redwood bonsai

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

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Bonsai trees are often thought of for their tall, imposing presence on the California coast. However, there are also reasons to consider growing redwood bonsai plants.

There are several kinds of redwood plants you can grow for bonsai. Among these are the dawn redwood and the coast redwood, both of which have very soft, needle-shaped foliage and interesting roots that make them suitable for bonsai.

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Interesting Facts about Redwood Bonsai

Height14-18”
Width10”
SunlightFull sun
Flowering Time LengthN/A
Lifespan100+ years
Scientific NameMetasequoia glyptostroboides and Sequoia sempervirens
redwood bonsai
Photo by Jeffrey O. Gustafson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Types of Redwood Bonsai Trees

There are two primary types of redwood that you can use for bonsai – dawn redwood, or Metasequoia glyptostroboides or coast redwood, or Sequoia sempervirens. Although there are plenty of other kinds of bonsai trees for you to choose from, like the giant sequoia, these are rarely used for bonsai.

Both coast redwood and dawn redwood are beautiful bonsai specimens. Dawn redwood bonsai is native to China and is deciduous while coast redwood is evergreen and native to the coastal portion of California and Oregon. It is perhaps the coast redwood (California redwood) which is most famous, as it is the tallest tree in the world. 

Both are tall, strong trees that are known for their gorgeous foliage, upright trunks, and reddish-brown bark. 

Growing Redwood Bonsai from Seed or by Propagation

You can propagate both kinds of redwood bonsai by seed or from cuttings. You can also air layer this plant. 

How to Care for Redwood Bonsai

Sunlight

Redwood bonsai trees, regardless of the species, should always be planted in full sunlight. However, if you plan on growing your bonsai in a climate where the summers get extremely hot, you may need to provide it with a bit of shade during these hot periods. Either way, make sure your plant stays protected from the frost, as it does not tolerate a freeze well.

Watering

Water your redwood liberally during the summer months, keeping the soil consistently moist. At the same time, you need to be careful about overwatering these plants, as it can lead to root rot. 

Fertilizing

Fertilize your bonsai in the spring with a high-nitrogen fertilizer  – do not attempt this at any other time of the year as it can burn the roots. You can fertilize in the summer, but you need to do so very sparingly to limit uncontrolled growth.

Potting and Repotting

You will need to repot your redwood once every two years. The roots grow quickly and rapidly and will fill up all of the available space in the container, lifting the root ball out of the pot. You may need to prune the roots every time you repot your plant, too. 

Pruning Redwood Bonsai

Redwoods naturally grow in a straight, upright form, so you shouldn’t have to do a ton of training or pruning to get it to grow this way in a bonsai setting. You may find that your bonsai produces lots of new buds, but these don’t need to be removed when pruning. Similarly, you can choose to wire the branches but they can be somewhat brittle. As a result, many bonsai growers use guy wires to lower the height of the branches instead. 

Pests and Diseases

Redwood is very rarely affected by diseases and pests, particularly when grown indoors. You may want to watch out for root rot, a condition that can be caused or worsened by overwatering. 

Where to Buy Redwood Bonsai

You can purchase redwood tree saplings just about anywhere (or their seeds) but it’s best to purchase trees or their seeds that are specifically meant for bonsai growing. Check your favorite bonsai outlet or distributor to see what they have in stock – either type of redwood species should suit you quite nicely. 

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