The fir tree, which comes from the mountain forests of Korea, has long since started its triumphal march in domestic gardens with its conical, spreading growth and decorative cones. The tree is considered extremely hardy. The different cultivated forms of the Korean fir not only influence the color and winding of the needles and shoots, but also the shape and height of growth.

The location and the substrate

The Korean fir grows best in a shady to light, partially shaded place. Despite the slow growth, the location should be chosen so that the tree can develop undisturbed and does not pose a threat to houses or streets with increasing age. Overall, the Abies koreana can reach a height of between 5 and 10 meters.

The conifer with shallow roots needs a slightly acidic and humus-rich soil. Heavy and compacted soils make it difficult for the roots to develop optimally. This inhibits water uptake and the healthy growth of the fir tree would suffer. If necessary, you can mix larger amounts of sand with the existing substrate. The plant, which originated in Korea, hardly thrives on a loamy or dry subsurface, or it shows significant growth problems.

Fertilizing and watering

Due to its compact structure and the dark, evergreen needle garment, the Abies koreana is extremely popular and can be found in many places as an ornamental tree in local parks. However, deficiency symptoms let the evergreen Korean fir quickly become bald. Counteract this process and fertilize regularly with blue grain. A complete fertilizer is also suitable, but it should have a high magnesium content.

Never let the soil around the Korean fir dry out completely, but rather pour it regularly with rainwater. The tree’s water consumption increases in autumn, and the moisture content of the soil should also be checked on frost-free days in winter. However, like many other plant species, the Abies koreana is also sensitive to waterlogging. If the chosen location has heavy soil, you should add coarse pebbles to the substrate as a precaution. This not only favors the rapid drainage of excess water, but also promotes the development of the shallow root runners.

Note: Korean firs kept in pots require more water than Abies koreana outdoors. Check regularly and, if necessary, pour more in the cold season.

Planting Korean fir

The best time to plant evergreen plants is in late summer. In this way, the roots of the Korean fir can still develop optimally until the coming winter. The height and width of the tree should be in the foreground when choosing a location. Because some varieties of the Abies koreana reach a height of over 10 meters, while other representatives of this conifer family can only have a maximum of 60 centimeters. Use small-stature varieties if, for example, you want to use the Korean fir as a border for the rock garden or as an ornament for your own balcony. But even as a solitary plant in the middle of the garden, the plant is an interesting eye-catcher.

Before cultivating it outdoors, you should put the fir tree in a lukewarm water bath for about an hour. This means that the roots of the conifers can soak themselves up with water again while you can prepare the location in peace. The tree is a shallow root and therefore needs a wide planting hole. Mix in humus and, if necessary, sand with the excavated earth. You can loosen up heavy substrate with coarse gravel. Carefully move the plant into the planting hole and then fill it up again with the prepared soil. Just press the substrate lightly and then pour it firmly in order to make it easier for the Korean fir to acclimate. In the following weeks you should re-water more often, even if the top layer of soil is not yet completely dry.

Already during the planting create a “watering border”, which makes it easier for you to get water and supplies the plant directly and evenly with moisture. Keep this area free of weeds and mulch regularly. Even ground cover has no place in this area; it would only compact the soil unnecessarily.

Small-stature species of the Korean fir are also suitable for keeping in pots. Choose an appropriately wide planter so that the flat roots can spread out optimally. For cultivation in pots, a bright location on a large balcony or terrace is an option. As with conventional planting outdoors, the Abies koreana needs a sunny to partially shaded place. To prevent waterlogging, create a drainage made of lava chippings at the bottom of the bucket.

Note: Korean firs in potted plants are also slow-growing and only need to be repotted about every 3 – 4 years.


Abies koreana are only propagated from seeds. This process not only requires a lot of patience, but also some preparation. From mid to late December you can collect the cones of the tree and place them on the windowsill for a few days. Due to the warm temperatures, the seed chambers unfold and you can easily remove the seeds from the fir. To find out which of the seeds are viable, you should do the water test: Place the wingless seeds in a water container overnight and remove those floating on the surface the next day.

