redwoodcones
This site refers to the three types of Redwood by the names commonly used in the U.K:
Giant Redwood Giant Redwood / Giant Sequoia / Wellingtonia Sequoiadendron giganteum
Coast Redwood Coast Redwood / Redwood Sequoia sempervirens
Dawn Redwood Dawn Redwood Metasequoia glyptostroboides
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Questions and Answers
You will also find questions and answers among the stories on the Tall Tales page
How far away from the nearest building must they be planted ?
At what rate do they grow ?
Does the soil need to be of a certain mixture ?
Do they need any particular care once they have been planted (i.e. stakes) ?
Can they be planted together and if so, how far apart ?
Are they poisonous to horses ?
What is the best looking of the three Redwoods ?
Is there anything else we should know about them ?
Is there is a method of controlling the growth rate of a Dawn Redwood without damaging the tree or its appeal ?
I notice that you prefer the younger variety
Do you know where I could purchase Redwood seedlings/saplings off the internet ?
What type of Redwood are these trees?
How far north have they been tried?
Do they grow well in the North of England or is it too cold for them?
A friend of mine has very kindly sent me a little redwood, The problem is how do I look after it ?
Our large tree has a lot of dead needles and brown in patches.
In the last couple of months we have seen some of the sequoias turning brown, considerably. Have we overwatered them?
I have germinated several Coast Redwood and Wellingtonias. They have been growing for about 2 months in a back bedroom. I am wondering how to introduce them to the outdoors.
Why in spite of being widely planted in the UK, does the giant Sequoia (Sequoiodendron giganteum) not naturalise and spread ?
What is the right food for my potted Redwood ?
What is causing weak, brown dying foliage on my Giant Redwood ?


Q How far away from the nearest building must they be planted ? top
 A I suppose ideally at least 50 feet away, but you can find lots of conflicting opinions on this. Planting a tree that will grow large, in clay soil next to a building, or even removing an existing one can cause the clay to shrink or heave as the available water changes. On the other hand, if you look at various pictures (example) on this website you will see some pretty close trees and buildings. It would always be better to check with a surveyor, but they will be bound to play it really safe and give a big margin. One thing worth bearing in mind, though, is that they are very sturdy trees, and they very rarely get blown down.
Q At what rate do they grow ? top
A Giant Redwood The Giant redwood may grow 1 to 2 feet per year.
Coast Redwood The Coast redwood around 1.5 to 2.5 feet per year.
Dawn Redwood The Dawn redwood around 1.5 to 2 feet per year, but not reaching as high or wide as the Giant or Coast.
 
