As far back as I can remember, I've always been impressed by very large trees. As a kid, I considered sequoias as the giant trees from California and I would often recognize them in documentaries. Later, I realized that there actually were some of those trees growing around my place... in France. I started to make an inventory of them and tried to visit the ones publicly accessible. Some of them turned out to have cones on the ground. I decided to harvest them, extract the seeds and plant them.

That's how I realized it wasn't exactly straightforward. After a few methods and weeks of patience, I came to realize that most of the seeds where not viable and that my soil was not appropriate. After a bit of research, I gathered growing tips and devised my own method.

Here's a guide based on my past failures and success.

Step 1: Get Some Giant Sequoia Seeds

The first step as you can guess is to get some seeds. You have 2 choices there: harvest them or order them.

Harvesting seed, while not being the most efficient method is probably the most rewarding since you'll go from picking up a cone on the ground to having your own tree. You might also be able to trace the genealogy of your seedling since you'll already know the parent tree.

If you decide to harvest the seed, try to find a mature sequoias tree and look for green cones on the ground. They are the ones with the highest chance of germination (20 to 40% in their natural habitat). Let them dry inside the house. The cones will slowly open and shed their seeds.

Another solution is to order the seeds. I ordered some from J.L Hudson. 1 ounce costs $36 which is a good deal considering the amount of seeds in the envelope. These seeds come from mature trees and have a high germination rate (> 40%). Look for the latin name Sequoiadendron giganteum.

Step 2: Cold Stratification

Like most coniferous trees, the seeds of giant sequoia trees need to spend a bit of time in the cold to soften their shell and lift the seed dormancy. A period of 4 weeks is a good minimum.

Here's a method I found online: to lift the dormancy, grab a paper towel. Make sure the paper is chemical free. I used a coffee filter to be sure it had no perfume on it. Using gloves or clean hands, take some seeds and place them on the paper. You can now fold the filter in half (I actually use 3 layers under and 1 layer over).

Wet the filter (not too much) and place it in a sandwich bag with a bit of air. Put the bag in the fridge and wait 4 weeks.

When the time is up, place the bag in a dark spot at room temperature. The temperature gradient will make the seeds sprout. After a few days, open the bag and look for sprouted seeds. If you see some, take them out, we will plant them right now. Put the bag back in the shade and check regularly for new seedlings.

Step 3: Prepare the Soil

Now is the time to put the seeds in the soil. Prepare individual pots using standard potting soil. Sequoia seedlings require a wet but well drained soil. Humidity is a key factor to the success of growing your seedlings. If you ever let the soil dry a little too much, the seedlings will almost surely die. However, too much water and the base of the seedling will rot and the plant will fall to the ground.

To prevent moulds and fungal parasites, add some fungicide to the potting mix, stir and fill the pots. make a hole in the center and place the already sprouted seed. Lightly water the soil.

Step 4: Watch for Seedlings

The stem of your seedlings should soon make a red upside down U shape. The seed envelope will slowly rise up and fall when the first cotyledons start growing.

Seedlings can have from 3 to 5 cotyledons (first leaves). After a few days, you will see the first real leaves show up in the centre. If your seedlings made it that far, it usually means they are less likely to die from stem rot.

During this stage of development, the plants should be kept in the shade to prevent any desiccation.

Step 5: Expose Seedlings to More Light

After a few weeks, the plants will start to grow branches. This is an indicator that they are ready for a bit more sunlight. Slowly move your plants in a brighter environment but avoid direct sunlight.

When your plants have been acclimated to the sun, you can move them outside during the day. Be careful to always keep the soil humid.

Step 6: Transplant Your Sequoias Outside

When the plants are about 4 to 6" tall, it is better to take them out of their pot and grow them directly in the ground. This will ensure that they don't dry up and it will give space for the roots to spread.

Once you found a place large enough (a 10m radius is a good start) you can plant your sequoia at its definitive spot. Remember to add some slow release conifer fertilizer to boost the roots production during the following year.

If you have deer in your area, protect your young tree with chicken wire during the first years of growth as deer love to chew on buds and young stems in the spring.

