Best grown in rich, medium moisture, slightly acidic, sandy/gravelly, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best in full sun. Established trees tolerate some soil dryness, but best performance usually comes with moist soils. Trees generally grow poorly in heavy clay soils. This tree thrives in areas with long winters followed by cool summer climates, and it usually does not grow well in the heat and humidity south of USDA Zone 7. It is, however, considered to be the best of the firs for tolerating the growing conditions of the Midwest.
White fir is primarily native to mountain slopes (3000-9000 feet in elevation) in the western U. S., including the southern Cascades and Sierras from Oregon to southern California and the Rockies from southern Idaho to Arizona and New Mexico. In the wild, it typically grows to 80-130’ tall, but on residential landscapes in the Midwest will more typically grow to 40-70’ tall with a spread to 20-30’. This is a narrow conical conifer with a straight trunk, spire-like crown and branching to the base. Upper branches tend to grow upward, but the lower branches tend to recline. With age, crowns flatten and lower branching begins to disappear. Soft, flattened, pale blue-green needles (to 2 1/2” long) have uniform coloration on both surfaces (specific epithet is in reference to this). Slightly barrel-shaped cones (to 3-6” long) are most often yellowish-green, maturing to brown or purple. As is distinctive with the firs, the cones appear upright on the branches. Trees may not produce cones and seeds for up to the first 40 years. Bark is ash-gray and smooth, but will furrow with age. This tree is sometimes commonly called concolor fir.
No serious insect or disease problems. Insect pests include balsam woolly adelgid, bark beetles, spruce budworms, aphids, bagworms and scale. Spider mites may occur in hot conditions. Disease problems include root rot, needle rust and twig blight. Trees are generally intolerant of urban pollution. Broken branches often become sites for fungal infections. Strong winds may damage taller trees.
Large specimen fir for the landscape.