Q Does the soil need to be of a certain mixture ? top
 A It is said that they like a free-draining soil, but do like a fair bit of water. However, I'm told by a tree expert that a clay soil is excellent. They prefer an acidic soil, but you can worry too much, as they are pretty resilient. The Giant Redwood is quite intolerant of waterlogging, whereas the Coast Redwood can tolerant fairly wet conditions. The Dawn Redwood can take a fair degree of waterlogging though, so would be fine on more boggy areas as well.
Q Do they need any particular care once they have been planted (i.e. stakes) ? top
 A No great care needed really. The Giant Redwood should not need stakes - they are good sturdy trees even from a few feet tall. The Coast Redwood might need stakes when saplings in very windy areas as it shoots upward more quickly and a bit thinner. Not sure about the Dawn Redwood yet I'm afraid, but I think they will be more like the Coast Redwood. I would not bother unless it looked hopeless without, as a bit of bending in the wind will encourage them to grow stronger anyway, and the abrasion from a tie can cause problems on any tree. They are very resistant to disease and rot, however, and are quite unpalatable to a good many insects. We have had instances of some very young trees (of one foot or two in height) having their branches nibbled quite severely by an animal of some type, possibly rabbits. Keep an eye on it and if necessary build a guard.
Q Can they be planted together and if so, how far apart ? top
 A They will grow as close together as you like. However, particularly with the Giant Redwood, you will get the most benefit if they are planted with a good spacing, maybe 15 to 30 feet apart. When crowded, they just drop their lowest branches, which is a shame as they have a beautiful shape during the first few hundred years (example). The Dawn Redwood also has a lovely shape, and in the autumn its needles go a lovely golden/orange colour before they drop (yes - it is a deciduous pine). (example)
Q Are they poisonous to horses ? top
 A I don't know. However, the Giant Redwood has quite tough and spikey foliage, so very few animals will eat it. I don't know about the others either, but will investigate.
Q What is the best looking of the three Redwoods ? top
 A This is really a matter of personal preference of course. My favourite, however, is the Giant Redwood (or Wellingtonia). It has a reasonably neat conical shape for the first 50 to 150 years or so, and once it is over 30 years or so it has a marvellous trunk, with a lovely flared base, and superb soft bark which almost glows in the evening sun. Next is the Dawn Redwood. This has a lovely delicate foliage, and the tree forms a very tight conical shape. In the Autumn the leaves turn a really nice orange colour before they fall, revealing a gently tapering trunk which is as straight as an arrow. Finally, the Coast Redwood. This one has rather a shabby looking and sparse form to its foliage, but nonetheless it has a nice trunk, growing quickly and very tall. Nice, but not a patch on the Wellingtonia.
Q Is there anything else we should know about them ? top
 A They grow very big! Seriously, I can't think of anything particular at the moment. The Giant Redwood is a great landmark tree, especially on high ground. A great way to lock up CO2, if that's your cup of tea.
Q My local garden centre has a small stock of the dawn redwood and being very attracted to the tree I have purchased one for my medium sized garden. It is a sap of about 5'. I am aware of the size this tree will reach and it's fast growing rate and wonder if there is a method of controlling the growth rate without damaging the tree or its appeal. I would not want the tree to grow above say 20 ft. Is there a way? Or, because I would not want to grow it to kill it after, say, 15 years, should I simply find it a better home ?
 A We are not experts on this but have done some research on the internet and found differing opinions on your predicament (to cut or not to cut?). Comments we have encountered range from "you cannot cut a single stem tree into a hedge or it will die" (plainly not true in all cases and pessimistic!) to basically - yes! There is nothing quite as useful as another person's direct experience, so may we quote the following found from a newsgroup article about a Dawn Redwood:

"I started one using an 8' specimen and reduced it to 4'. It immediately began to shoot new growth at the cut-off point and the cut is now completely hidden."

The only hard evidence I can personally put forward is that I've seen a Dawn that had had its height reduced and looked in tip-top condition. Of course, it no longer had the traditional christmas tree shape but still looked attractive. Based on the above, and gut feeling, I can only say that in your position I would, time permitting, experiment by trimming the tree after it got to 10 feet or so and see what happens, perhaps with some manipulation of the upper branches (as pines that have been cut can sometimes look odd). That way, if the worst happens and it should die, you won't have lost the 15 years and if it succeeds, you may find it will grow into a nice tree of reasonable size. Speaking to an arboreal company might be an idea but it is a relatively rare tree and therefore there may not be enough experience for them to give you a definitive answer. Good luck with your tree and do let me know how it gets on!
 R Thanks very much for your response. It seems that there is a fair chance of success so I'll keep it and try to manage it. I just didn't want to keep it and in doing so condemn it....if you know what I mean...I would rather have gifted it to willing friend with a larger garden. Once again thanks for your help.
 
Q If you go to Sequoia National Forest, all of the large examples do not have branches until 200 feet above the ground. The trunks look like sky scrappers, going straight up into the sky. I notice that you prefer the younger variety. Both are equally attractive in their own way.
 A Since we live in Britain, we are (so far) only displaying trees from this country. Therefore they will all be less than 160 years old and just babies in comparison to those in California.

The older trees here (planted in the 1850's) are already towering far above any other tree or building in their vicinity (the tallest ones at present are around 160 feet). They have the bare trunks, as you describe, but not as much as 200 feet!

We have also noticed that when planted near other trees they tend to lose their lower branches quicker, (lack of light perhaps), than those left to grow as 'specimen' trees all on their own.

We won't be around in 100 years but like to ponder on an emergence of interest in Britain when these Giants really do become Giant!

