Redwood Bonsai Trees are referred to as the “Dinosaur Trees” with a scientific name, Metasequoia glyptostrobides. It originated in Manchuria, China. This is one of the most exciting species of the redwood family evergreen trees. Redwoods have a rather flat and thin leaf that looks like needles.
In fall, its light-green leaves turn into red. At the same time, the tree bark is orange-brown in color. Dawn Redwood trees were rediscovered in the 1940’s and were planted in the United States in 1948. It was once feared that Redwoods are extinct.
Redwoods are beautiful bonsai specimens because they’re relics of the bygone period that truly makes them a true living fossil that definitely delights every bonsai gardener with its majestic and beautiful stature.
|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.|
In this guide, allow us to share with you an in-depth detail about Redwood Bonsai Trees. After completing this tutorial, you will gain the right knowledge, skills, and attitude towards taking care and growing Redwoods. We will be touching the following topics:
- Facts About Redwood Bonsai Trees
- General Care Tips
- Placement and Cultivation of Redwoods
- Right Watering Technique
- Feeding Your Redwood Bonsai
- How to Prune, Wire, and Shape Redwoods
- How to Re-pot Your Redwood Bonsai
1) Facts About Redwood Bonsai Trees
One popular bonsai species is the Redwood Bonsai Tree that comes with different varieties including the Wellington Redwood, Giant Sequoia, and the Dawn Redwood. The Wellington Redwood is a famous redwood variety that originated in the Pacific Rim.
It is a bonsai miniature version of their popular California cousins, retaining all the beauty that a giant redwood tree is known for. In California, the renowned and famous Redwood National Forest displays the most beautiful Wellington Redwood trees that stood for many years as an emblem of strength and majesty.
In fact, the redwoods belong to the oldest known living things on earth! The Wellington Redwoods are best both for experts and beginners alike. They grow rather quickly, so you’ll be able to see the fruits of your labor in just a few years.
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.
Giant Sequoia has similar traits with Wellington Redwoods, wherein they have red branches and trunks and belong to the same family. Because of its brittle nature, the Sequoia is not adaptable and suitable to bonsai growing, making it difficult to shape.
A redwood is easier and more pliable to work with. The foliage of redwoods is not as thick as giant sequoia trees, making them more aesthetically appealing.
However, some brave bonsai botanists have tried growing these majestic sequoia specimens. Their reward is a beautiful miniature version of the regal forest’s tree that dominates northern California.
The Dawn Redwood has lacey branches and wide trunk, presenting a beautiful scene and gracefully sweeping upwards, whether it is planted on its own or planted as a set. Dawn Redwood bonsai trees grow fast despite their high morbidity and mortality rate.
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.
The Dawn Redwood reaches a height of up to 110 feet, having a 25 fee spread. The original Dawn Redwoods have hearty conifers with lacey type needled foliage on upswept branches. Their needles are quite pretty during fall when the airy light green spray becomes yellow and turn to bronze prior to shedding from the redwood trees.
Dawn Redwood Bonsai trees have reddish barks that are well-grooved, slim, and strikingly straight. They are suited with a formal upright bonsai style.
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.
Indeed, Redwood Bonsai trees are wonderful sights, which is attributed to the way they taper away from the heavy and broad root flare. They make a perfect bonsai tree great for your collection. Watch this video to learn more about Redwood Bonsai Trees!
2) General Care Tips
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.
3) Placement and Cultivation of Redwoods
The Redwood Bonsai Tree is a fully-hardy species and likes to be grown and cultivated under a full sun. If your Redwood Bonsai is to be used as an outdoor specimen, you have to make sure that it will receive utmost protection from frost and extreme cold during the season when it is dormant.
During summer, when the days are the hottest, it is important to be vigilant and observant about the air and soil moisture levels. The Redwood Bonsai tree will do best in conditions providing moderate warmth and sufficient humidity.
Redwood Bonsai Cultivating Tips
Tip #1: Redwood Bonsai Trees are surprisingly suitable for either indoor or outdoor growing as long as they’re given abundant sunlight, ample humidity, and southern exposure, ensuring proper growth of your redwood bonsai tree.
