Our native Firs are given great consideration about once a year, during Solstice and Christmas season, when their lush soft needles and narrow symmetrical shapes lend themselves perfectly to adorning with ornaments and lights.

They do make nice holiday trees, but our native forest conifers are so much more and indeed many are worth considering for the landscape.


Abies amabilis: Pacific Silver Fir

This is probably the least commonly found of our native firs. It holds a small, narrow habitat at mid-elevation on the western slope of the Cascades. Slow-growing, it remains a forest understory tree for very many years; it is more shade-tolerant than other firs, and is appreciative of cooler, moister conditions, but still requires good drainage. In the wild it can eventually grow to over 200 feet, but in cultivation generally reaches only a quarter of that size. Photo credit to Walter Siegmund.


Abies concolor: White Fir

The native white fir makes its home east of the Cascades, so good drainage and drier conditions suit it best. Can take full sun to part shade. Needles are flat and wider than they are thick, arranged horizontally, and have the tell-tale silvery stomata on both surfaces. It is very slow-growing, suitable for a garden or container. In the wild, it can reach a height of 230 feet, though much smaller in a cultivated garden setting. This is one of the firs grown for cut Christmas trees.


Abies grandis: Grand Fir

Grand is right: even in cultivation, this fir can often grow to over 100 feet in height, twenty feet across! If you have the space, it is a great specimen for a wildlife, woodland or shade garden. Lower branches can eventually be cut away to open a space to plant beneath. Will grow in full sun to partial shade, in moist, well-drained acidic soil.


Abies lasiocarpa: Subalpine Fir

Also known as ‘Alpine Fir,’ though its range is actually quite wide — found in lower elevations to near-alpine, in drier areas both sides of the Cascades — and so is often used in large rock garden plantings. In the wild it can reach 100 feet. In a garden setting it stays closer to forty feet. This conifer has beautiful grayish blue-green needles and upright cones that emerge in a striking dark purple color. This slow-grower is very adaptable, suitable for a container and is often used for bonsai. Photo credit to Walter Siegmund.


Abies procera: Noble Fir

Last and certainly not least is our noble fir, which is truly noble in stature and form. If left to its own devices, whether in the wild or in cultivation, it can eventually grow to a massive 200+ feet. With beautiful symmetry and well-spaced slightly upturning needles along stiff branches, it is commonly grown and harvested for cut Christmas trees.

A. procera is a very adaptable tree. Give it full sun and good drainage; it is suitable for garden as well as for container growing. You need to consider its eventual size, but it is fairly slow-growing, and if sited correctly, will prove to be a beautiful addition to a woodland landscape, a real benefit for attracting birds and other wildlife to your garden.