Abies covers a genus of approximately 50 species of evergreen conifer belonging to the Pinaceae family. The common name for this species is ‘fir’, taken from the Old Norse word ‘fyri’ or the Old Danish word ‘fyr’. The Abies species can be found to dominate in the mountainous areas of Europe, North America, North Africa, and Asia.
Firs usually have pyramidal shaped or horizontal branches with mid to dark green flattened needle like leaves. The lower branches of fir trees usually droop downward in the direction of the ground. In the wild, this species can grow for up to 40 to 60 feet tall. Abies (fir) trees are full hardy trees that prefer to be in areas that have slight shade.
The foliage of firs is blue gray in color, giving it close resemblance with spruce trees. While cones of fir trees are usually erect, the cones of spruce trees can be seen to hang in a downward direction. These upright cones disintegrate once the tree reaches a stage of maturity. The needle like leaves of Abies (fir) trees attach to tree branches with a suction cup like appearance of the base.
There are several species of Abies (fir) trees. The identification of each will depend on several factors, such as:
· The arrangement and size of the leaves
· The shape and size of the cones
· Appearance of the bract scales on cones (whether long & exerted or hidden & short)
When it comes to bonsai, Abies (fir) bonsai are not the best choice to consider. The Abies species isn’t typically suitable for bonsai purposes. If a consideration must be made however, it must be noted that this type of bonsai should only be undertaken by advanced bonsai enthusiasts. Only those with sufficient experience can handle the requirements of this species.
This guide is an attempt to acquaint the advanced bonsai enthusiasts about Abies (Fir) Bonsai Tree care.
How long does it take to grow Abies (fir) Bonsai?
With Abies (fir) bonsai, you can expect the growth period to be approximately 10 years. This is the amount of time it will take for the seed to grow into a size that will be ready to cut. You will know the tree has been growing for a longer period of time if it is generally a taller tree. The specific amount of time Abies (fir) bonsai will need to grow will depend on the specific species of Abies you’re planting.
Before getting into the specifics of how you can plant, grow, and care for your Abies (fir) bonsai. We’ve put together the basics with regard to the best conditions and requirements for Abies (fir) bonsai tree care.
Position and lighting
Abies (fir) bonsai must be positioned in slightly shaded or sheltered regions away from the cold, dry winds as well as midday sun in the summer.
Abies (fir) bonsai show a preference for cold climates of mountainous areas of Europe, North America, North Africa, and Asia. They are typically hardy when grown in USDA growing zones between 3 and 7. While this is the preferred temperature for the species, many Abies (fir) species that are used for bonsai can typically tolerate heat.
Slightly acidic soil (whether clay, loam, or sand) with an acidic or neutral pH is ideal for the Abies (fir) species of bonsai. The soil should be moist but also well drained.
Slightly dry conditions are ideal for the Abies (fir) species of bonsai. Under watering the species isn’t as big of a concern for the species as over watering poses to be.
Feeding is essential to make sure your Abies (fir) species of bonsai can grow. Feeding must typically be done when new foliage appears and be carried on till autumn. Spring and autumn are ideal feeding times for bonsai. Because slightly acidic soil is preferred by firs, you can add a dose of Miracid to the soil occasionally.
Bonsai can grow in a variety of styles. There are medium and large sized bonsai trees. You may grow the Abies (fir) species of bonsai in multiple trunk styles or even as group plantings. Other bonsai styles include the upright, cascade, slanting, and literati style.
How to Plant and Grow Abies (fir) Bonsai?
You want to know how to plant and grow Abies (fir) bonsai. That’s great! But first, you need to know about the commonly available Abies species and those usually recommended for bonsai.
Abies alba/silver fir – these have cylindrical cones and dark green needles. Needles measure 1.5 cm to 3.5 cm in length and can last for 8 – 12 years if they are left unplucked.
Abies koreana/Korean fir – these have dark green needles that are 1 – 2 cm in length. The underneath portion of the needles are chalky white in color.
Abies koreana ’Compact Dwarf’ – this is the dwarf variety of Korean fir.
Abies lasiocarpa/Alpine fir – has gray green needles which are 1.5 to 3.5 cm long.
Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica/Corkbark fir – this has silvery gray leaves which measure 2.5 to 3.5 cm in length.
Abies lasiocarpa arizonica ‘Compacta’ – this is the dwarf variety of cork fir with silvery blue gray needles.
Abies concolor – this fir is capable of withstanding more heat and drought than other fir species.
Abies firma – this Japanese fir has needles measuring one and a half inches and is one of the most heat tolerant species of fir.
Abies homolepis – this has dark green needles that are an inch long.
Abies lasiocarpa – this has grayish green needles that measure one and a half inches in length.
Once you know about the popular Abies (fir) bonsai species, it’s time to get into the specifics of how you can actually plant and grow them. The first thing to keep in mind is that you should plant your out pot specimens during spring.
Propagation of Abies (fir) bonsai species can be done with the help of seeds, cuttings, or layering (both layering air and ground layering). While these methods of propagation may be used for other species, they cannot be used for the dwarf Korean fir (Abies koreana ’Compact Dwarf’). Grafting must be used for this as the species does not produce cones.
Pruning and wiring
It is important that all new shoots of the species be pinched back during the growth period. The best time to do the wiring of fir is spring. The many bonsai styles of fir are easily possible due to the versatile nature of this species that allows for such training.
The pruning of this species is similar to that of the Picea species. You should cut back the fresh growth so that a compact second flush of growth may be produced. Back budding is necessary from the base of old needles.
Firs aren’t designed for pot culture so they need to be acclimated to it. It’s important that they are planted in oversized pots first and only then introduced into smaller pots over a gradual period of time. Transplantation should happen every two years, during the spring or autumn season.
Spring repotting is usually to be done when buds appear while for young trees, it is done in autumn. For repotting, you must ensure you use a tiny volume of organic material to inorganic soil mixes. Slightly acidic soil will provide the ideal growth environment for firs. You must also make it a point to check that the soil being used is a fast draining type of soil.
How to Care for Your Abies (fir) Bonsai?
Cool, moist climates are ideal growth environments for firs. This typically puts them in the USDA growing zones of 3 to 8. The right time to plant an Abies (fir) bonsai out pot is in spring. Slightly acidic soil (whether clay, loam, or sand) with an acidic or neutral pH is ideal for the Abies (fir) species of bonsai. The soil should be moist but also well drained.
Abies (fir) bonsai must be positioned in slightly shaded or sheltered regions away from the cold, dry winds as well as midday sun in the summer. Slightly dry conditions are ideal for the Abies (fir) species of bonsai so make sure you don’t go overboard with the watering of this bonsai. Feeding must typically be done when new foliage appears and be carried on till autumn. Spring and autumn are ideal feeding times for bonsai. Transplantation should happen every two years, during the spring or autumn season.
Pests and diseases
While there aren’t many serious pests and diseases you need to worry about, maintaining tree health will help to avoid any pest infestations and prevent disease development. The use of appropriate pesticides and fertilizers are often all that is needed to keep pests and diseases away. In case of any infestations or infections, it is also important that you cut off the twigs of concern immediately. You should also prevent plant injury that could result in certain diseases. Make sure you stay on top of your watering duties especially during the dry weather as this can help to maintain tree health.