Sequoia: Growing And Care As A Tree Or Bonsai

Sequoia: Growing And Care As A Tree Or Bonsai

Sequoia trees are the record holders among trees in three directions at once – the tallest, the thickest and the oldest tree. No wonder tree lovers virtually worship the sequoia, no wonder there are gardeners who dream of planting a sequoia or even shaping it as a bonsai. If you are one of them, the following article will tell you a few things about growing and caring for the sequoia as a tree and as a bonsai.

Which sequoia should it be?

So, you would first need to decide on a type of redwood. These three sequoias exist:

  • The Coast Redwood Sequoia sempervirens is the redwood that can compete as the record holder when it comes to the tallest trees in the world. The most famous of these “California Redwoods” or “Coast Redwoods” stands in Redwood National Park in California and is called Hyperion. At 115.55 meters, it is currently the tallest tree in the world.
  • The redwood or giant sequoia is botanically called Sequoiadendron giganteum. It competes with a Mexican bald cypress for the title of “thickest or most voluminous tree in the world”. The title contenders: a Mexican bald cypress in Santa María del Tule (Oaxaca, Mexico, the trunk diameter was measured at 11.42 and 14.05 meters) and the General Sherman Tree (Sequoia National Park, California, USA, trunk diameter 11.1 meters).
  • The giant sequoia Metasequoia glyptostroboides, on the other hand, remains a real pipsqueak with final heights of around 40 meters. But it can boast a truly astonishing age. It is about 70 million years old, 5 million years older than the dinosaurs. He was also already extinct, but only almost. A “living fossil” survived in a hidden mountain region in China, was discovered in 1941 and has since spread from there back into the world. It is already present in many places as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens.
Sequoia: Growing And Care As A Tree Or Bonsai

A little help in making a choice

Amazing sequoias are bound to be. However, there are arguments why you should put a sequoia in your garden only after careful consideration. Which variety, should be equally well considered, here are some key points about it:

Coastal redwoods

Sequoia sempervirens are evergreen, their needles look a bit like yew needles. However, you wouldn’t see these needles for very long if you put a coast redwood in your garden: It grows up to 2 feet per year, with the foliage at the top. In return, the rest of your property would become increasingly bare as the coast redwood takes over large areas with its shallow roots. So a European garden of average size it will surely root through completely. Other plants will then be difficult to bring in.


Sequoiadendron giganteum also remain green all year round. Their needles are slightly finer than those of coastal redwoods. Mountain redwoods pretty much look like a Christmas tree when they are young. If you were to plant a redwood in an open wooded area, you would probably have to expect it to become a Christmas tree.

In the garden, a very different danger looms: redwoods are inherently shallow-rooted trees. However, in trees growing in our latitudes, taproots have already been dug out that went down to a depth of almost 2 meters. These roots were dug out because a sequoia, like any tree, seeks water, even where a sewer passes through. However, the redwood’s roots can travel amazing distances and develop amazing strength in this search. Your redwood would not be the first redwood to cause sewer rehabilitation.

Sequoia: Growing And Care As A Tree Or Bonsai

Ancient Sequoia

The Metasequoia glyptostroboides sheds its needles in the fall, but is certainly the most attractive redwood in its summer dress. Primitive redwoods are said to be very good carbon sinks. They absorb a lot of carbon dioxide from the air during growth and store it in their biomass. For this reason, there are said to be initial attempts to use giant sequoias in our forests.

The primeval sequoia is also the sequoia that is said to cope best with the climate in Europe. Although the climate in its Chinese homeland is a little milder than ours, it is said to grow no worse in Europe than in Sechuan. Young virgin sequoias can be planted in the garden in the first year, unlike mountain and coastal sequoias. Only the first wintering should be done with some winter protection. From the second year on, the primeval sequoias should then be able to withstand temperatures of up to minus 30 degrees.

By the way, for all redwoods, before planting them in the garden, you should take a very close look at the local tree protection law. This is because the regulations are sometimes worded in such a way as to specify what may be cut down, every other tree is then actually protected – even if it has now reached proportions that unfortunately bathe your cottage in shade all day…

Stratification of the seeds of the coast redwood tree.

If you want to grow a small coast redwood, you must first stratify the seeds. Coast redwood seeds are quite dark, not as flat as other redwood seeds, and they look a bit unformed and uneven.

Stratifying is simulating a cold season because seeds in nature are supposed to germinate in the spring precisely, and the cold season before that gives them the starting signal. In the season in which the seeds matured, they were given a germination inhibition, so that they do not germinate immediately in the fall, the winter would hardly survive a seedling. This inhibition to germination is broken down by the winter cold, and in the spring the seeds are ready. The cold season pretends with the gardener the refrigerator, in which the move to stratify, depending on the seed for different lengths of time. In the case of the coast redwood is recommended for 5-7 days, the refrigerator should be set at 5 degrees.

