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Abies alba Growing Guide

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing European Silver Fir

Abies alba is a beast of a tree that is capable of growing up to 200 feet (60 m) in height.

It is native to the mountainous areas of Europe, especially the Alps, Pyrenees, and in Central to Eastern Europe.

It is best known as being the original Christmas tree, though nowadays the more attractive Nordman Fir ( Abies nordmanniana ) is the more frequently used.

Abies alba

Abies alba 'Pendula' photograph by F. D. Richards.

As a tall dense tree, it is no surprise that it has a large diameter trunk – for a conifer – of about 4 to 5 feet (1.5 m).

Abies alba has needle-like leaves that have a notched tip and are about one inch (2.5 cm) long.

Pollen cones can be blue, red, or violet and are ½ to 1 1/3 inches (1 to 3 cm) long.

Cylindrical seed cones to 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in length. These carry obovoid winged seeds

European silver fir

Abies alba - Abeto Blanco photograph by Ramón Miguel Roldán Quintana.

It naturally grows alongside beech trees and firs, but when grown in a plantation as a single species the tree will take on a traditional triangular shape, and it has a strong pleasant smell; making it a great Christmas tree.

Growing Abies alba Video

Abies alba Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Abies alba
  • Common Name: European silver fir, Christmas Tree
  • Growing Zone: USA: 5 to 8, Very Hardy in the UK to zone H7 (Colder than -20°C).
  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Monoecious Evergreen Tree

Plant Details

  • Plant Height : around 180 feet (55 m), pyramidal crown
  • Plant Spread: 12 to 20 (3.5 to 6 m)
  • Leaf Foliage: Dark Green, Shiny, Needles
  • Fruit:
  • Growth Form: Columnar, triangular

Ideal Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: Full shade to full sunlight
  • Rate of Growth: Grows slowly when young, one meter per year from about age six.
  • Suitable Soil Types: pH should be slightly acidic (pH5) for best results; tolerates a neutral pH. Loamy, Sandy (but not infertile), or heavy soils.
  • Soil Moisture: Moist soils for best results. Well drained.

Abies alba Care Conditions

  • Propagation: Seeds (outbreeded are more viable). Sow towards the end of winter indoors or out. Germination takes up to two months. Alternatively sow fresh seed under a cold frame in autumn. Prick seedlings out into seperate pots. Transplant to final location when 1 to 3 feet (30 to 90 cm) tall. Plants can also be regenrated from their stumps.
  • Pests and diseases: Aphis, dieback, rust.

Further Information

  • Best Garden Use: Underplanting, Screen, Specimen.
  • Miscellaneous: Non-native to North America but grown in mass in plantations. Does not bloom. Used for timber. Named after the Latin for 'rising one' in reference to the tallships of old. Produces a resin known as 'Strasburg Turpentine' that is used in perfumes, and an oil known as Rosin oil that is used for varnish and lacquer.
  • Further Reading and References: Plants for a future guide to Silver Fir and Abies alba on the Gymnosperm databas
  • Genus Detail: Abies
  • Family Detail: Pinaceae (Pine)
  • Closely related species: Abies koreana; Compact white fir; Caucasian fir



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