beloved conifer: the concolor fir

concolor-fir.jpgI GENERALLY DON’T LIKE MY CONIFERS SHORN or buy them very big (too uptight for me, and too expensive). But when I met this concolor fir (above) one Christmas at the local nursery, where it was on display at the entry to their holiday shop, I knew we were meant for each other…despite those very issues. Abies concolor ‘Candicans’ is the third in a series on beloved conifers.

I have two other Abies concolor here (I know, there’s evidence of my former “everything in threes” insanity again), the other two grown naturally, unshorn, and therefore quite different-looking. I won’t tell you what I paid for the big guy, all thick and a perfect pyramid and already near 10 feet tall when he came to me to live on my hillside of a backyard, among the crabapples and a giant island of ornamental grasses. The others were scrawny little things, maybe 3 feet high, though each is more than 15 tall now.

The white, or concolor fir, a Western American native species ranging from Colorado to Southern California, New Mexico and into Mexico, can grow to 100 feet in the wild, apparently, but in a garden setting you are more likely to see it get to 30 or maybe 50 feet in time, and half as wide.

concolor-fir-detailIts long needles, which are particularly silvery-blue in the cultivar ‘Candicans,’ curve outward and up. Unlike the Colorado blue spruce, Picea pungens glauca, the fir’s foliage is soft to the touch, far less stiff. It is also far less trouble-prone than the Colorado blue spruce, which if you’ve encountered with a case of spruce gall or spider mites or the canker that can affect lower branches, you will know how disfiguring these issues can be. Stated simply: If you want a big blue pyramidal conifer in Zones 4-7 this fir is it (just not in heavy clay, which it apparently will not tolerate).

I have to confess that though it’s a conifer, I haven’t made much notice of the concolor’s cones. They’re said to be up to 6 inches by an inch and a half, so I don’t know how I could have missed them, unless it was because I have a flashier-coned cousin of it, the Korean fir, Abies koreana, growing right nearby.

  1. Susan Cohan says:

    This is my favorite conifer. I plant them for clients whenever I can find good ones. The good ones are snapped up quickly in my local wholesale nurseries. They are a tree worth having and spending on. Oh what a lovely blue.

  2. John Willis says:

    We used a Concolor for a Christmas tree last year and gave it a lovely planting afterwards (the weather was good) and although it appeared to come through the winter ok, it never grew and by droughty midsummer it was clearly dead. Too bad, it was a pretty tree.

  3. Megan says:

    This is such a beautiful tree. I’m really loving your beloved conifers posts, it’s timely for me, since I’ve lost a couple trees and have some room for new stuff, and I’ve been looking for conifers to fill the void.

    1. margaret says:

      @Susan: Shop early and often. :)

      @John: I have killed many a “live” Christmas tree. Can be tricky and stressful, especially as you say followed by drought.

      @Megan: I have many more coming…now I want to hurry to give you lots of choices. :)

      @Kathy: Citrus? So out I went after reading that, though the snow and ice, to see (smell). Maybe pine with a touch of tangerine or orange peel?

  4. chris says:

    i have a lot of conifers on my property, courtesy of someone who owned my property about 4-6 decades ago and said, why don’t i do something right, whether or not i live to see it…my eyes (and nose) to his(/her?) eternal grace. a prayer every time i walk outside!

  5. Tammy says:

    I am loving this series as well, even though the conifers in your area are quite different from the conifers in my beloved east texas piney woods (if you google this there is a great wikipedia page about them).
    Would love to have one of these beautiful blue babies but I think we are just a little too warm.(zone 8). Thanks for sharing.

  6. wholesale christmas trees says:

    This is a beautiful conifer that clearly announces the coming of christmas with its long needles and beautiful blue color. In my town it is very difficult to find a tree such as this one, but when one is available it is bought very quickly. You got lucky finding one of these size and color, and looks especially healthy. And like another commenter above, the hardest part of owning one of these magnificent trees is the after christmas survival and trying to plant it and last until the next year.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome to the Wholesale Christmas Farm. The farm near me always has a few really good one like this, balled and burlapped, to decorate their nursery. They mulch them in their nursery heavily to carry them over the winter, then plant for the customers the next spring. Nice to hear from you, and do come by again.