We also have nowhere near as many as in America, so any sightings we do make are precious to us. Hence our interest when we discover another baby has been planted ready for future generations to enjoy.
Q Having just discovered your website I have been interested in Redwoods for a few years now and tried to grow some from seed, however, out of 25ish seeds only 3 germinated and 1 looks like it's on it's wayout at only 2 years old!! Do you know where I could purchase Redwood seedlings/saplings off the internet ?
 A I'm sorry to hear about your seedlings but don't feel too bad about this because they are difficult to germinate, as our attempts can confirm. After the first few months of growth (and it has grown 'branches'), we have found that they are fairly certain to survive. We keep them in a greenhouse or indoors until this stage is reached.

The Giant Redwood seedlings don't like to be waterlogged, I have lost a huge number because of this until I realised where I was going wrong. The Coast Redwood and Dawn Redwood seedlings cope far better with excessive watering. As you would expect the latter are more sensitive to being allowed to dry out too much, whereas the Giant Redwood will tolerate the ocassional dry spell and, in fact almost seem to benefit from it.

We have experimented with ericaceous compost, without much success and have gone back to normal, run-of-the-mill compost (i.e. Homebase), which seems to work quite well. I tend to mix it with sand and/or vermiculite for germination, then mixed together with sand and/or soil when re-potting. Once they are several inches tall, don't forget to feed them every few months.

We have no experience of buying seedlings or saplings from anywhere, having grown all ours from seed. We have managed to get several hundred or so to grow in the last six years but this is the result of sowing many many thousands! If you are able to get to the Essex area I am able to sell some when I have excess of my planting and donating needs. See the Saplings for Sale page. Most of our seeds come from Chiltern seeds on the Internet. See their web site: www.chilternseeds.co.uk

We have also tried many times to grow seeds collected in the U.K. and have so far only succeeded in establishing a very small number (10 or fewer), as we found the success rate to be abysmally low, possibly because the trees are still quite young in the UK, and generally may not be producing particularly viable seeds.
Q I'm not sure of the exact type of redwood, but in a town a few miles from me (Darlington, County Durham) there are two absolutely enormous redwood trees, each with about four or five other trees (younger redwoods) kind of growing out from them at the bottom. They are situated in an old Victorian park called 'South Park', in Darlington, which is currently going through a massive regeneration project and where sadly hundreds of seemingly healthy trees were cut down, due to the completly overgrown state of the park, is this normal?
 A It is normally the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) rather than the Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum / Giant Sequoia / Wellingtonia) that sprout from the base of an existing tree but we have seen a few other examples, one at Cambridge University Botanical Gardens and the other, a magnificent example, at Shalstone. If you can get close enough, the way to tell for certain is to examine the foliage and compare it to our examples on the Redwood Types page.
Q How far north have they been tried? top
 A There are a huge number of them in Scotland including a number of avenues, in particular one planted in 1863 at Benmore Botanical Gardens. It seems that the Giant Redwoods thrive in the Scottish weather and a look down the locations page certainly bears this out. In fact, some of the largest U.K. examples are growing in Scotland. We are not sure at the moment quite how far up North they are thriving, perhaps a little research on this subject is warranted.
 R I've seen some in Strathpeffer and tried to extract seeds and germinate, without success. We live in Shetland where growing trees is a bit of a challenge. However most things grow if you go to Finland (above 62 north), so theoretically it should be possible despite the salt spray, and rabbits and wind... Is it worth a go..or do you think its a no hoper. Surprisingly Black Cottonswood has been a huge success in Shetland?
 A Sorry to hear you've had no success with your gathered seeds. We have sown many hundreds of seeds that we have gathered, and have only succeeded with three, so we understand your plight! Over-watering is the greatest cause of Giant redwood seedling loss in my experience.

You could try watering with cheshunt compound (to prevent damping-off), and try sowing at different times of the year, also allow up to several months to germinate. Alternatively you could try buying some seed from Chiltern Seeds. We have found that the germination rate between different packets of seeds from Chiltern Seeds has varied from between none to several dozen!

If you do succeed, keep the seedlings inside for first 2 winters, then gradually acclimatise them to the outdoors during Spring/Summer, and finally plant them in a sunny position; they don't like shade.

