Korean firs need very little if any pruning

December 20, 2017

Korea is a happy place. Even the houses are happy in South Korea; the ends of house roofs are curved so the houses smile.

One thing to smile about is Grandfather Santa (Santa Claus) who dresses in blue, not red.

Even Korean pine cones are blue. At least some pine cones are blue, those of the Korean Fir (Abies koreana). The three-inch-long cones are an iridescent deep blue, and they grow upright like candles on the branches. It is often available potted and makes an ideal living Christmas tree. Because it is a slow-growing tree, you can keep it potted as a year-round large houseplant.

The Korean fir is not just interesting because of the blue pine cones, but the undersides of the needles are silver grey for a pleasant contrast.

Native to South Korea's mountains, this is a hardy, easy-to-grow plant. It is quite tolerant to heat.

For best results grow Korean fir in full sun to partial shade. As with all potted plants choose a soil that drains well. They don't like "wet feet" which can cause root rot. Mix in organic material such as peat moss and compost to the potting soil.

Because it is naturally slow-growing and forms a nice symmetrical pyramid shape on its own, Korean firs need very little if any pruning. Limit pruning to cutting away dead or diseased branches. The deep blue cones begin to appear when the tree is still quite young, often only a few feet tall.

If you plant it outdoors it will slowly grow up to 30 feet tall and perhaps 15 feet wide. It is hardy outdoors in USDA Zones 5 to 8 so will do well throughout most of the United States.

If you do decide to fertilize Korean fir, use an organic fertilizer that will not burn the tree roots.

If you use a liquid plant food, use it at half strength to avoid any chemical burns to the root system. Fertilize in early spring when growth is strongest.

Korean fir trees are often available at local nurseries and garden centers or by mail order. Because many plants go by the same common name, always specify the Latin or botanical name for Korean fir - Abies koreana.

You may even find seeds available online. If the seeds are fresh, store them in the refrigerator until you can plant them. It is easy to plant the seeds directly outdoors in fall. The natural winter chill will stratify the seeds to break their dormancy.

Indoors you can stratify seeds by potting them in sterile soil-less potting mixture or pure sand. Let them chill for at least six weeks in the refrigerator, checking often to see if they have germinated. Once the seeds sprout, move the plants to individual pots. After a year in their original growing pots, you can transplant the fir trees into larger pots or directly outdoors.

So for something fun and different choose a Korean fir as a large indoor plant or a stunning outdoor tree. The blue pine cones will please blue-suited Grandfather Santa.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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