  7. Mark Rohlfs says:

    As a professional Christmas tree grower here in Oregon, I must say that I find the Concolor to be a magnificent tree. But when I took a handful of them to our Christams tree lot in Los Angeles last year, they were so different from what people there have seen in the past, that they just didn’t sell at all. People really do come to like best the trees that they are familiar with. On the West coast, that means Noble, douglas and Grand Fir.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Mark. I agree; it’s a hard sell for the holidays indoors. A nursery here sells a good number, but he is a real specialty and high-end place. Elsewhere you don’t see them so much as a Christmas tree. See you soon again, I hope.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Sue. They are pretty widely grown by wholesale nurseries, which supply garden centers, so start by asking the best retail nursery in your local area that has a good selection of trees and shrubs, or a local tree farm. Any good local nursery should either stock them or have access to them if requested. Beautiful trees.

  8. wkeithscott says:

    Hello: For, an few years I’ve noticed an ‘disease migration’, from neighbours giant blue spruce [5] trees with assortment of orange tip end called ‘gals’, and abundant dead brown branch’s slowly migrating [somehow] to numerous other nearby similar trees.
    Now oddly, I have adjacent 3 mature fir trees, 2 douglasf/spruce, and an mature Colorado Blue spruce. These galls appear now, and I cut them off, discared each one, dozens, ..called id’ Cooley Spruce Gall Adelgids, There is also an fairly similar, Eastern Spruce Gall Adelphids, my origin the forme, [both have 6-7stage life cycles] appear to in cycle become nymphs, and flow back and forth between these, [my] tri-mature trees.
    I fertilize these trees, there is good growth, and bath’d them, supervised, hopefully effective insecticide recently, [type not mentioned herein] I suspect the origin as mentioned, then my [Blue] and now my fir/spruce infection continues unabatted, worsening, with dead brown, falling min-set, trunk needles, [severe] this year especially.
    Quite worried, any suggestions, do these [beloved] Christmas Tree growers, experience this disease, [seems not well known or prevalent] but in urban areas of Toronto, mainly noticed in travels, of the Blue Spruce origin, and this personal history.
    Not, one neighbour of 6-7 observe these things, at least motivated to do spray of infected trees, or removal of most severe trees, in decline.
    Any practical experience by readers, here or recommendations would be appreciated.

  9. Angela says:

    I love these trees too, not that common in these parts (Ontario, Canada zone 5), I grabbed a scrawny looking one that was all I was able to find locally which was about 3.5 feet tall and hoping it will develop over time

  10. Dan C says:

    Hi Margaret,

    I keep coming back to this post over and over, continually researching this tree and tempted to add one to our yard. Online, it gets mixed reviews on deer resistance. We have a pretty heavy deer population and no deer fencing. Any observations in your experience? Thank you.

  11. tony klonius says:

    i planted this tree 10 yrs ago for Christmas trees. every critter in my area of the pacific northwest eats them. they are beautiful trees and people can”t wait to have one . will grow more

  12. PaulS says:

    I have a nice collection (5 – currently about 10 feet tall each) of these Concolor (located in north eastern Ohio) and I want to reinforce the tips given. They are beautiful especially in a late damp spring with all the feathery new growth. Unfortunately a few years ago I lost two in the same spot due to standing water and heavy clay soil. The third replacement was another 7 footer but this time we planted it on top of large gravel first placed in the hole and up about two feet above ground level and it is absolutely thriving in the same area the others died. They also are sensitive to irrigation spray specifically rotors that may be hitting their lower branches and these areas will die rather quickly but not impacting the rest of the tree. The dead section from the irrigation does not return quickly or at all. irrigation spray in the same manner hitting my Blue spruce and Norway Spruce trees does not have any affect and the trees are not bothered at all. The tree loves water just not standing water. Actually after a rain or if you water the branches you will see them appear open up even more to grab moisture as they are flexible and soft at all times. They grow a quite a bit slower then Blue and a lot slower than Norway Spruce. They are not real common so they make a statement and add to the texture variations in your landscape.

  13. mindy arbo says:

    when i originally got this fantastic tree, i spent AGES on google trying to find photos of its FAAAANTASTIC [spring] pink cones, but i found none! we have ours growing on a hillock right next to a picture window in full sun. z.5-6. In the spring we have the concolor cones and foliage to cherish, with its neighbor, a very red japanese maple. one of my very fav. garden views!

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