The mist should not be a problem, it will help keep them moist in the Summer. Not sure about the rabbits affecting them, it might be best to put some kind of guard (netting) around them for a few years until well established. Tree experts will usually put netting around to protect them but we have found not usually found rabbits to be a problem with our un-fenced trees. Animals nibbling these trees is not generally a problem, but we have had just a couple succumb to this. Keep a watch on it and, if in doubt, provide some protection.

We tried to do some research and found a web site about the Shetland Isles which gave some encouraging information.

We hope you continue to try growing Giant Redwoods, it would be nice to hear one day of a Wellingtonia or two in the Shetlands.

Good Luck and let us know how you get on.
Q I live in lancashire and have just germinated my first giant redwoods, do they grow well in the north of England or is it too cold for them?
 A Congratulations on germinating your first Giant Redwoods. We know from experience that it is not easy, they seem to need the right conditions when very young; they must not be allowed to dry out for more than a few days and yet they are very easily killed by over-watering as they do not like their roots to be waterlogged.

Lancashire is certainly not too far North for Redwoods as you can see from the number of trees in the Scotland section of the Locations page.
Q A friend of mine has very kindly sent me a little redwood, The problem is how do I look after it? I would appreciate it if you could help in any way , I have loved these trees since I saw them in Leighton Buzzard two years ago. I would love to be sucessfull in growing mine.
 A The first question is how old is your little redwood? For the first winter we would recommend that you keep it indoors in a cool room or preferably a greenhouse. Also, take great care not to allow it to dry out completely for more than a few days, but it is equally important not to over-water it. It can die very quickly from either conditions.

After that you should leave it outside with just a little sheltering from the harsh winter winds for the first few years and make sure that it does not dry out in the summer. A large size pot, relative to the tree's size, will help with the latter. When it reaches three or four years old it will be time to plant it out.

Choose a sunny position that is not prone to becoming a dust bowl in the summer and not too close to other trees if you want to get the best shape from it. Remember not to plant it too close to telegraph or electricity wires! A position several metres from a pond would be ideal if that is possible.

Apart from this, your tree should need very little attention. Perhaps a feed and bucket of water now and again, during hot Summers for the first few years out. After the winter you may notice your tree will look quite dark but it will brighten up during the spring.


winter browned off
Redwoods after Winter - all these recovered in the Spring

Q Our large tree has a lot of dead needles and brown in patches. We would welcome your thoughts on how serious this is and should we trim them.
 A We have had quite a number of enquiries on this subject recently (July 2006). Although we are not experts in this field, on our travels we have noticed several like this in Essex this Summer. Naturally, initial thoughts are that this is probably something to do with the lack of rain lately with the heatwave/drought - whatever you want to call it.

2010 update - When re-visiting these trees over the past four years they have been fine and this browning of some of the foliage has been observed to occur now and then.

In these times of water shortage (in such a wet country!) we are made to feel almost criminal for using a quantity of water to irrigate plants, but I believe a few minutes dousing now and then, when we have such dry weather, should be considered a worthwhile exercise. It's one thing to waste water keeping a lawn green when it will recover anyway come autumn, but an irreplaceable tree (at least of that age) might be seen as a different matter.

The other possibility is that the ground may be rather compacted around the tree, perhaps adjacent to a driveway or paved area, and this in conjunction with the dry weather might put it under additional stress.

Browning and the dying of branches that are crowded by other trees is a natural occurance with Giant Redwoods and should not be cause for concern, except that completely dead large branches should be removed for safety reasons.

It should be remembered that evergreen trees do shed old foliage and replace it with new, but this is slower and non-seasonal process compared to deciduous trees.

2012 update - A different kind of dying foliage phenomenon was experienced this year where parts of the foliage start to turn yellow and droop. We recieved this email form Tracey:
Q In the last couple of months we have seen some of the sequoias turning brown, considerably. I attach some photos in hope that you could provide some helpful hints. My initial thoughts; have we over watered them?? Have we over fed them? They were being watered well every day to prevent drying out and they are fed phostrogen fertilizer and some Chempak Sequestered Iron.

