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.

8 People Made This Project!

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139 Comments

0
xfirexstarzx
xfirexstarzx

Question 1 day ago

What is the ideal time of year to plant the established plants outside? I live in a relatively cold area with minimum winter temperatures down to about -23C/-10F, but plenty of insulating snow cover. I'm hoping that these will survive outdoors in my climate. I do plan on protecting them with fencing (deer) and some sort of insulation for the first few winters. I would really hate for them to die because I planted them too late in the growing season. I also don't know how they would hold up in a heated house with no dormancy all winter. Current nighttime temps are a few degrees above freezing, but it's going to be snowing soon. Should I plant them now? Or keep them indoors until spring?

0
ThomasJ1
ThomasJ1

Answer 1 day ago

I would say that when leaves are falling is a good time to plant a tree outdoors.
In the northern hemisphere, that could mean September to November depending on your climate. Make sure to plant it in a well drained area and water it well after planting it. You can add some insulating material such as straw or dead leaves to give it extra protection before the snow starts falling. It will help the roots establish before the deep freeze.

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Blather44
Blather44

Question 4 weeks ago

I have a coastal redwood ( about 15 inches tall) and a sequoia ( about 3 inches tall)
They were a year old when I got them in May. They're doing great on pots on my porch , can I plant them outside this fall?

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ThomasJ1
ThomasJ1

Answer 4 weeks ago

Yes that should be fine. You may need to protect it from the cold if you're in a cold climate. It's also a good idea to put some protection from animals around it for the first year or two.

0
8lu3
8lu3

3 months ago

On day 4 of them being in the bag I noticed a tiny sprout and on day 5 it is looking bigger. None of the other 9 seeds have sprouted yet. also nothing from the soil yet.

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8lu3
8lu3

Tip 3 months ago

I tried two different ways one was leaving it in a bag and one was planting directly into soil after stratification 10 each, im exited to see if they germinate!

0
Prash14
Prash14

Question 4 months ago on Step 4

Hi there, this is a very helpful guide. My seedling looked healthy up to the 3 cotyledons but a week has past with no further leaves coming through. The stem also is turning green from the initial red colour. Do you have any ideas why that may have happened? Thanks!

0
movin.marty.60
movin.marty.60

Question 5 months ago on Introduction

Ok my neice purchaced a giant sequoia to plant In memory for her grandpa my father ! But it dosent look like the one in the picture of yours

0
myamymolly
myamymolly

5 months ago

Has anyone tried to bonsai giant sequoia before at all? This is what I'm planning on doing

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myamymolly
myamymolly

5 months ago

I planted a batch of giant sequoia seeds just after a very short period of cold stratification, they are in a medium sized propergator on South facing window sill so have sun all day, they have started to germinate all ready!! Planted late April and currently may 6th soooo happy

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AlexisPG
AlexisPG

1 year 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?

0
ThomasJ1
ThomasJ1

Best Answer 1 year 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

0
AlexisPG
AlexisPG

Answer 1 year 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

Answer 1 year 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 6 months ago

Hi Thomas!

My little baby has already outgrown its home, so I'm planning to move it to a bigger pot (10 gallon pot). The thing is that right now its in growing season, should I wait until its dormant or can I do it right now? Also its my first time transplanting a tree, should I keep all the soil around the roots or not?

Thank you.

0
ThomasJ1
ThomasJ1

Reply 6 months ago

If you want to move it to a bigger pot during the growing season, make sure to water it well during the previous day and then try to take the whole soil with the plant without disturbing the roots too much. After it's in the new pot, water it well.

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AlexisPG
AlexisPG

Reply 6 months ago

Thank you so much, I will do it as soon as I make the right soil mix. What do you think about mixing coco coir, clay soil (top soil), perlite and a little bit of humus (none of the nursuries sell compost here in DR)?

0
ThomasJ1
ThomasJ1

Reply 6 months ago

That sounds good. It needs a soil that drains well but retains some moisture. It should never get fully dry. I think the clay will help for the moisture.

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AlexisPG
AlexisPG

Answer 1 year 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!

0
hamannre
hamannre

Question 6 months ago on Introduction

Hello Thomas,

I started putting sprouted seeds in the pots with soil. I wanted to ask how soon they begin to send a stem out and how do you put the seeds, with a sprout facing down ? Thank you! I have 3 sitting in the soil, one of them has been there for almost 2 weeks now and nothing is coming out. I wonder if the seeds are still alive.