In case of doubt (if the first seeds of the batch have not germinated, for example), it is recommended to stratify the next seeds longer, the specified stratification times may differ from source to source. Perhaps the safest bet is to try to mimic the winter in the tree’s native habitat in terms of duration and temperature?

Coast redwood seeds do not need to be soaked after stratification, they go straight into the soil.

Stratification of the seeds of the sequoia.

Seeds of the redwood are light to medium brown in color and somewhat resemble coffee beans. In the case of the redwood, the recommended stratification temperature is also 5 degrees, and data on the duration are many, from three days to two months. It is reported on the Internet that with a stratification period of two weeks, half of the seeds can be made to germinate, which is a huge germination rate for sequoia seeds. The redwood seeds should be soaked in room temperature water after stratification is complete, again it is not known exactly how long, between 12 and 24 hours.

Stratification of the seeds of the primeval redwood tree
Seeds of the sequoia look similar to those of the redwood, perhaps slightly lighter, and a little flatter.

The primeval sequoia seeds are stratified at the same temperature as the other two, with 5 to 10 days recommended as the stratification period. Then the seeds should be soaked in lukewarm water for 12 hours.

The cultivation of the redwoods

Once the seeds have undergone stratification and possibly soaking, they may be placed in the growing medium. Which growing soil is recommended is also quite controversial, here are the variants:

  • One part each garden soil, humus and sand
  • pure coco soil
  • coco soil with crushed eggshells

Coco soil with wood ash, could be logical because coast redwood and mountain redwood germinate in the wild after forest fires.
The seeds are spread on the growing soil and loosely covered with soil, redwoods are light germinators. The soil should be kept moist throughout, but not wet. This works well if you use an indoor greenhouse, or cover the growing pots with glass or foil. However, you should then ventilate regularly, otherwise mold could quickly form.

The germination period for the coast redwood and the mountain redwood should be between 2 to 5 weeks, and one to three weeks for the primeval redwood.

Further growing of the sequoias

When you have managed to grow stable seedlings from the seeds, you need to prick them, that is, to separate them. It is recommended not to prick too early, no earlier than five weeks after germination.

Redwoods should be planted in a nutrient-rich soil that is kept well moist, and the seedlings must be watered regularly.

In the summer, the small redwoods are welcome to go outside in a sheltered spot where they won’t get direct midday sun. This is said to work even better than growing them indoors, where the saplings often get moldy or bend over. Especially with the young plants, it should even be quite important that they are anything but pampered. You can quietly expose them to the wind and weather a little, the stronger saplings will grow.

Further rearing should be done in a sheltered location in partial shade, without waterlogging and initially with wintering indoors. There sequoia should not be placed near the heater, there the air would be too dry for him.

Coast redwoods and mountain redwoods can be planted outdoors from the third year. Primeval redwoods already after their first wintering. In grim cold, young trees should get some protection of the root system. The best time for redwoods to move into the garden is in September and October. In the garden, redwoods want to enjoy a location with full sun.

The care of the sequoia

Once something truly worthy of the name tree has developed, care is no longer complicated:

  • If the sequoia is exposed to blazing sun, it must be well watered.
  • Especially in the summer months, you really need to make sure that the roots do not dry out.
  • In its first years of life, the redwood gets some fertilizer every spring.
  • When the sequoia grows taller, it is pruned regularly for thinning.

The tree as a bonsai

Sequoia: Growing And Care As A Tree Or Bonsai

Because not very many gardeners in our country have a plot large enough for a sequoia, and hardly any gardeners have their own forest, sequoias are often cultivated as bonsais.

It seems somewhat senseless to want to turn the thickest and the tallest tree in the world into a bonsai, of all things. However, in the case of the sequoia, growth-reducing pruning is said to work quite well. Seeds from the coast redwood are also offered for growing up as bonsai. How easily these can be persuaded by constant pruning not to grow 100 meters high is another question. Most common, of course, is the bonsai from the primeval sequoia.

The bonsai redwoods are pruned and wired as usual for bonsais. In the spring and summer, you can also simply pinch off too many young shoots. It is said that Japanese gardeners imitate wind by stroking the young plants, which are supposed to respond by stunted growth to avoid being snapped off by the wind. In the case of the redwood, dead wood is best removed during the winter months because it is bare then.

Redwood bonsais do well by a window in partial shade. They want sun, but not too much heat. All redwoods are naturally very fast growing bonsais that need quite a bit of nutrients. That’s why you should fertilize them every three weeks during the first growth phase. The soil should also be kept well moist at all times for redwood bonsais, they also do not like the dry air above the heater. From the third year, the sequoia bonsai can also be kept in the garden. It spends the winter protected in a cool, bright room, it continues to be watered.


Redwoods are absolutely fascinating, as a tree and as a bonsai, but not necessarily easy to grow. However, if you have the patience, you will eventually be dealing with thoroughly low-maintenance trees that you can proudly report to the rather large European redwood community.

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