<p>Hello Thomas,</p><p>first of all, thank you for this great guide. Because of it I have 6 out of 30 seeds germinated so far, and still waiting for the rest in the moist paper inside of a bag, on room temp. It's quite the hot summer here, so I saved 30 more seeds to stratify/plant sometime in the Autumn.</p><p>Now, here's my pickle. In the photo you see first two seedlings I've planted. The left one is the older one. The seed coating came off of younger one, the older one's is still quite attached, I've tried gently to feel if it would come off with a pull, but to no avail.</p><p>I'm spitting on it, but for how long should I wait for it to come off and how to take it off myself if it comes to that?</p>
<p>Hi Vladimir,</p><p>That's a problem I had for a few of my seedlings. Basically, in the wild, the seed is in the ground and when it germinates, the envelope stays in the soil and the seedlings is pulling out of it towards the sun.</p><p>In our case, there is nothing constantly pulling on the envelope. I would try adding a drop of water on the spot it is attached and slowly pull on it from time to time. If it doesn't move, try another time. It may drop the envelope at a later stage when the cotyledons become larger and stronger.</p><p>If it still hasn't shed it when the new leaves start forming in the center, I would pull a little harder even if it breaks one of the 4 cotyledons. This will give more sunlight to the center of the seedling.</p>
<p>Where could I get seeds from ? what climate do they grow in ? I am in Australia </p>
<p>I ordered my seeds from J.L. Hudson (<a href="http://www.jlhudsonseeds.net/SeedlistSA-SH.htm" style="">http://www.jlhudsonseeds.net/SeedlistSA-SH.htm</a>) from California. They were really good quality (about 50% germination rate). Giant Sequoia trees grow in altitude in the Sierra Nevada, they require a well drained humid soil. In the winter they get several feet of snow and in the summer they rely on that snow pack melting and keeping the ground moist.</p><p>When I was in Australia, I remember seeing some Sequoia trees at Melbourne Botanical Garden and also in Tasmania. Ballarat has a huge specimen. I think Queensland may be too hot for the tree. South western Australia would actually work too (Perth, Albany, etc,). The Great Ocean Road and the Great Otway National Park is a good place for the tree too...There's even a small forest along a river. </p>
<p>Hi Thomas,</p><p>After you put the seeds in the fridge do you just wait 4 weeks and not do anything until the time is up? Or do you water them during those days and if so how often?</p><p>Do you also water the seeds after you take them out of the fridge or only when the seeds start to sprout?<br></p>
<p>Hey Alex,</p><p>After you put the seeds on the wet paper and inside the bag, the moisture shouldn't leave the bag so you don't need to add any more water.</p><p>However, if you see a seed that sprouted, you can take this one out of the bag and put it in wet potting soil. The more you open the bag, the more the moisture will go out so you may need to add a tea spoon of water from time to time.</p><p>When you take the bag out of the fridge and put it in a warm dark spot, the same rule applies. No need for additional water unless you open the bag frequently to take the newly sprouted individuals out.</p>
Thanks for your reply. I actually had the bag slightly opened so that air can come inside, I did not know that I had to close the bag completely.
<p>Very helpful information - thank you all.</p><p>I purchased 30 seeds on eBay a few months ago and followed instructions exactly. Yesterday, my little seeds popped up five sprouts, today there are seven. I started ten. I started them in an ice cube tray and I'm wondering if I should let them get a bit bigger, or transplant them to individual pots now. I bought a tray, with deep, cone-shaped pots and plan to plant them in the yard directly from the pots. I also bought three 2' trees last year and planted those in the yard, and I know how delicate the roots are and how important it is to not disturb them. Those in the yard made it through the winter and are doing well.</p><p>Is a mix of potting soil and some pearlite okay to use with these? I have been spritzing them with water to keep moist and have the tray inside a ziplock baggie - unzipped to help retain some moisture.</p><p>Attaching photos...</p>
<p>Hi Sandy, this is a good question. At that stage, you'll need a good moisture in the soil (but not too much because of the risk of root rot). Since your tray is fairly small, you will need to sprinkle every day. I would wait until I see the first leaves in the middle of the cotyledons. That is a sign that the main root has started to make secondary roots and the plant is more resistant to transplantation.</p><p>If you fear the tray may dry up, you can prepare bigger pots with the exact same soil and moisture level (spray with fungicide to make sure), scoop the seedlings &amp; soil from the ice cube tray and move them delicately to the new bigger pot.</p>
<p>Hi Thomas,</p><p>I was wondering if you could offer me any advice. I followed all your steps and had 22 seeds germinate. They started off great, but all slowly started dying off. Some died because it seemed they couldn't shed their envelope. Others had shed it and just curled up and died later. I started watering them less and they are in a shady spot where they get indirect sunlight just about all day. I am now down to 5 seedlings. Three still with their envelops, they are all about a month old, and none of mine have had leafs yet. I just put 200 more seeds in the fridge so hopefully I can have more success with my second batch! Thank you for any help!</p>
