What is Redwood Bonsai & Care GuideLearn all about Redwood Bonsai Trees and how to take care of them.
|Scientific/Botanical Name||Metasequoia glyptostrobides|
|Description||Redwoods are evergreen trees with rather flat, thin leaves that look like needles. The light-green leaves take on a red hue in the fall. The tree bark is an orange-brown color.|
|Position||The redwood tree is fully-hardy and likes to be grown in full sun.|
|Watering||Water the tree as needed to keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged.|
|Feeding||Once new leaves have emerged in the spring, the tree should be fed every two weeks in the spring and summer.|
|Leaf and Branch Pruning||All that is required is for the tree to be pinched-back throughout the course of the year.|
|Re-potting & Growing Medium||Trees should be re-potted every two years. A good quality loam soil with added aggregates to allow for easy drainage is ideal.|
|Wiring||The tree can be wired, but the use of wires should be limited to allow the tree to grow in its natural shape.|
|Notes||There are three varieties of redwood trees. Wellington Redwood, Giant Sequoia and Dawn Redwood. The same bonsai method is used for all three varieties. The redwood tree is naturally suited to the formal upright style of bonsai.|
Bonsai – More Than Just A Small Tree!
Bonsai is a unique style of art in that the work presented is a living, growing thing. It can be displayed either indoors or outdoors, depending on the size of the plant. In fact, bonsai doesn’t necessarily mean tiny. Some bonsai trees can get up to three feet tall. Additionally, since the seedlings used are simply natural trees, they can even grow to the height of a full tree. The pot that the tree is placed in, as well as the pruning given to it by the one who grows the tree, is what limits its growth and is what gives the bonsai its small form. Left to its natural tendencies, it will easily grow into its natural gigantic, fully-grown tree size.
Bonsai can be any number of a type of tree. One popular variety is the redwood, of which there are different varieties.
The most famous example of the redwood is the Wellington, native to the Pacific Rim. These bonsai miniature versions of their famous California cousins retain all the beauty that the giant redwood trees are known for. Although redwood trees can be found all across the country, the most famous display resides in the renowned Redwood National Forest in California. These mighty trees have stood for hundreds of years as an emblem of majesty and strength. The redwoods in fact are some of the oldest known living thing on the planet!
The Wellington is often the bonsai of choice for beginners and experts alike. It grows rather quickly, so the fruits of a bonsai grower’s labors can be seen within just a few years. Shaping can be done with wiring to a certain degree; however, extensive shaping a Wellington bonsai can be difficult and can lead to an unhealthy tree. Allowed to grow into its natural form, it can be a pleasing eye-catcher with its aesthetic form and proportionate foliage that does not dominate the tree.
A Wellington redwood tree is not to be confused with a sequoia, despite the similar appearances. Although they share similar traits in the red trunks and branches and are in the same family, the sequoia is not as adaptable to bonsai growing, due to its brittle nature. Because it is so brittle, the tree is difficult to form into a specific shape. A redwood, on the other hand, is much more pliable and easier to work with. Additionally, the foliage of a redwood is not as thick as that of a sequoia, making it more aesthetically pleasing. Sequoias are also more finicky and therefore difficult to grow, not least because very few of the seeds actually germinate. It is true that sequoias are used in bonsai growing to mimic their giant relatives in northern California, but the redwood tree is often more preferred. However, the brave bonsai botanist can try their hand at growing these majestic specimens. The reward is the miniature version of the regal forests dominating northern California.
The Dawn Redwood is a highly popular variety. This Chinese native was once thought to be extinct, a relic found in old fossils. A discovery in the 1940’s brought this beautiful plant back to be enjoyed by bonsai hobbyists. The wide trunk and lacey branches gracefully sweeping upwards present a beautiful scene, whether planted on its own or as a set.
Although the seeds are highly susceptible to disease and have a low yield, they are easy to grow and results come quickly. Despite the high mortality rate and their susceptibility to disease, the Dawn Redwoods are hardy trees. Their durability is seen in the fact that this species has survived millennia of history, although it was once thought that they were extinct.
There are several methods for growing redwood bonsai. Seeds are, of course, a common starting point, but some people turn to other methods for growing bonsai. Seeds are often difficult to plant and have a low yield; in fact, at times only one out of every five planted seeds will actually reach germination. For this reason, many people begin with starter plants. This is also great for those wishing to expand their collection, without the trouble of trying to grow from a seed.
Seeds are found in the cones of mature trees. It is best to gather them from older trees, ones that are at least 20-30 years old. Younger trees do produce cones, but the quality of these is lessened and chances of success are lower. The cones are gathered from a mature tree and stored in a cool, dry place, such as a refrigerator. During storage, the cones will naturally open on their own, releasing the seeds. The container can be shaken to loosen the seeds from the cones. In the spring, they are then planted in a tray with moist, fertilized soil. It will take a few years before distinct progress is made and a true bonsai is formed.
Cutting is a common technique among many botanists, both professional and hobbyists. It is used with most plants to begin a new starter plant from a mature one. A “starter” is carefully cut from the branch of a mature tree and then replanted in a new pot. Care and attention is the same as planting seeds in that the tree is grown under carefully maintained conditions. It is best to keep the soil moist and when planting the starter, add a rooting hormone to promote rooting and growth. The starter branch will begin to form its own roots and grow into a new tree.
The final process is called air layering. This complex process involves removing the entire top of the mature tree and replanting it. It is a delicate and difficult process and one that should only be done professionally or by a well-researched hobbyist. The trunk is girdled and a band of cambium is removed, and soil is packed around the area. This induces the tree to form new roots at the spot, after which the tree is severed below the girdle and replanted.