Tip #2: A Dawn Redwood Bonsai prefers a deep, moist, and well-drained soil. You can ensure giving your bonsai the right moisture levels by reaching down an inch or two inches into the surface of the soil using a finger. Don’t allow your redwood bonsai tree to go without enough moisture because this bonsai species is not drought-tolerant.
Tip #3: Fertilize your redwood bonsai starting late spring until late summer using a balanced organic bonsai fertilizer. Don’t feed during fall.
Tip #4: Use a wire to shape your bonsai when it is dormant starting early winter up to early spring, wrapping wires counterclockwise around the trunks, thick enough to sufficiently hold the branches and trunks in place. You’ll be able to gently bend the trunks and branches of redwood bonsai based on your desired position once the wires are properly placed. Just leave the wires in place for 3 to 6 months, and make sure to avoid any damage to the bark is prevented.
Tip #5: In summer, pruning is necessary to trim back new shoots. When shaping, the ideal training is a formal or informal upright bonsai style, that works very well for a slanting or clump, as well as for bonsai forests.
Tip # 6: If you grow your redwood bonsai outdoors, it will greatly benefit from the abundant fresh air, healthy sunlight, and different weather conditions that increase resistance to pests and diseases.
Tip #7: When propagating your own redwood bonsai, just simply take a bunch of the debris and some seed cones found at the base, measuring the duff’s depth under the tree, and using it as the duff depth. Make holes on the bottom of a plastic tub for drainage, putting clay in the tub, and putting the collected redwood bonsai duff on top. Set about 6 seeds on the redwood duff and place the pot outside in a location with strong natural light.
Tip #8: Re-potting redwood bonsai trees is done every other year during springtime. This is the best time for your bonsai to benefit from the fresh mineral rich and quick-draining soil, thus minimizing root pruning.
If Redwood Bonsai trees are allowed to grow in their natural form, providing ample sunlight, nutrients, and water they need, they can be pleasing eye-catchers with their aesthetically pleasing form. Indeed, this bonsai species is perfect both for novice and expert growers.
4) Right Watering Technique
When it comes to watering redwood bonsai trees, make sure to water every day and attempt misting every second say because redwood bonsai trees enjoy misting. Always keep the soil moist but avoid over-watering.
Tips on Watering a Redwood Bonsai Tree
Tip #1: When the surface of the soil gets slightly dry, this would indicate that your redwood bonsai tree needs to be watered. You can use your fingers to check if the soil is already dry about a knuckle deep or around 1 cm deep.
Tip #2: The choice of soil mixture is essential when growing red bonsai trees because it determines the frequency you need to water it. If ever the soil mixture retains more water, you don’t have to water your redwood bonsai plant regularly.
Tip #3: It is advisable to water your redwood bonsai before the heat splurges to ensure that your plant will have sufficient water to make it.
Watering a redwood bonsai follows the same general principles for other bonsai species. Redwood bonsai plants love misting and it is advised to water them regularly when the soil is slightly dry.
5) Feeding Your Redwood Bonsai
Dawn Redwood bonsai trees don’t require regular fertilization. While fertilizers help in promoting healthy bonsai plants, green foliage, and stronger root systems, redwoods don’t really need them if they appear generally healthy.
However, if your redwood bonsai tree suffers from root disorders because of soil compaction, you need to feed high-phosphorus fertilizers to encourage new growth of roots. In the case your bonsai suffer from a root disorder, superphosphate fertilizers may help in correcting the issue with an NPK 0-20-0 ratio.
Fertilizer Attributes for Redwood
- Complete-ratio fertilizers are best for redwoods because they have a balanced amount of nitrogen levels, phosphorus, as well as potassium.
- Go for 10-5-5 ratio, 12-6-6, or an NPK ratio of 18-6-12. These proportions are best for fertilizing timber trees like dawn redwood. This is according to studies performed by the University of California and North Carolina State University.
