Red wood seeds
There are several stories of people who are growing their own Redwoods on the Tall Tales page.
Growing from seed presents a little more of a challenge and requires rather more patience, but need not be too daunting. Firstly you will need to obtain some seeds. The choice is either to buy a pack from a really good seed supplier such as Chiltern Seeds (see their web site: www.chilternseeds.co.uk), or to find your own.
I very nearly fill each of the sections or pots with compost. I will have prepared this compost by sieving standard compost and mixing in 10 – 20% by volume of vermiculite. I will also add around 10% of horticultural sand, or instead of sand I might use 30% of seed compost (this is usually a gritty mixture, and is often described as John Innes No.1). All this is not essential, and in my early sowings I just used standard sieved compost alone, but I believe the mixture I’ve described helps improve the germination rate and growth of the seedlings.
I then moisten the compost. I tend to water it fairly well as I believe it needs to be quite damp to encourage germination (once they’ve germinated I would not keep the compost so sodden). Because of the long germination time I believe it is advantageous to mix some anti-damping off compound, I used to use Cheshunt compound but unfortunately this has now been removed from sale.
Two or three seeds are placed into each section or pot rather than one each, as I have come to accept that the germination rate is quite low. In fact for seeds that I have gathered myself, rather than purchased, I might put dozens in each pot and will be grateful if I get just one to germinate out of the whole tray.
About half of the sections are then covered with an eighth inch layer of compost, the other sections or pots I cover just with fine vermiculite. My theory with the vermiculite is that it does not suffer quite so much with green surface mould. My experience is that germination might be a little better with the vermiculite only covering, but I hedge my bets by doing half of each. I sprinkle a little moisture on the vermiculite, very lightly, but none on the compost topped seeds.
I then label the tray with the date and cover with a standard transparent tray cover that has no ventilation holes (although in the hot summer I might leave a slight ventilation gap). Place your tray somewhere warm but out of direct sunlight, I store mine in a shaded greenhouse.
What happens next is quite variable due to the low and unpredictable germination rate of Redwood seeds. I find the trays that are in the lowest part of the greenhouse often seem to germinate a little more readily but this may just be chance. Several may germinate within a week or so, some may germinate a few months later, very occasionally a whole tray will eventually germinate. Sometimes though none will come out at all!
Do not be disheartened if you experience difficulties with your Giant Redwood seedlings. I have grown hundreds so far yet I still have many that do not germinate, and it took several years to get to the stage of feeling confident about keeping them alive through the first few months of their growth.
The first signs of your newly emerging tree will be a tiny loop of reddish stem, a few millimetres in size, poking out of the compost. When the tiny seedling manages to straighten out, it will be about 1″ high and will often still have its seed case attached at the top. This should dry and fall off naturally within a day or so but if it looks like this is not going to happen you can very carefully remove it.
The next stage you will see is the top third or so splitting open, typically into four prongs (although I have had three or five appear on some). Within a week or so your little tree will have a dozen or more tiny green branches!
I have occasionally had more than one seedling grow in an individual pot or section. Although it is heartbreaking to do so, I usually feel more inclined to snip off one of them rather than try to separate them. As tempting as the later may be I have found that an attempt to obtain two prized trees usually resulted in two dead seedlings and a sad Ron!
Winter is not really the best time to attempt to keep Redwood seedlings alive, you might find your spring sowings fare better. This may be because any instance of over-watering will fairly quickly dry out past the danger stage for the seedling during the warm summer days.
Giant Redwoods, Coast Redwoods and Dawn Redwoods in the UK – hints on growing your own.
Exploring the Eel River Valley
Growing Your Own Redwood Grove
A full-grown redwood tree will produce six to eight million seeds each year, but the seeds are so tiny that a million seeds weigh only eight pounds. The seeds fall within a few hundred feet of the parent tree; many stay in the litter found in the tree canopies.
If conditions are good, it takes about a month for the seeds to begin to grow. However, 95% of the seeds are not viable. Only a very few of the ones that do germinate will actually turn into seedlings.
Growing Your Own Redwood Tree From Seed
Mature redwood cones slowly turn from green to brown as they begin to dry out in the fall. Once they are dry enough, the cone scales separate and release the seeds. Most seeds are shed between November and February as the winter storms blow through. To guarantee that you’ll get the seeds before they drop out of the cone, pick one before it opens (around December or January) then allow it to dry for a few weeks or more until the scales separate enough for you to shake the seeds free. If you want to plant the tree outside, be sure to use seeds from local stock and grow redwoods that are adapted to the region.
WARNING! Even though a redwood is an awesome tree, Sequoia sempervirens is NOT a good choice for a suburban lot if you wish to remain a good neighbor. Even in average soil it will quickly overwhelm the surrounding area. After growing an extensive root system, a juvenile tree will generally add five or six feet to its height each year. It is easily capable of reaching a height of 120 to 150 feet during a person’s lifetime. That’s fifteen stories high.
The year-round heavy shade will not allow grass to grow and landscaping will be limited to shade-loving plants such as ferns. Winters underneath a redwood tree are cold and wet. Redwoods control the growth of other plants around them by ‘bombing’ them — dropping chunks of wood and branches on competing plants (and your house.) The area around a mature redwood resembles a war zone. It is not possible to leave the paths in the redwood parks without having to clamber over the mess on the ground. The redwood is also by nature a messy tree, dropping a third of its branchlets each year as it renews them, clogging gutters and drains.
Its roots are very efficient at removing nutrients from your and your neighbor’s soil. They are shallow and extend many feet from the tree, damaging foundations, driveways and cracking water and drain pipes. Many years after a tree’s removal, the existing roots will continue to send up sprouts in the surrounding landscaping.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER top a redwood. The top of the trunk will then send up multiple sprouts. Each sprout will become a trunk and will grow its own branch system. These will accumulate a tremendous amount of weight. The sprout trees are attached only on one side and to the outside of the trunk, not the heartwood, and a strong wind will peel them right off the tree with devastating consequences.
The tree maintenance companies love redwood trees because of the job security. Its fast growth and large mass makes it very expensive to prune or to remove. If you absolutely have to have a redwood tree, consider the costs of maintaining it, and be sure your homeowner’s liability insurance will pay for the damage it will do. There’s a reason they’re in the parks.
Sowing Directions (these apply also to Dawn Redwood and Giant Sequoia):
- Plant at least 20 redwood seeds shallowly in a cardboard or peat pot using clean potting soil. Plant shallowly because the seeds need light in order to germinate. The germination rate is only 5%.
- Place the pot in a plastic bag and seal it with a rubber band.
- Keep MOIST in a cool area with indirect light, no sun. Seeds must not become dry during the germination period but do not over-water.
- When the tree is a few inches tall plant the pot and all in a larger container with more potting soil. Don’t overwater but keep the tops misted; remember, they normally live in a rain forest.
Another method is to place the seeds between layers of damp tissue paper instead of in a pot. However, you will have to transplant them to a pot as soon as they develop a root sprout. This is a riskier method. Continued.
How to grow your own redwood tree, from seeds or by cloning using burls. Giant Redwood Trees and majestic mountains, whales, Ewoks and Bigfoot! Exploring the Eel River valley on the north coast of California.