Grow Your Own Giant Sequoia Tree

76,105

166

73

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.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

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.

6 People Made This Project!

Recommendations

  • Indoor Lighting Contest

    Indoor Lighting Contest
  • Stone Concrete and Cement Contest

    Stone Concrete and Cement Contest
  • DIY Summer Camp Contest

    DIY Summer Camp Contest

73 Discussions

0
None
Dora_buia

Question 3 days ago on Step 2

Hello. Do you water the coffee filters after you place them in the fridge? What about after you take them out and place them at room temperature? Thank you! :)

1 answer
0
None
ThomasJ1Dora_buia

Answer 3 days ago

Once in the fridge, since they're sealed, you should't have to add more water. When you place them at room temperature, you'll need to open the bags and blow in them to inflate the bags. That should add enough moisture. However if you notice that the filters are a bit dry, you can add a tea spoon of water before closing the bag.

0
None
ThomasJ1winfield100

Reply 3 days ago

Well, the temperature doesn't go too low in winter so that's a good point. Then you need to find some soil that stays moist during summer months. I've never been to Iceland but I am sure there are good areas where redwoods would grow.

0
None
uros03

Question 8 months ago

Help ! 2 out of 4 sequoia leaves have started to dry up and curl! What should i do? I water the sequoia very lightly , only when the potting mix is dry!

4 answers
0
None
ThomasJ1uros03

Reply 8 months ago

Are you using small or large pots? Did you spray fungicide into the soil? How big are your plants? The trickiest time is before they start having leaves in the middle, they are sensitive to water levels and fungi.

0
None
uros03ThomasJ1

Reply 7 months ago

I accidentaly watered the plant directly and it has fallen down.
Stem looks kinda broken on the top but it is still holding together.
Should I continue my hopes for it surviving?
It still hasn't grown 2nd set of leaves and first leaves are dried.

0
None
ThomasJ1uros03

Reply 7 months ago

If the first leaves are dried and the second set of leaves hasn't shown up, it's usually a bad sign. It is probably not going to make it :(

0
None
uros03ThomasJ1

Reply 8 months ago

It is in a big pot, alongside some other plants. It is very tiny ,few cm I guess. I have just watered it with fungicide.
It looks like it is loosing color and turning white a bit.

0
None
uros03

Question 9 months ago

Hi ! My sequoia was growing well but then it stopped and its leaves started facing up. Is it dying? What should i do?
edit:
It was planted in coconut mix, i have repotted it into standard potting mix.I hope it is still alive :)

20181031_010750.jpg
4 answers
0
None
ThomasJ1uros03

Reply 9 months ago

The soil on the photo looks a bit too wet. Make sure you let the soil dry a little bit before adding more water.

0
None
uros03ThomasJ1

Reply 9 months ago

I have repotted it in friday evening and haven't watered since . How often should i water it ?
My pot has 15 cm in diameter.

0
None
ThomasJ1uros03

Reply 9 months ago

When the top of the soil looks dry, add more water.

0
None
uros03ThomasJ1

Reply 9 months ago

It died ,
I found it collapsed .
Fortunately i have a set of 10 seeds cold stratifying and i will pull them out of fridge in sunday.

0
None
Shan81

Question 10 months ago

Hi Thomas,

Wondering if I can ask some advice regarding some sequoia seedlings I've germinated indoors. I started this particular batch as a hobby (which has quickly grown and taken over my house) and admittedly, these seeds were the first batch I have raised. I have about 6 raised from 20 seeds which seem to be stuck in their cotyledon stage; they are around the 6 week mark now and haven't shown indication that they are producing their second set of leaves as yet. Being the first seed generation I have raised, the soil mixture wasn't the best and I relied on very low winter light (I'm in the Southern Hemisphere) to germinate. Successive generation of other seedling species (all conifers so far) are advancing beyond them so I've tried the following strategy to get them back on track:

1 - repotted into root training pots with a much better seedling soil / compost-sphagnum / perlite ratio,

2 - installed a grow light with split spectrum options to control wavelength and growing conditions

3 - just this week started fish-based feed to replenish nutrients

I have the second generation in the fridge now stratifying so will try a different strategy with these as I move into warmer weather. Can you let me know if there is anything else I can do to help these seedlings and if I'm on the right track?

Many thanks and regards!

Shannon

2 answers
0
None
ThomasJ1Shan81

Answer 10 months ago

Hi Shannon, congrats on your seedlings, that's exciting!
My guess is that being in the southern hemisphere, the length of day wasn't enough for the seedlings to enter the next stage of growth. This species relies a lot on available light. Increasing the lighting period (artificially or by waiting for longer days) would probably help trigger the new leaves. As long as the stems are strong, they shouldn't die. If cotyledons and the stem become soft, that's a generally a sign of root rot (too much water)


At that early stage, the soil mixture is not critical but it's good to have a well drained substrate. Regular potting mix + fungicide works well.

In the wild, a lot of seedlings germinate in what's left after forest fires (ash + soil) so it's also a good idea to incorporate some ash in the mix as a source of minerals. Not too much because it tends to make the soil more compact.

0
None
Shan81ThomasJ1

Reply 10 months ago

Thank you so much for the reply! You are right - I did germinate them under very low light conditions and relied 100% on natural daylight until about two weeks ago when I upgraded my set-up. Moving into spring we will have longer days and I have started them under grow lights so fingers crossed. I have smoke-treated vermiculite which I have for my second generation and I'll add some ash too as per your advice. I've also given my current batch some anti fungal treatment (just in case) and will keep an eye for damping off signs. Hopefully the new leaves will generate soon. Thanks again!

0
None
VladimirP56

11 months ago

Hi Thomas, a year ago I planted mine (and reported it here with some questions), now they seem to be in trouble :(

Out of three one (photos 1 and 2) is drying out, the second (photo no. 3) is ... bit odd, different color on tips, and the third one (in the background on photo 2) seems to be doing fine.

This drying out has been slow (in the course of few weeks even), so I'm wondering if there is still chance for it to return to normal. I'll try watering it some more. For this whole time it's been watered mostly once a week, depending on the soil moisture (i was really careful not to have it too moist).

The one with changed color seems to have dried out tips of the branches, but also seems to be holding on that... what is happening here? Opinion?

0-02-04-77e56bc95c09038e97a14365e16f55ba85d4ef5e8a42ef7d15f146a7f26e7067_cf2f4d43.jpg0-02-04-abbb5b435601fae54a477cf2195975cd2ef502c1ea5042a7dea9800ceaf24409_1da30c27.jpg0-02-04-f29c07236a9c9da4ae671aa4b3d325ed8170dccee60243fe8f0b80d6730865f8_b65dca5f.jpg
2 replies
0
None
VladimirP56VladimirP56

Reply 11 months ago

Hi Thomas, just two more images to have a better look on them. The one that's been drying out slowly (for weeks now), and the other one which has some "drying/discolor" on tips of branches.

IMG_20180911_171251.jpgIMG_20180911_171305.jpg
0
None
ThomasJ1VladimirP56

Reply 11 months ago

Hi Vladimir,

Sorry I missed your first message. There could be a few reasons causing the discolouration. You said you keep the moisture to a reasonable level so I'm thinking it could be a lack of light. It's very common for giant sequoias to drop their lover branches to re-assign minerals to the top of the tree while it's looking for more light. It usually starts with the terminal bud and the whole branch will dry out and drop. As long as the top bud is healthy, your tree should be fine.
Also, make sure you give less water on cooler days (fall and winter) to avoid potential for root rot.

Thomas