Grow Your Own Giant Sequoia Tree

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Introduction: Grow Your Own Giant Sequoia Tree

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

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.

7 People Made This Project!

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113 Discussions

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AlexisPG
AlexisPG

Question 5 months ago

Hi Thomas,

My seeds are on their way! I live in the Caribbean (Dominican Republic) we got LOTS of sun year round and no snow. Do you think I'll be able to grow a giant sequoia under this conditions?

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ThomasJ1
ThomasJ1

Answer 5 months ago

Hi Alexis, I don't know how the seedlings will grow at your location but there's only one way to know.
Some people are growing some giant sequoias in Florida (https://www.giant-sequoia.com/gallery/usa/florida/) so I don't see why you couldn't in Dominican Republic.
Good Luck. Let me know if it works

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AlexisPG
AlexisPG

Reply 4 weeks ago

Just one germinate and it's growing, I'm affraid of taking the seed off. It would get rid of the seed by itself?

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ThomasJ1
ThomasJ1

Reply 4 weeks ago

At that stage, it's pretty safe to leave or remove it. Even it you break the cotyledons, it won't really affect the plant since it has already grown secondary leaves. I would just leave it unless you see that it's blocking the growth of the leaves below.

0
AlexisPG
AlexisPG

Reply 5 months ago

Alright!! If this works mine is going to be the first giant sequoia in Dominican Republic :D. I'll let you know for sure!

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YahyaAyyash34
YahyaAyyash34

2 months ago

Hi Thomas. Can we grow Giant Sequoias on the topical regions, for example in Indonesia?

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ThomasJ1
ThomasJ1

Reply 8 weeks ago

I don't know if they would grow in Indonesia. Their natural habitat is quite different (cold snowy winters, warm summer and high altitude) but that doesn't mean they can't grow in Indonesia.

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plupplopp
plupplopp

5 months ago

Hi,

My sequoia was growing great for 2 weeks (though it never got any more leaves than the cotelydons) but suddenly it started drooping. I've attached pictures which were taken approximately 8 hours apart.
I'm guessing that there is no saving that sapling, but I was wondering if you would know what might be the issue, so that i can rectify it for future attempts.

Thank you

IMG_6271 copy.jpgIMG_6277 copy.JPG
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ThomasJ1
ThomasJ1

Reply 5 months ago

Hi, my first guess would be overwatering. You soil looks pretty wet. I would recommend watering on a regular basis but only when the top part of the soil looks dry. Otherwise, the roots can't breath and the plant is prone to root rot.

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plupplopp
plupplopp

Reply 5 months ago

Thank you so much for the helpful reply!

I was sort of expecting that to be the problem, I always find it hard to strike a balance with sensitive plants. I'll try to follow your advice next time (only had a few seeds and that was the only one that started to grow).

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Fifthsunset
Fifthsunset

6 months ago on Step 4

Hey thanks so much for this! A lot of my seeds have sprouted, but the seedlings get to about 5cm tall with their first 3 or 4 cotyledons...and then just stop. No growth, no new cotyledons. It's been 2 weeks. Any idea why?

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1
ThomasJ1
ThomasJ1

Reply 6 months ago

It takes a little while for the new leaves to show up in the center. I bet they will be growing within a week. Give them progressively more indirect lighting to increase photosynthesis when they start showing up.

0
Fifthsunset
Fifthsunset

Reply 6 months ago

I really appreciate the reply, thank you! Hopefully they'll show up soon.

You are right about keeping the light indirect too. I put them out in the weak English spring sunlight and it scorched the cotyledons. Lesson learned.

1
Lovroo
Lovroo

Question 6 months ago

Hello Thomas,

I managed to grow 5 sequoias from seeds, but after 1-2 weeks they just dropped overnight. I even changed the soil for few of them but they still dropped overnight.

So, can you tell me what is optimal temperature for seedlings? Maybe they died because of heat? I watered them every two days.

Please help :)
Thank you soooo much!

1
ThomasJ1
ThomasJ1

Answer 6 months ago

Hello! I think the problem here is your soil. It looks pretty compact and I think it may not retain water very well. The best is a probably to use potting soil as it is rich in organic matter and vermiculite that trap the water like a sponge but it still lets the roots breath.
Also keep in mind that conifer trees don't like being transplanted so it's best if you put the seeds directly in the best soil from the beginning.
Good luck.

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Lovroo
Lovroo

Answer 6 months ago

Here are the pictures of sequoias

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Jenyss
Jenyss

Question 7 months ago

Hi Thomas,

My first sequoia sports emerged and half of them still have the seed wrapped around the leaves. I was wondering if I should do something to help the leaves shed it? I actually removed the seed from three of the seedlings but their leaves still remained wrapped in this sack (however it is called) you could see in the pictures. I am afraid to try to further peel it since the sequoias are very gentle and I could crush them. Please advise.

I also wanted to ask when I should expose them to direct sunlight. Now they are raised under rooftop windows but I take care to never put them under direct sunlight. I am living in the city and also have a terrace where I could put them in either full shade or in full sunlight. There is not really a possibility for something in between unless i take care to move them around during the day, which cannot happen while at work. So how can I best acclimate them to sunlight and when?

Thanks,
Jeny
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Jenyss
Jenyss

Answer 7 months ago

Hi Thomas,

I need your advice again. My seedlings were doing quite well until 3 days ago. I lost one which dropped overnight and then the strongest and the biggest from them followed. Their stems began to thin and dry before they died eventually. Since this is my second attempt at raising sequoias, I don't want to lose them all again but am not sure what is going wrong:( Could it be that I have overwatered or the fungicide I used played a role in this development. Is it a problem if I water close to the stem? I usually water them once per week after the top layer dries. Hope you will be able to give me some advice.

Thanks,
Jenya

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ThomasJ1
ThomasJ1

Reply 6 months ago

Hi Jenya,

I think once a week might not be enough. I can't really tell how dry the soil is from the photos but I think I was watering mine every couple of days at that stage (depending on the temperature). As long as you have fungicide, it should limit the root rot. You can water around the stem as long as there's no water standing around it for long periods of time.

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Jenyss
Jenyss

Reply 6 months ago

Hi Thomas,

Another one is going down:( I think they are watered well at this point. What brand fungicide do you use? Maybe mine is not the right one. I thought that as soon as they start having their real leaves they are safe but seems not. All that died so far had at least 7-8 from their second leaves.

Thanks,
Jenya

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