Redwood Bonsai (Metasequoia/Sequoia): How to Grow and Plant Care

You may know that some of the tallest trees in the world are redwood trees. The dawn redwood, or Metasequoia glyptostroboides, is very old, some fossils date back as far as 90 million years

It was thought to be extinct, until it was discovered growing happily in China, in 1941.

They also make excellent bonsai trees. Read on to discover how you can grow your own bonsai out of a redwood, how to get the very best out of them, and what types of redwood grow well as bonsai trees.

Redwood Bonsai

At a Glance: What You Should Know About Growing Redwood Plants as Bonsai Trees

Redwood trees are also known as the dinosaur trees, thanks to the time they’ve been on the planet, often referred to as living fossils. 

If that doesn’t seem magical that you can grow your own living fossil, I don’t know what will. 

They are also fast-growers. So if you chop them back a little too much and give them an ugly haircut, it will soon grow back. 

These beautiful trees are evergreen, producing needle-like foliage in light green, which take on an amber or red tint to match the season during fall. The bark is an orangey brown, making a lovely contrast.

When grown as a bonsai tree, redwoods can live well over a hundred years if they are cared for properly. 

The size of Redwood bonsai greatly depends on the shape you grow them into, and the size of the pot. Typically, they are grown into a shape of about 45cm high, and about 25cm wide, but they can become much bigger than this.

Coast redwoods can grow as quickly as three feet tall a year, but this depends on the growing conditions, too.

Types of Redwood to Grow As Bonsai Trees

There are two main types of redwood tree which are grown as bonsai trees, the coast redwood, and the dawn redwood.

You may know the dawn redwood as Metasequoia glyptostroboides, and the coast redwood as Sequoia sempervirens.

That’s not to say that you can’t pick other types of redwood to grow as bonsai trees, but they are less commonly used, and you’ll find it difficult to find them commercially. The Giant Sequoia, for example, is very rarely grown as a bonsai tree.

Which type you go for, depends on how you want the bonsai tree to look. The coast redwood is an evergreen, and the dawn redwood loses its leaves during winter.

Starting Off: Should You Grow a Redwood Bonsai From Seed, or From Cuttings?

Redwood trees are fairly tricky to grow from seed, so if you don’t fancy the challenge and want to skip this lengthy process, you absolutely can. 

Growing Redwood Bonsai Trees From Seed

You’ll need to collect redwood cones in September or October, when they turn yellow. Wait until the cones have dried, and collect the seeds.

It’s worth noting that while you should always soak tree seeds before you plant them to see if they are viable, coast redwood tree seeds will still float because they have high levels of tannin.

Soak the seeds overnight. Plant the seeds in moist compost, about an eighth of an inch deep, covering them lightly with horticultural grit or sand. 

Keep the soil moist, and the pot somewhere humid and bright. 

You’ll need to allow the temperature to fluctuate between day and night, allowing it to cool to 68°F (20°C) during the night, keeping it at around 86°F (30°C) during the day.

Propagating Redwood Bonsai Trees Through Cuttings

It’ll take much less time to propagate a redwood bonsai from an existing tree, taking a few cuttings, and popping them into damp compost. 

Do this during spring, and make sure the cuttings stay damp, to prevent the wound from scabbing over completely.

Keep the pot somewhere bright and humid. Once you see new growth form, they have grown roots, and are ready for individual pots.

Can You Grow Redwood Bonsai Trees Indoors?

No. Redwood bonsai trees, like most tree species, need to be outdoors to thrive.  

How to Make a Redwood Bonsai Thrive

Sunlight and Position

Redwood bonsai trees should be outdoors, in the sunniest position possible. During very fierce, sunny weather, you will need to place your redwood bonsai tree in dappled shade to give it a rest.

They also need some shelter, especially during the winter months. They aren’t frost-tolerant, so pop them by the side of your house or in a greenhouse over the winter months.

When to Water a Redwood Bonsai Tree

Redwood bonsai trees require plenty of water during the summer months. You should always aim to keep the soil damp, but not saturated. 

Allow the first two inches of the soil to nearly dry out in between watering, otherwise your bonsai tree may develop root rot, leading to plant death.

Should You Fertilize a Redwood Bonsai Tree?

As the redwood is a very prolific grower, avoid using lots of fertilizer, as you would only encourage it! 

Use a balanced, bonsai fertilizer during spring every three waters or so, and don’t fertilize for the rest of the year.

How and When to Repot a Redwood Bonsai

Repot your redwood bonsai tree every two years. Leave it any longer than this, and your redwood might suffer.

The roots grow quickly, so you’ll need to prune them back every time you repot the tree. Use a sharp pair of scissors or secateurs to take the roots back by a third. 

Repot your redwood bonsai into fresh, well-draining compost that can hold some moisture.

How to Prune a Redwood Bonsai

It may surprise you to know that you don’t need to go mad when pruning your redwood bonsai tree, considering how quickly these trees grow.

As they are generally grown upright as a bonsai tree, they are relatively easy to keep neat.

Redwood bonsai trees will produce lots of new buds, but these are easy to keep on top of, removing them as soon as you decide you don’t want new growth there. 

Trim back any bigger growth in spring, before new growth unfurls.

Redwood Bonsai: Common Problems

Redwood trees are very hardy, which is just one of the reasons why they make perfect bonsai specimens. 

The biggest problem you might see when growing a redwood bonsai for the first time is root rot, caused by overwatering, and constantly saturated soil. 

If you do see signs of this, repot your redwood bonsai immediately, taking care to prune any rotten, brown, or mushy roots to stop the disease from spreading.

It is worth noting that as soon as you notice root rot attacking your redwood bonsai, it may be too late at that point, even if you repot it. 

To save yourself some heartbreak, take a couple of cuttings at the same time. That way, if the original plant dies, you may still have one or two to work with.

Final Thoughts

Redwood trees make the perfect beginner bonsai tree, as they grow quickly, don’t suffer much nonsense from pests or diseases, and are robust, beautiful plants.

The fact that the species is so old, and the natural versions of these beautiful plants grow so tall, makes them a very attractive choice as bonsai trees.

If you do decide to grow your own, it may be worth going for the long haul and buying seeds or cuttings to work with, as fully-established redwood bonsai trees can be quite expensive, when compared to other trees grown as bonsai.

Leave a Comment

Be the first to join our brand NEW PLANTS & FLOWERS DISCUSSION GROUP on Facebook.Click Here