Tracey's son's Giant Sequoias

Redwood World Giant Sequoias with the same problem
 A You may be relieved to hear that I have had exactly the same problem with my Giant Sequoias this year (2012). It is not the usual browning where they naturally drop some foliage but a gradual yellowing and drooping of a few sprigs that eventually die back. I was also wondering if I have been over-feeding. The young trees in my greenhouse do not have the same symptoms but I have also seen this on trees I have planted out a few years ago, and on some of the very large trees that I visit occasionally.

My conculsions are that it is a phenomenon that has come about because of the very wet conditions we experienced this spring/summer. A case of too much water! I believe it has encouraged some form of fungal mould and I have sprayed my trees twice with a fungicide.

I have also been cutting back the droopy bits to before the brown stems, and although this can be heartbreaking, I felt it was necessary in case it spreads. However, it would be interesting to know how they fare without being cut back if you decide not to do this.

The Coast and Dawn Redwoods have not been affected by this at all, in fact not really surprisingly, they have thrived in the very damp conditions.

(see question below for more information: "What is causing weak, brown dying foliage on my Giant Redwood?")


Q I have germinated several Coast Redwood and Wellingtonias. They have been growing for about 2 months in a back bedroom. I am wondering how to introduce them to the outdoors. They are still very tiny (about 2" at most) but I think that they need more sunlight and to get used to the cold. Is now the time to do this or should I wait? If the latter, for how long?
 A At two inches high I have found that seedlings can survive outdoors but are still quite delicate and could be harmed by prolonged mid summer heat (unlikely at the moment), or very cold harsh winds. I tend to keep them indoors (greenhouse or cool window sill) shaded from direct sun to avoid scorching, and put them out when they are nearer 4 or so inches in height.

My advice is put them outdoors in a sheltered spot and bring them in if the weather turns really windy. The cold should not be a problem, the main killer at this stage will be drying out completely for sveral days, or over-watering (i.e. water-logged roots). I have lost more seedlings to these two than anything else!

I have found that the Coast Redwood and Dawn Redwood are very much more tolerant of over-watering than the Giant Redwood (Wellingtonia) seedlings. When they are only an inch or so tall I tend to leave the watering of Wellingtonias until the pot feels extremely light and then water from the tray rather than the top of the pot. If the pot feels heavy for its size I consider that I have failed and perhaps over-watered, and expect that I might lose the seedling. The risk of them dying from a brief lack of water seems to be offset by the advantage of not having water-logged them, and I have noticed quicker growth when I have used this method.

Conversely, with the Coast and the Dawn Redwood seedlings, I tend to assume that if the pot does not seem fairly heavy, then it is in need of watering. I feel this is particularly so with the Dawn Redwood. My experience with the seedlings is actually in keeping with the habitats preferred by the mature trees; Dawn Redwood thrive in marshy conditions, whereas Giant Redwood like a free-draining soil.
Q Why in spite of being widely planted in the UK, does the giant Sequoia (Sequoiodendron giganteum) not naturalise and spread?
 A At the time of writing I know of not one large plantation of mature Giant Sequoia in the UK, only solitary trees, small clumps or avenues. I would suggest that planting a large grove of these trees would be the only way to see whether they might be able to propagate freely in the UK. I wish I had the land to carry out this grand experiment, although I would not live long enough to see the results!

The first point to note is that the Giant Sequoia has only been in this country since the 1850's and one could perhaps argue that most of the trees have not yet reached their peak in the production of mature and viable seeds. We have been collecting cones for quite a while now but have only succeeded in germinating a couple of UK seedlings, and yet have had a great deal of success with imported seeds.

Another point is that, apart from a few exceptional examples, the Giant Sequoia will only reproduce from seed, unlike the Coast Redwood that will sprout from stumps, roots or burls. (see Longleat)

Another aspect to this is that, in their natural groves, I understand they rely on occasional moderate forest fires. These work in two ways, first they clear the brush undergrowth and small competing trees, producing an ideal seed-bed, and secondly the rising heat causes the many cones (most of which may have been on the tree for many years) to open and shed their seeds in huge numbers on the floor below.

In my experience, Giant Redwood seedlings are extremely delicate and quite easily damaged or killed while under a few inches tall. I suspect that only in the conditions I mentioned in the previous paragraph can they have a reasonable chance of surviving unaided. Once they are a few metres tall, it is a different story, as they become relatively indestructible compared with many trees. It is peculiar that one of the most resilient trees is so fragile when very young.

