This unusually huge Korean fir grows at Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum in Cincinnati where it is the Ohio State champion for this species!
A young Korean fir exhibits the species' neatly conical form.
This is a smallish, pyramid shaped conifer that usually gets only about 30 ft (10 m) tall with its greatest spread near the bottom about 20 ft (6 m) across. (In the wild, Korean fir can sometimes get up to 60 ft (18 m) tall.) The main trunk is not divided and the horizontal branches are whorled about it. The shiny dark green flattened needles are silvery beneath and a little less than an inch (2.5 cm) long. The needles are densely packed and arranged like a bottle brush but mainly on the top sides of the shoots. The cones are attractive: 2-3 in (5-8 cm) long, cylindrical, carried erect on the branches, and violet-blue in color. After the cones open to release their seeds in late autumn, the central stalk of the cone remains on the branch for several more weeks. Korean fir often begins producing cones at a young age when only around 3-6 ft (1-2 m) in height. The cultivar ‘Silberlocke’ has twisted needles that reveal their silvery undersides. ‘Prostrata’ is a spreading, low growing ground hugger. ‘Blauer Pfiff’ has blue-green foliage, and ‘Aurea’ has yellow needles and a spreading, less symmetrical shape.
Location Abies koreana has a very small natural range in southern South Korea where it grows on cool, moist mountainsides.
Culture Light: This little evergreen is tolerant of light shade but does best in full sun. Moisture: Korean fir, like others in the genus, likes a humid atmosphere and a slightly acidic soil that is moist but still well drained. They don’t do well in soils that dry out rapidly, and they benefit from the naturally humid conditions of a north facing slope or a nearby forest. Avoid exposure to drying winds. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 6. Possibly hardy also in 7A, but know that Korean fir thrives only where the summers are cool. Propagation: Seed may be sown in late winter in a cold frame. Cultivars are grafted onto seedlings. Some people have success propagating firs from cuttings.
Korean fir foliage
The little Korean fir with its clean, symmetrical form makes a fine specimen tree for smaller landscapes. These pretty evergreens are slow growers. Planted in a row, their dense foliage makes firs ideal for screening. Korean fir does not do well in cities where the air is polluted.
Many of the forty or so fir species (see for example, Nordmann fir, Abies nordmanniana) are large and stately forest giants. The Korean fir, on the other hand, is valued for its small, symmetrical and compact shape, and its early development of attractive cones. We could call it a Gangnam Style of fir.