrow, pyramidal evergreen conifer with a spire like crown and stiff branches. Grows 30 to 40′ in height and up to 25′ wide. Very similar to balsam fir.

Leaves: Shiny dark green with white bands beneath, Densely set, up to 1″ long.

Cones: Purple in youth becoming brown with age, up to 2″ long. Cones of fraser fir contain protruding bracts which distinguish them from balsam fir.

Bark: Smooth and gray when young becoming furrowed with age.

Attributes: A specimen evergreen for cool regions. Grown and sold widely for use as Christmas trees


Hardiness:  Zones 4-7.

Growing Conditions: Prefers moist, well drained loam in full sun to part shade. Intolerant of hot/humid summer conditions as well as urban pollution.

Maintenance: Balsam woolly adelgid is the insect pest responsible for killing the majority of frasers that die in the wild. They are also susceptible to beetles, budworms, scale, rusts and blights.

Transplanting: Transplants well when root pruned.

Propagation:  Seed

Our Experience

Experience at Great Hill

Fraser fir is very uncommonly found growing wild outside of the area they are native to, which is the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. While we don’t currently have any specimen frasers on the landscape, we purchase several each holiday season to be used as Christmas trees.