- Avoid using fertilizers with a nitrogen level more than thrice higher than phosphorus and potassium because too high nitrogen levels can exacerbate diseases like a redwood canker, causing die-back of branches and twigs of redwoods.
- Avoid feeding your bonsai fast-release and nitrogen-rich fertilizers because these are harmful to redwoods. Remember that redwoods thrive in iron-rich plant food or fertilizer.
Applying Fertilizer to Your Redwood
- Do not apply fertilizer to your dawn redwood bonsai tree until it is established. To be on the safe side, it is best to wait at least a year. Once your bonsai tree is established, you can feed a general-use fertilizer to your redwood each year.
- Feed your bonsai during mid-autumn up to the early spring season, just before a new growth starts.
- Apply bonsai fertilizer near the trunk’s absorbing roots. Dawn redwoods need about 3 to 5 lbs of fertilizer for every inch of the trunk diameter that is measured at 4 1/2 ft above the ground. Follow all instructions recommended on the label of the fertilizer.
Fertilizing your redwood bonsai tree encourages healthy growth and development, and stronger root system. However, fertilizer does not cure any pests or plant diseases.
Always bear in mind that fertilizer application cannot substitute sunlight and adequate water.
Avoid fertilizing your redwood bonsai during drought because the salt in the fertilizer may cause great harm to a vulnerable tree.
6) How to Prune, Wire, and Shape Redwoods
Picking the right time to prune your redwood bonsai tree is very important. Redwoods enter a short period of dormancy stage in late winter, and this is the perfect time for pruning. It gives your redwood a chance to heal and recover from the cuts you made with its first burst of new growth during spring.
Even if your place does not get very cold at any time, pruning still works best from January to February. The light levels help your redwood tree in determining when to exit dormancy, and March and April have longer days that can trigger new growth.
It is really tempting to trim out low branches around the redwood bonsai trunk, but these branches help in providing important patches of shades. When the base of the redwood tree is exposed to abundant sunlight, small growths sprout from the roots, called suckers.
If you trim away the shading branches, it allows the suckers to grow, sapping the energy of your dawn redwood bonsai. A mulch barrier or shade cloth will allow pruning away low branches without stimulating the growth of plenty of suckers.
Shaping your redwood bonsai would require trimming of the branch itself instead of the clumps of needles since the foliage spreads along each bonsai branch. You can prune cuts anytime along a bonsai branch, creating a compact shape or removing a branch extending beyond a conical growth pattern.
You can use shears and trim branches only under 2 inches in diameter. Remember that large branches are only pruned if they’re diseased, badly damaged, or dead. Remove these branches by making a series of 3 cuts: a partial cut under the bonsai branch 6 inches from the trunk; a full cut downward 1 inch further away; and a full cut closer to the trunk. Be careful not to graze the collar of the branch.
Root Pruning a Dawn Redwood Bonsai
The root system of a dawn redwood bonsai grows quickly as compared to other bonsai trees. Trimming the roots once a year during springtime is recommended. You can use a small root rake so you can break up the soil around the bonsai rootball, thus making the roots visible.
The amount of roots depends on the size of your dawn redwood bonsai, as well as the size of your container. You may want to cut back just enough of the rootball so that the root system comfortably fits in the pot.
Don’t be afraid to cut off or remove large amounts of roots if needed. You can use pruning shears to quickly work of the roots of your redwood bonsai tree.
Branch Pruning of a Dawn Redwood Bonsai
Just like the root system, the branches of a dawn redwood bonsai grow fast. If they are not checked, they can make your bonsai tree look off-balanced. The amount of pruning and the location is highly determined by the bonsai style and shape you want to your redwood to look.
For instance, if you want your redwood tree to grow to have a dense foliage, you can cut back overgrown branches, maintaining a tight and triangular shape to achieve this goal.
Cutting branches at an angle of 45 degrees to the direction of the branch is ideal, but the direction of the angle does not really matter. However, it can prevent water from accumulating in the location of the cut. A dawn redwood bonsai can sustain heavy pruning.