A good trick if the envelope doesn't come off naturally is to spit on it a few times and then it makes pulling the envelope off easier. Otherwise you will probably uproot it if you pull too hard.
Hi MitchL7,<br><br>I found that I usually have more success when the seed has sprouted not too long ago. That way, when you spot a newly sprouted seed, you can place it in a pot about 1/2&quot; below the surface. If you plant it too shallow, it will grow with the envelope on the cotyledons which will limit the amount of light available to the plant. By planting the seed deeper, the envelope is more likely to stay in the soil. It also helps to keep the seedling at a better moisture level (the surface dries quicker).<br>Another tip is to place the seed flat or upside down in the pot. It will force the root to bend down and the cotyledons to grow up, away from the envelope.<br><br>As for watering, I would suggest to only add water when the surface looks dry. I usually water them once every morning when the weather is hot. <br><br>You should also try to move them in a less shady spot once they have the cotyledons spread out. The seeds are small, there's not much energy in it so the seedlings need to get some energy quickly.<br><br>Let me know how the second batch goes.
<p>Thank you! I definately wasnt planting them deep enough and I'll try the other tips as well and see how it goes!</p>
Hi everyone. I have 3 seeds germinated with leaves and everything. Problem is they are all in the same pot and extreme close to each other. What is the safest method to take 2 of them out and plant them in a separate pot? I don't want any of them to die as I only had 5 seeds and 2 didn't germinate.
I wanted to give an update on mine. After I moved the trees, they thrived for a little bit but I took a long time for them to actually start growing again. Two of them eventually died and then the third one grew a lot but now 3 months later has suddenly stopped growing. We will wait and see what happens.
Giant Sequoias, just like other trees grow by steps. it's true for adult trees and for seedlings. On the first year, your tree might only be 4 inches tall with 2 or 3 branches (it depends what time of year your planted them). Next year it will start growing again from the extremities.<br>I find that my own trees start growing around April and stop around July.
<p>Hi, I would probably wait until they have a few branches. You could put the pot in water for a few minutes and then slowly pull sideways on the base of each stem. Try to keep as much soil around the roots. It will reduce the stress for the plant.</p>
<p>Hi ThomasJ1</p><p>I had this similar situation where 3 seeds germinated out of 6. I was moving 2 of them into 2 new pots and unfortunately for one of them, the white long tiny root broke off the seed. Is this one dead? I still moved it into a new pot but not sure if I should just discard it. Is there any hope?</p>
<p>If there were no secondary roots, it's not very likely to survive. You will know soon if it worked or not. If the leaves turn dark green and soft, it's a bad sign.</p><p>A general rule for conifers is that they hate being transplanted. That's why it's best to have one seed per pot, so that you don't have to separate to individuals at an early stage.</p><p>Still, I hope your seedlings make it !</p>
<p>I have a few seedlings started that are about a month old. I'm looking for advice on how much sunlight they should get. I don't have a place inside where I can keep them, except for sunny windowsills. Is it better to put them outside in a shady spot? I live in the Seattle area. At what point can I keep them outside? </p>
I would still keep them inside for a while. The windowsill with a curtain would be ideal. When they start making the first branches, they are old enough and strong enough to be outside during the day. You will have to put them in the shade of your house (or a tree) in order to keep a good moisture level in the soil. Then you can progressively give them in a sunnier spot each day.<br> Seattle is a good place to grow Sequoia trees. They need moisture, moderate heat and a rich well drained soil. Here's a page with large specimens in your state: <a href="https://www.giant-sequoia.com/gallery/usa/washington/" rel="nofollow">https://www.giant-sequoia.com/gallery/usa/washington/</a>
<p>Hello, Thomas. A question for you. What climet conditions does your trees need in which to grow well? I'd love the idea of planting this tree in Michigan but I had assumed it would not grow here. I hope you will give me some good news. Thanks for this 'ible.</p>
Hi Dave, it depends where about in Michigan you are located. The Giant Sequoia is usually rated for a USDA zone as low as 6 (https://www.arborday.org/images/zones/zones6-8.png). However, there are many examples where it grows in colder climates. Here's a short list of specimen growing in Michigan https://www.giant-sequoia.com/gallery/usa/michigan/
Fantastic, Thomas! <br>I am not too far from Kent City, so I think this grand tree deserves to grow in my town.<br>I shall get started on learning what I need to know about them before I order them.<br>My goal is to get them growing in a few city parks.<br>Thanks for your inspiration.<br>I shall keep all of you in the loop of information.<br>A sincere thanks,<br>MichiganDave<br>
<p>I wish you the best of luck Dave and yes, keep us updated!</p>
Hi<br>Here is a picture of my small sequoia seedlings. <br>I have removed the cover as you suggested and placed at a brighter spot. I hope they will develop better now. Thanks for you post!
<p>They're looking good. A little bit more light and less water and I bet they'll have a central bud in about a week.</p>
I hope :)<br>Many thanks!
