Korean fir tree facts

Fir  Abies koreana

Height to 50-70′ rarely to 70′ Spread 5-15′

Leaves. The needles of the Korean fir are a lustrous dark green but more often light green, 1/2 to 3/4″ long with white stripes on the bottom .

Flowers. Korean fir flower in May, red flowers emerging to beautiful purple cones.

Fruit. The cones of the Korean Fir are erect as in all true firs, 2-3″ long and are a very colorful purple. The young cones are in my opinion a real spring visual treat, be sure to look for them this June. As a Christmas tree grower they can be a problem as they are more prolific than fraser cones.

Winter Buds. The buds are small resinous and brown.

Bark. Mature trunks on Korean Fir is rough cinnamon-red, thin, scaly, at length becoming gray, younger trees bark is smooth grayish and resinous.

Wood. The wood is light, soft, weak, coarse- grain with wide rings and lighter colored sapwood.

Pests. The balsam wooly adelgid and spruce budworm are major pests.. These can be generally treated with an application of Sevin.

Distribution. Korean Fir are found naturally only on a small geographic area of South Korea.

Other. Fine Christmas tree though the Fraser and Douglas fir are more in demand. Prune leader in late spring to keep new leader from cork screwing. Deer will devour these so be careful.

Cultivars. “Compact dwarf”, “Prostrata” a dwarf, “silberlocke” curving silver-white needles.

We have Korean Fir up to 5′ tall. Call for B+B prices.

To buy Korean fir seedlings by PHONE: We’re glad to take your order by phone. For your convenience, we have a toll free number 800 568-9179. Phone orders can be charged to VISA or MasterCard accounts.

To buy Korean fir seedling by MAIL: For those who wish to order by mail or prefer to send a check, send orders to: Porcupine Hollow Farm 8593 W. Old State Rd. Central Lake, Mi. 49622

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Korean Fir

Korean Fir

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Korean Fir foliage

Korean Fir foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 25 feet

Spread: 15 feet


Hardiness Zone: 4


An uncommon yet very attractive fir tree with white-banded needles for a beautiful color effect; a good size for home landscapes, but particular as to siting

Ornamental Features

Korean Fir has attractive bluish-green foliage. The needles are highly ornamental and remain bluish-green throughout the winter. The purple fruits are held in cones from late summer to late winter. The flowers are not ornamentally significant. The smooth gray bark adds an interesting dimension to the landscape.

Landscape Attributes

Korean Fir is an evergreen tree with a strong central leader and a distinctive and refined pyramidal form. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

This is a relatively low maintenance tree, and usually looks its best without pruning, although it will tolerate pruning. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Korean Fir is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Vertical Accent

Planting & Growing

Korean Fir will grow to be about 25 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 15 feet. It has a low canopy, and should not be planted underneath power lines. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 60 years or more.

This tree does best in full sun to partial shade. It requires an evenly moist well-drained soil for optimal growth. It is not particular as to soil pH, but grows best in sandy soils. It is quite intolerant of urban pollution, therefore inner city or urban streetside plantings are best avoided, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone in winter to protect it in exposed locations or colder microclimates. This species is not originally from North America.

How to grow: Korean fir

It should only really be applied to members of the genus Abies (spruces are Picea). Where spruce needles tend to be sharp, and often grow on somewhat drooping branches, fir needles are softer, wider and their branching habit is more upright.

Abies koreana, a fir from the Korean peninsula, is a particularly good one, as it produces cones at a young age, even on trees as small as 60cm (2ft) high. Most firs don’t produce cones until they are much older.

Why get so excited about a few fir cones? Because firs have some of the most decorative cones of all conifers, and the Korean fir has some of the best – violet-purple in colour, and standing upright on the branches. They develop over the summer and last until late winter, when they break up.

For the rest of the year, the foliage is extremely decorative, with dark needles on branches that are arranged in whorls around the trunk, and, like many firs, there is a silvery underside to each needle.

The silvery side of the leaves comes to the fore in a variety called ‘Silberlocke’, whose twigs are slightly twisted so that the underside is more visible. There is also a golden-leafed form, ‘Aurea’.

Lovers of dwarf conifers might like to know that there are a couple of very slow-growing forms, ‘Compact Dwarf’ and ‘Piccolo’, neither of which display the plant’s elegant branching form to best effect.