How to Prune Larger Dawn Redwood Trees
For younger redwoods, you can use either long-handled pruners or hand pruners. Removing damaged, diseased, and dead branches should be done. The examples of these kinds of branches, including branches that do not grow leaves, and those that show signs of fungus or rot. With these branches, cutting at an angle at 45 degrees of the branch collar is the best way to prune young dawn redwood trees.
On the other hand, older redwood bonsai trees with branches thicker than an inch, it is best to use a good pruning saw, and use a three-cut technique for such branches. This method consists of sawing halfway through the bonsai branch’s bottom, a foot from the bonsai’s branch collar.
Make the second cut by sawing through the entire bonsai branch, 2 inches from the first cut, allowing the large portion of the bonsai branch to fall, preventing tear and damage to your redwood tree.
Cutting off any remaining damaged branch can be done sawing back to the bonsai branch collar, at an angle of 45 degrees, with respect to the trunk’s direction. Cutting the angle in any direction is completely fine.
Now you are more knowledgeable about pruning and shaping your redwood bonsai. Just leave a few inches of the branch to stick out from the trunk to provide a perfect breeding ground for damaging diseases and insects.
You can start by cutting the large branches to a few inches achieve a better control. Trim the stumps closer to the trunk’s surface to prevent problems.
A smooth vertical surface can prevent water from accumulating and giving rot an opportunity to reach the heartwood of your dawn redwood bonsai tree.
7) How to Re-pot Your Redwood Bonsai
Re-potting should be performed on all bonsai periodically when their root system or roots have filled their containers. There are many reasons for re-potting your redwood bonsai. One is to supply your redwood tree with fresh compost soil.
It is also done to encourage a root system that is more compact. As a general rule, most deciduous trees need re-potting every 2 or 3 years, while evergreens require re-potting every 4 or 5 years.
Because redwood trees grow at various rates, this schedule does not always apply, so it is important to check the root system of your bonsai each year to know if it has a root bound or pot-bound.
The process of re-potting safe and easy if performed correctly and at the right time of the growing season. Re-potting is performed in mid-summer.
Step #1: The bonsai tree, along with the soil, should be completely removed from the container. The bottom fourth and outer most of the redwood bonsai’s root mass must be removed. You can do this by raking the soil away, and proceed with pruning back the roots. Remember that it’s not good to prune back more than 1/4 of the redwood bonsai’s root mass.
Step #2: The redwood bonsai tree is placed in its original container or into another. The container should have a screen placed over its drainage holes. This is to avoid too rapid escape of water when watering to ensure that the roots are watered thoroughly.
Step #3: A thin layer of gravel is placed in the container’s bottom for drainage purposes. On top of the gravel, place the new fresh compost soil. Placing a layer of well-draining compost soil should be sufficient enough for elevating the tree to its previous height in the container.
Step #4: After you place the tree back in the container, the area that is left vacant by the pruned root mass must be covered with fresh soil. The fresh soil around and under the root mass avoid any air pockets left on the soil.
Step #5: After re-potting, your redwood bonsai tree should be watered thoroughly. You can do this by submerging the entire container in a tub of water. You can use moss or other types of ground covers to cover the surface of the container, helping in preventing soil erosion when you’re watering your redwood bonsai.
Re-potting a redwood bonsai tree is similar to other bonsai species. Remove your Redwood bonsai from its container once every year during spring to do a routine root pruning. Don’t forget to water your redwood bonsai thoroughly as part of a good aftercare.
The Redwood bonsai tree loves the humid heat and it’s hardy in most North American zones. It doesn’t require being brought indoors during frost. Redwood bonsai can be used as an outdoor or indoor specimen, as long as it obtains plenty of sunlight.
When your redwood bonsai is grown outdoors, it achieves a “dappled sun” effect using a screen or lattice. It is typically trained in an upright formal style because of its evenly growing foliage and straight trunk. This majestic and historical bonsai tree looks beautiful and stunning as part of a forest, slanting, or clump arrangement.
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