Hi! Could you please help me.<br>I have followed your instructions to aquire seedlings through your instructions about germination. So now I have some seedlings which have lost their envilopes and cotyledons are showing. However, they have been in this state for about two weeks, I can not se any first leafs yet which i think is stange..<br>How long does it take before the first real leafs come? I have grown my seedlings inhouse so-far in the shade . What should I do?
Hello,<br><br>I think you should see the new leaves showing up in the center after a week or so. You may need to bring more light to your seedlings but no direct sunlight. Do you see anything in the center? The first leaves look like a small bud at the center of the cotyledons.
Hi, <br>I can't se any bud-like feature in the center so-far..<br>I will se if it improves with some extra indirect light.<br><br>By the way, I am growing using one of these plastic &quot;green houses&quot; to maintain humidity. Thought it might be good since i am gtowing indoors.. is that some thing that you do as well? Or do you grow the sequoias outdoors the whole time?<br><br>Many thanks for your help!
<p>I grow them inside until they start developing branches on the side of the stem. Then I move them outside in a shady spot and progressively give them more light.</p><p>I would only use the green houses for a few days after they sprouted. If you keep too much humidity, they are more at risk of developing stem rot. Keep the soil moist but not damp. Ideally, once they sprouted, you should water once a day. They'll be more tolerant to lack of water once they have branches.</p><p>Can you post a picture?</p>
<p>what kind of type sands do you use?</p>
<p>So cool! I want redwoods in my backyard :) How long did it take the trees to get as big as they are in the last few pictures?</p>
The group of redwoods is 3 years old and the single one is 5. On the last picture, it is 10 years old. It grows slowly in the first few years but provided good conditions, it can grow about 2 feet per year.
<p>When I saw this I instantly thought about a friend of mine who searched for a way to plant a sequoia tree and reshared the instructable xD </p><p>This website is a golden mine sometimes.</p>
I'm glad this was helpful Emilly.
<p>I live in coastal Northern California, and have many redwood trees on my property. I've learned a few tricks that may help......</p><p>Redwoods are a freakishly difficult tree to kill, provided they are in the proper climate. At least once a decade, I have to cut off every single limb from each tree on my property, so that it looks like a power-pole jutting into the sky. Everywhere you've cut off a limb, several more will grow in its place, like a hydra. You can even cut the tree down, right at ground level, and within a couple years, there will be several shoulder-high trees growing from the stump.</p><p>The easiest way to grow a redwood is to select a piece of branch to trim off and plant. Choose a section about 2 inches in diameter and 6 inches long, that has many of the bright-green, soft and flexible needle clusters (very young branches) growing out of it. Dig a 1 inch deep trench to plant it in, and lay it in horizontally, like a log laying down. Keep the ground around it quite moist for a few weeks, and it will take root.</p><p>If you must grow from seed, however; redwoods propagate best after a forest fire. This is not only because of reduced ground cover, but it seems that heat actually plays a role in activating the seeds. Perhaps a few minutes in a low temperature oven will do the cones some good.</p>
<p>Also, you can mail-order small hunks of live redwood burl. If you set these in water, they will sprout, and when they get large enough, you can transfer them to soil.</p>
<p>Thanks a lot for all this information about redwoods. The species you are talking about is <em>Sequoia sempervirens</em> which indeed grows back really easily after you cut it. The species in this Instructable <em>Sequoiadendron giganteum</em> is a cousin of the redwoods from Northern California. It grows a little less tall but it usually gets larger. Forest fires are also beneficial to it. However, it won't grow back from the stump after you cut it.</p>
To make it easier for the roots to spread I mix sand and soil 1:4 and put a thin layer of sand on top (prevents moldiness and is an indicator to see when you need to add water). <br>As long as they are young I also spray water on them.<br>I grow seedlings in a compostable mini-pot with a thin plastic-layer around them.<br>Once they are ready for more sunlight, I puncture the pot carefully and put the whole thing in a soil/sand-filled tobacco-box.<br>Why a tobacco-box?<br>Because when you plant them to the ground, it is very important to not damage the roots. All u need to do is cut off the ground of the tobacco-box and slice it carefully instad of putting out the whole tree.<br>This is my longterm-treehouse-project for the yet unborn kids of my sons (2 and 9 years old).
<p>Thank you FriXs. It is with tip like yours that I'll come up with an even better method one day.</p><p>Next time, I'll try the layer of sand and compostable pots. I also spray the seedlings in the early stage. It read that they tend to absorb water through the leaves (mist in their natural habitat).</p>
Thank YOU Thomas:-) <br>Here in Bavaria, we had a king called <br>Wilhelm I. who wanted to plant some Sequoias in his garden. <br>His servant went to america and accidentally bought way too many seedlings.<br>That's why we have over 5000 sequoias spread all over Bavaria and Baden-W&uuml;rttemberg here today.<br><br>PS: I'll try the fertilizer

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Bio: Most of the things I build usually relate to either astronomy, physics or woodworking in general.
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