A closely related species, Abies veitchii, has cones of an even richer colour, which again appear on relatively young plants; its growth rate is much faster, which makes it more suitable for those who would like a larger tree.

Good companions

Korean firs look good with slow-growing conifers, such as varieties of cypress and thuja, but are perhaps best matched with deciduous shrubs, whose rounded habit makes a good contrast to their upright-angled branches.

Varieties of euonymus with good autumn colour, such as E. alatus, make an especially good contrast.

Dogwoods and willows with coloured stems are an effective winter combination, but the fir will not tolerate the damp ground that willows love.

Plump for birches if you have space, as not only does the silver bark look good next to the dark foliage of the fir, but the two in tandem are very evocative of mountains and northern latitudes.

Where to buy

Lincluden Nursery, Shaftsbury Road, Bisley, Surrey GU24 9EN (01483 797005; www.lincludennursery.co.uk). Mail order available – send three 1st-class stamps for a catalogue. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm.

The Conifer Garden, Herons’ Mead, Little Missenden, Amersham, Buckinghamshire HP7 0RA (01494 862086; www.conifergarden.co.uk). Mail order available – send two 1st-class stamps for a plant list. Open by appointment only.

Growing tips

Like all firs, the Korean fir does best in a well-drained spot in areas of higher rainfall. Good all-round light is essential, or the elegant shape of the plant will be spoilt. As with most other conifers, soil fertility is not particularly important.

Although this species only grows by about 15cm (6in) a year, its eventual height of 10m (30ft) is still too tall for many gardens. It also has the unfortunate habit of letting itself go as it gets older; old trees in arboretums tend to look really scruffy. It has been suggested that this is an inherited trait that reflects the fact that most plants in cultivation are descended from the first introduction, which was made from an isolated Korean island. This had very atypical plants: short and stunted, but with the delightful habit of producing cones when young.

Most young firs are wonderfully elegant garden plants, but they will eventually become too big for most gardens and start to lose their youthful good looks. Perhaps the best thing is simply to accept this and fell them, adding them to the firewood pile. This may seem a waste of a good tree, but most of us have a similar attitude to many other plants – the cyclamen and azaleas that fill many a windowsill in winter could live for decades, yet how many people even try to keep them for a second year?


Major species

In North America there are 10 native species of fir, found chiefly from the Rocky Mountains westward and attaining their fullest development in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges. Several of these fir species attain immense size: the white fir (Abies concolor), the noble fir (A. nobilis), the California red fir (A. magnifica), and the Pacific silver fir (A. amabilis) all can attain a height of 60 metres (200 feet). With the exception of the noble fir, the wood of most western American firs is inferior to that of pine or spruce but is used for lumber and pulpwood.

white firWhite fir (Abies concolor), native to North America.Dave Powell,—USDA Forest Service/Bugwood.org

Of the two fir species that occur in the eastern United States and Canada, the best known is the balsam fir (A. balsamea), which is a popular ornamental and Christmas tree. It may be 12 to 18 metres (about 40 to 60 feet) tall at maturity, with cones 5 to 10 cm (about 2 to 4 inches) long. Canada balsam, an oleoresin collected from pitch blisters on the balsam fir’s bark, is used to mount specimens on glass slides for microscopic examination.

balsam firBalsam fir trees (Abies balsamea) on the edge of a marsh, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. © tiger_barb—iStock/Thinkstock Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. Subscribe today

The silver fir (A. alba) is an ornamental and timber species that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a lofty tree, sometimes reaching 45 metres (150 feet) in height, with large, spreading, horizontal boughs curving upward toward their extremities. The silver fir is abundant in most of the mountain ranges of southern and central Europe, but it is not found in the northern parts of that continent. Extensive forests of silver fir are found in the southern Alps, and the tree is plentiful in the Rhineland and in the Apennine and Pyrenees ranges. In Asia it occurs in the Caucasus and Ural mountains and in some parts of the Altai chain. The silver fir has soft wood that is easily worked and is hence much used in carpentry. The tree yields a high-quality turpentine from blisters on its bark. Burgundy pitch and other resin products are also obtained from the silver fir.

silver firSilver fir (Abies alba), found throughout mountainous areas of Eurasia.Crusier

A number of species, including Guatemalan fir (A. guatemalensis), Korean fir (A. koreana), Spanish fir (A. pinsapo), and Ziyuan fir (A. ziyuanensis), are listed as endangered species by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Several are critically endangered, notably Algerian fir (A. numidica) and Sicilian fir (A. nebrodensis), largely due to overharvesting and habitat loss.