Prepare a bowl with a mixture of soil and sand and only lightly cover the seeds with this substrate. In order to break the sprout inhibition, the seeds need a stratification, which is ideally carried out in the field. All you have to do is put the planter with the seeds back in the garden or on the terrace. Special protection from rain or snow is not necessary, but the soil should always be slightly damp. Pour more if necessary.

It may take several months before the first shoots appear. However, if you prefer a special variety or characteristic of the Korean fir, you can also use grafted plants from specialist shops.

To cut

A back or clear cut is not necessary for this slow-growing fir tree. If absolutely necessary, only green shoots may be removed, because damage to old wood is no longer regenerated. The only exception here are Korean firs, which are grown as bonsai. The fresh, green shoots of these plants are trimmed back by 1 centimeter every 4 to 6 weeks between May and October.


The plants from Korea are extremely hardy and temperatures in the double-digit range also do not damage the fir tree. Only wrap potted plants with a special fleece to protect the roots from frost damage.

Pests and diseases

When infected with these pests, the shoots and needles of the fir have a white, woolly coating. Depending on the strength of the insect population, these appear spotted and sporadic at first, but after a very short time all infected parts of the plant are surrounded by a cotton-wool-like coating. A common side effect of mealybugs is sooty mildew, a fungal pathogen that creates a gray-black coating on the pine needles and feeds on the lice’s excretions. Various options are available for successful control:

  • Collect individual animals.
  • Use natural predators such as lacewing and parasitic wasps.
  • Inject a soapy solution regularly.

Specialized retailers have effective insecticides against mealybugs on hand, but only use them as a last resort and strictly according to the instructions for use.

Bark lice
Large conifers often act like a magnet on the damaged insects, which are only a few millimeters in size. Like almost all louse species, these dark-colored animals also feed on the plant’s nutritious cell sap. To get rid of the bark lice, use a brew of nettles or expose the insects to a sharp jet of water every day. Remove severely damaged and infested shoots of the Korean fir to contain the pest population.

Gray mold rot If young shoots accumulate in Korean firs, this could be an indication of the fungal infection “Botrytis cinerea”. In order not to provide a breeding ground for the pathogen of this disease, you should ensure that the substrate is permeable and that the Korean fir is adequately ventilated. Trees in rows that are too narrow are particularly affected by gray mold rot. Cut away withered shoots and resort to a chemical fungicide to contain the disease.


Many different types of Korean fir are available in specialist shops. The best known include, for example:

  • Black Prince – The most noticeable feature of this tree is a dark green needle dress. Its conical growth makes this elite form of the Abis koreana a popular specimen plant.
  • Silver Show – The needles, which are twisted in different ways and strength, create a silvery-dark green coloration of the entire fir tree. The fir has a narrow habit, which makes it suitable for delimiting garden borders. Overall, the plant can reach a height of up to 7 meters.
  • Tundra – An Abis koreana variety that reaches a width of 60 centimeters and a height of about 40 centimeters. Popular conifers for border borders and for keeping pots.
  • Pompom – The name is no coincidence, because this fir tree tends to be spherical. A cut to keep the shape is not necessary.
  • Orange Glow – The golden needles turn orange in the cold season. The growth habit is rather broad than high.
  • Pinocchio – Dwarf fir, which has a hemispherical growth shape. Is suitable for cultivation in pots.

Care tips

Spreading bark mulch
The shredded tree bark not only reduces the growth of undesirable weed species, but also prevents the water from evaporating quickly and thus protects the fir from drying out too quickly. However, only use a layer of bark mulch directly around the Korean fir, because the rotting of the material binds nitrogen in the soil.

Discoloration of the needles
A discoloration of the needle cover indicates various deficiency symptoms. If the needles first turn yellow and finally turn reddish brown, this is a clear sign of a potassium deficiency. If the tips of older needles increasingly yellow, the fir needs a supply of magnesium.

Road salt Do not plant Abis koreana in close proximity to busy roads. The road salt in winter can cause considerable damage to the tree.

The tree with its blue-green needle garment and the cones with their blue-violet coloring are a fascinating eye-catcher in the home garden. The Korean fir is easy to cultivate, and some small species are also suitable for front gardens and planting in pots. Except for the right location and a not too dry root ball, the plant does not make any special demands, and there is no need for complex maintenance.

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