I would not say that there is a problem with the wrong type of weather or soil, for they can happily grow in most types of soil and in most temperate climates.

On a positive note, their inability to spread naturally with ease means that Giant Sequoia are not invasive and are therefore less likely to upset the "native tree nazi" brigade!

If you would like to read more, please see these pages: Planting Out and Native
Q What is the right food for my potted Redwood ?
 A When I feed my potted redwoods I tend to use a general purpose plant food half the time (such as the UK make Phostrogen), and the other half of the time I use a plant food intended for ericaceous plants. I have no evidence or proof that this is best, it is just a hunch. If your tree seems unhealthy you could also try the occasional dose of sequestrated iron. This is supposed to help with yellowing of such plants.

Finally, the other important thing to ensure is that the pot is wet right to the bottom, watering from the top often leaves the bulk of the soil dry. Having said that, whilst Coast and Dawn Redwood trees can tolerate perpetual saturation, the Giant Redwood would not be happy with this - allow it to dry a little more between waterings.
Q What is causing weak, brown dying foliage on my Giant Redwood ?

Giant Redwood's wilting foliage - photograph from Christos
 A I'm sorry to hear about the problem you are having with your Giant redwood sapling. It looks similar to a problem I had with some of my Giant redwood saplings a few years ago (in 2012 - see question above: "In the last couple of months we have seen some of the sequoias turning brown, considerably. Have we overwatered them?"), it seemed to be brought on by an unusually wet start to the summer. I suspect the perpetually damp warm conditions brought on an attack by some kind of fungus, although there was little to see other than the browning/blackening of branches and sometimes a white powdery deposit. The most obvious early symptoms of a branch suffering from the problem was the foliage of that branch becoming a little paler than the rest, slightly yellow in tint, and the foliage drooping in more of a downward direction than the healthy foliage. Closer inspection would reveal a darkening of the branch, not necessarily of the whole length of the branch, usually starting part way along, and sometimes only for a short length (although all the foliage from that part of the branch onward would look sickly).

My method for dealing with the problem included the following:

1) Cut away the affected branch. Where I had left them in place before, I have not seen recovery in any branches that were affected, whatever other treatments were applied. It sounds harsh, and is quite heartbreaking if a large proportion of branches are affected, but it is important to be brave in this matter. I looked for the start of the problem along the branch (which may just be a ring of blackness) and cut away the branch at least a centimetre in along the good side. Where the problem starts on the main stem (as was the case with one of mine), I felt it was important to do the same. The sapling will eventually grow a new leader, it just looks a bit disastrous in the meantime.

2) Sprayed with an anti-fungal solution. I included the unaffected saplings, because I believe these sprays are only useful in preventing fungal attack rather than treating an existing infection. I don't know whether this helped, I did it in hope more than expectation.

3) When watering, avoided getting the foliage and branches wet, and took greater care to avoid over-watering.

4) Kept the infected saplings a little away from other saplings, or at least ensured that their foliage did not come into contact with others.

5) Applied a feed and some sequestered iron. It's easy to forget that a plant that has been in a pot for some time may run short of nutrients, and I expect a well-fed tree should be able to resist pathogens more easily.

I noticed that the problem did not seem to affect the Coast Redwood or Dawn Redwood saplings. so it must be something to which the Giants are more susceptible. The Coast and Dawn Redwoods can cope with damper conditions than the Giant Redwood, so perhaps this is a clue to their differing resistance to pathogens that thrive in damper warmer conditions.

I'm not sure whether the problem was fungal pathogen, or some kind of bacterial infection, but thankfully the problem is pretty much resolved for me now, and I have had to clip just one branch away in the last six months.

It would be worth shielding the pots from the hot sun, I don't think the roots like being baked. It might be worthwhile loosely wrapping aluminium foil around the pot itself, to reflect the heat away.

One final point, during that same year I noticed the same effect on a more mature 70 feet high Giant Redwood tree. A ends of a few of branches at lower level on the tree were exhibiting the same symptoms. This has completely recovered and seemed to have no long term detrimental affect on the tree. In fact even at the time I had to get close to see that there was anything amiss at all.
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