Climate warming is significantly affecting the composition and function of forest ecosystems. However, the forest responses to climate change in sub-humid and temperate areas are understudied compared with cold and semi-arid areas. Here, we investigate the radial-growth responses of two subalpine conifer species along an elevational gradient located in the Qinling Mountains, a sub-humid and temperate area situated in central China. Three sites dominated by larch (Larix chinensis Beissn.) and two other sites dominated by fir (Abies fargesii Franch.) located at different elevations were sampled. L. chinensis at a higher elevation showed more common and stronger climatic signals than A. fargesii at a lower elevation. The radial growth of L. chinensis was limited by low pre-growing season temperatures and showed an increasing growth trend in the last few years. On the other hand, A. fargesii growth was limited by summer water shortage and it was characterized by a declining trend in the most recent decade. Consequently, L. chinensis would benefit from climate warming, whereas A. fargesii could be regarded as a vulnerable tree species to warming-induced drought stress.