Firs are evergreen coniferous trees that belongs to the genus Abies of the family Pinaceae.

There are about 56 species of fir in the world.

They are found through much of North and Central America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa, occurring in mountains over most of the range.

Firs are long-lived, on average achieving reproductive maturity at 20 years, with an average life-span of 60 years. Fir trees in excess of 400 years old have been recorded in several species, and noble firs 600 to 700 years old are known.

They are large trees, reaching heights from 10 to 80 meters (33 to 262 feet) tall and trunk diameters from 0.5 to 4 meters (1 ft 8 in to 13 ft 1 in) when mature.

Firs grow best in areas of high elevation in well-drained, moist soil. Full sunlight and plenty of water are
also necessary for fir tree growth.

Old fir trees have thick, ridged bark, and younger firs have thin, smooth bark.

Firs are uninodal, producing one whorl of branches each year, from buds at the tip of the year’s new shoot. For example, if the tree was 50 years old it would have 50 branch whorls.

Firs can be distinguished from other members of the pine family by the unique attachment of their needle-like leaves to the twig by a base that resembles a small suction cup.

The fir tree cones are softer than other coniferous trees and come apart at the end of the season to spread their seeds. They also grow upwards instead of hanging down.

Cylindrical cones are 5–25 centimeters (2–10 inches) long. Mature cones are usually brown, young in summer can be green, yellow, purple, blue or dark purple-blue.

Firs are monoecious (both sexes) and produces female cones high in the crown, and clusters of male cones in a zone below.

Pines produce resin that flows from the injured bark. Unfortunately, resin is highly flammable and it
facilitates spreading of the forest fire.

Identification of the different species is based on the size and arrangement of the needle-like leaves, the size and shape of the cones, and whether the bract scales of the cones are long and exserted, or short and hidden inside the cone.

Nordmann fir, noble fir, Fraser fir and balsam fir are popular Christmas trees, generally considered to be the best for this purpose, with aromatic foliage that does not shed many needles on drying out.

Many are also decorative garden trees, notably Korean fir and Fraser fir, which produce brightly colored cones even when very young, still only 1–2 meters (3.3–6.6 feet) tall.

Wood of most firs is considered unsuitable for general timber use, and is often used as pulp or for the
manufacture of plywood and rough timber. It is also used to make stuffing for pillows and mattresses in some countries.

Like so many popular essential oils, fir needle essential is extracted through a process of steam distillation from fir needles. The needles are the most important part of this plant, as that is where the active ingredients and powerful chemical compounds are located.

In aromatherapy uses, as an essential oil, Fir is beneficial for coughs, colds, flu, arthritis, muscle aches
and rheumatism.

It’s properties include being an antiseptic, antitussive, Deodorant, disinfectant and expectorant.

Abies spectabilis or Talispatra is used in Ayurveda as an antitussive drug.

A tea made by green fir needles in boiling water is high in vitamins A and C.

Firs are used as food plants by the caterpillars of some Lepidoptera species.

The root system of the fir tree also helps to prevent soil erosion.

Like other evergreens, fir trees are associated with protection and spirituality in many Native American tribes. Fir branches are used for purifying and warding off ghosts in some Salish and other Northwest Indian rituals. Plains Indian tribes commonly burn fir needles as incense, and northern Algonquian tribes bundled spruce and fir needles into sachets or herbal pillows to protect against illness.

One of the nine sacred woods of used for a sabbat fire the Druids held the fir in high esteem. It is a symbol of honesty, truth and forthrightness because of the way it grows on the “straight and narrow.” The trunk of the fir reminds us of a tall straight pillar of strength, a symbolic tower of truth.

Douglas firs are not true firs, being of the genus Pseudotsuga.

Fir Tree Appreciation Day is June 18.

Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ / Horstmann’s silver curls Korean fir

aka Abies koreana ‘Silberlocke’ and Abies koreana ‘Horstmanns Silberlocke.’ Please note the the Royal Horticultural Society lists this conifer as ‘Silberlocke.’ The Horstmann family has made their wishes to the nursery trade clear that ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ is the correct name that is to be used.

Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ is a beautiful selection of Korean fir. The needles on the branches curl on the tops toward the stem exposing the white underside of the needles, giving the tree a frosted look. Typical rate of growth in most areas is 4 to 6 inches (10 – 15 cm) a year. Over time, ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ will grow into a small tree in the landscape. The curling needle habit seems to lessen with age and if given optimal growing conditions, but will always make a striking impression in the garden.

Günther Horstmann of Schneverdingen, Germany introduced this cultivar to the nursery trade in 1979. It entered the botanical record as ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke,’ but over time, Horstmann’s name had been dropped from some nursery listings creating confusion in the trade. ‘Silberlocke’ and ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ are synonymous.

In German, “Silberlocke” translates to silver locks of hair and in German grammar, the possessive case does not use the apostrophe at the end of a surname (Horstmanns in German vs Horstmann’s in English), hence some of the confusion. Since the cultivar name, ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ has become ubiquitous and generally accepted in the global nursery trade, that’s the construct we choose to maintain at the ACS.

Abies koreana ‘Silver Show’ (Korean fir ‘Silver Show’)

Botanical name

Abies koreana ‘Silver Show’

Other names

Korean fir ‘Silver Show’


Abies Abies

Variety or Cultivar

‘Silver Show’ _ ‘Silver Show’ is a compact, broadly conical, evergreen, coniferous tree with horizontal branches bearing needle-like, dark green leaves, curled upward to show the silvery-white undersides. Erect, cylindrical, dark purple cones form on juvenile plants.

Native to

Garden origin




Broadly conical, Compact

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Dark-green, Silvery-grey in All seasons

How to care

Watch out for

Specific pests

Adelgids , Aphids


Generally disease-free.

General care

No pruning is needed.


Sow seed in a cold frame in autumn or winter. Stratify for 21 days to promote germination.

Propagation methods

Grafting, Seed

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Where to grow

Abies koreana ‘Silver Show’ (Korean fir ‘Silver Show’) will reach a height of 4.5m and a spread of 3m after 10-20 years.

Suggested uses

Architectural, Containers, Cottage/Informal, Gravel, Low Maintenance, Rock


Plant in moist but well-drained slightly acidic soil.

Soil type

Clay, Loamy, Sandy

Soil drainage

Moist but well-drained, Well-drained

Soil pH

Acid, Neutral


Full Sun


North, South, East, West



UK hardiness Note: We are working to update our ratings. Thanks for your patience.

Hardy (H4)

USDA zones

Zone 7, Zone 6, Zone 5

Defra’s Risk register #1

Plant name

Abies koreana ‘Silver Show’ (Korean fir ‘Silver Show’)

Common pest name

Scientific pest name

Ips subelongatus



Current status in UK


Likelihood to spread to UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Impact (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

General biosecurity comments

Pest of conifers with EU regulation helping to mitigate against the entry on conifer wood from non-European sources. Also present in European Russia with a similar range to Ips typographus; for which the UK has a protected zone with requirements on conifer wood.

Defra’s Risk register #2

Abies koreana ‘Silver Show’ (Korean fir ‘Silver Show’)

Dothistroma needle blight; Red band needle blight

Dothistroma septosporum


Present (Limited)

Likelihood to spread in UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Fungal pest of pine; already present in UK of particular concern in Scotland

Defra’s Risk register #3

Abies koreana ‘Silver Show’ (Korean fir ‘Silver Show’)

Bud worm; western black-headed; Western black-headed budworm

Acleris gloverana



Effectively mitigated by current regulations prohibiting imports of the hosts from the country of origin.

About this section

Our plants are under greater threat than ever before. There is increasing movement of plants and other material traded from an increasing variety of sources. This increases the chances of exotic pests arriving with imported goods and travellers, as well as by natural means. Shoot is working with Defra to help members to do their part in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive risks.

Traveling or importing plants? Please read “Don’t risk it” advice here

Suspected outbreak?

Date updated: 7th March 2019 For more information visit: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/

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