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Home > Plant Care Guide > Species

Fraser's fir (Abies fraseri) Care Guide

The fraser's fir is an evergreen coniferous tree that is recognized by its conical shape, needle-like leaves and pleasant fragrance. It is often used as a Christmas tree in many homes and, due to its hardiness and low level of care, it is perfect for beginners.

Quick Care Guides

  • Does my fraser's fir need fertilizer?
  • What temperature is best for my fraser's fir?
  • Should I prune my fraser's fir?
  • How much and how often should I water my fraser's fir?
  • What kind of soil is needed for my fraser's fir?

Condition Requirement

Water and Hardiness

Native to North and Central America, Europe and Asia, the fraser's fir prefers summer temperatures to be between 18 - 21 ℃. If temperatures rise and stay above 27 ℃ for too long, the tree will suffer. Conversely, if the temperature drops below -20 ℃ for an extended period in the winter, the tree may struggle to survive. The fraser's fir is best suited to mountain regions where it mostly grows in the wild, meaning that it can be a challenging tree to keep healthy in the southern hemisphere, unless it is at a high elevation.

Sunlight

The fraser's fir does well in many different light conditions, from full sun to partial shade, although a minimum of four hours of sunlight a day is preferable. this tree enjoys direct sunlight unless temperatures are too high - this is because the fraser's fir prefers a cooler climate.
Ideally, avoid placing your fraser's fir in full shade because this could affect its rate of growth. Mature trees will cope with full shade a little better, and there are some variants that prefer this environment, but this is usually not recommended for optimal growth.

Soil

The optimum soil for your fraser's fir would be a sand or loam soil that is well-draining, with a pH value of 6-6.5 (so slightly acidic). While the soil should stay moist and not dry out for long periods, try to avoid clay soil - this compacts easily and does not drain well, resulting in your fraser's fir becoming waterlogged.

Care Guide

Planting

Depending on the variety, the fraser's fir can reach up to 100 m in height, with its foliage extending to around 10 m. The trunk can grow to a diameter of 4 m, so it is essential to give your trees enough space when planting - keep them about 20 m apart.
plant your fraser's fir in late fall or winter, once the tree is dormant. Choose a day when the ground is not too waterlogged or frozen and plant in an area that is sheltered from the wind, with fertile, well-draining soil. Dig a hole that is slightly wider than the root ball and just deep enough to cover the roots, before filling the hole with soil and watering generously. If there is a risk of high winds, you may wish to stake your fraser's fir to reduce the risk of the tree getting blown over. Finally, spread a 8 cm thick layer of mulch around the base of the tree, around a 51 cm radius, to promote healthy growth. Leave a small gap of 8 - 13 cm around the trunk to allow for some water to evaporate.
Keep the soil quite moist for the first few weeks after planting to help your fraser's fir become established.

Water

Water more regularly in the summer, as the fraser's fir requires moist soil; this is particularly important in the first two years after planting. Though frequency will depend on your climate, a good rule of thumb is to water twice a week during the summer months. However, allow the top layer of soil to slightly dry out between waterings to ensure that your tree does not become waterlogged. Watering once a week during spring and fall should be sufficient, but be mindful of both your climate and the level of moisture in the soil. Cease watering when it rains and do not water in the winter.

Fertilizer

It is not always necessary to fertilize your fraser's fir - if your soil is rich in nutrients, you won't need to fertilize your tree at all. Otherwise, apply a mulch to your fraser's fir in either the spring or early summer to aid your tree’s growth and help the soil to retain more moisture as the weather gets warmer. You may also choose to sprinkle a granular, slow-acting fertilizer on the soil under the foliage at the beginning of fall. Use sparingly and make sure that it does not come into contact with the trunk or foliage.

Pruning

The fraser's fir is a very low maintenance tree and requires little pruning. Other than for aesthetic purposes, the primary need for pruning is to remove dead, damaged, or diseased branches. The best time to prune is in late winter or early spring, just as the tree comes out of its dormant state - this can encourage new growth.
When pruning, focus on removing branches that are growing at a strange angle and rubbing against other branches, as this friction can become an entry point for disease. this is best done in a period of dry weather, but if this isn't going to be possible for a while, it is best to deal with the problem a little sooner, regardless of the weather. Once you have removed problem branches, burn them instead of placing in a compost bin, as this can spread potential diseases.

Propagation

The easiest and most common way of propagating the fraser's fir is with cuttings, either from softwood or hardwood. Take softwood cuttings in late spring and hardwood cuttings in late fall when the tree has entered dormancy. Though softwood cuttings do tend to root quicker than hardwood (3-4 weeks instead of 4-6 months), they are more tender and will need a lot more monitoring to ensure they do not dry out.

Seasonal Precautions

To help keep the soil of your fraser's fir moist as the weather gets warmer, apply a mulch in the spring to limit evaporation and prevent the soil from drying out too quickly.
In the winter, the biggest concern for your fraser's fir will be strong winds. Ideally, your tree should be located in an area of the garden that is relatively sheltered. If this is not possible, erect a burlap screen to take the brunt of the strong winds. A winter mulch, no more than 10 cm in depth, is also a good idea to protect the roots against extreme temperature fluctuations.

Common Problems

Why is my fraser's fir turning brown?

If your fraser's fir is turning brown or appears to be dying, this is usually down to weather-related stress, most commonly because of drought-like conditions. Water your fraser's fir more often and keep checking on the soil moisture level to ensure that it remains moist.

Why is the bark peeling away from my fraser's fir?

If your fraser's fir is experiencing excessive bark loss, and the wood also looks paler than usual, it’s likely dying. Unfortunately, there is little to be done at this stage but to remove and destroy your tree. If your fraser's fir is mature and of a considerable height, consider hiring a tree removal service - attempting to remove the tree yourself could result in danger to yourself or your property.

Why is my fraser's fir dropping needles?

It is perfectly natural for your fraser's fir to be dropping needles in the fall - this is called “seasonal needle loss” and allows your tree to concentrate on new growth at the tips of its branches come spring. If needles are dropping in the spring or summer, this could be due to a pest called adelgids, which can be treated with certain insecticides.

Pests and Diseases

Canker

If the foliage on your fraser's fir is wilting or turning yellow, and bark is peeling from the trunk to reveal a fungus, it may be suffering from hypoxylon cankers. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease - you will need to have the tree removed and destroyed as soon as possible to prevent the disease from spreading. There is also a risk of falling branches as the disease progresses, so take care when dealing with your tree and consider enlisting the help of a tree removal service.

Other Uncommon Pests or Diseases

Woolly adelgids
The woolly adelgid is a small, flightless insect that attacks the fraser's fir by feeding from fissures in the bark. As it feeds, it releases toxins that can cause water stress, which can eventually kill the tree. Symptoms include needle loss and crown dieback. The best treatments include an insecticide bark drench applied between spring and fall, or the use of an insecticidal soap or oil.
Moreover, there are some less-common pests and diseases listed below that need your attention:
  • Root rot
  • Aphids
  • Weevils
  • Spruce beetles
Fraser's fir (Abies fraseri) Fraser's fir (Abies fraseri)

Scientific Classification

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