Do you fancy using one of the tallest trees in the world for your bonsai? If you like the idea of containing and cultivating a giant of the natural world, then look no further than a Redwood. Coastal Redwoods and their cousins Californian Redwoods make beautiful and impressive bonsais.
All about Redwoods
These majestic trees come in three distinct genuses, with the Coastal Redwood and California Redwood both native to America. These stunning trees reach incredible heights, yet we have been able to introduce them to gardens, reserves, parks, and pots worldwide. You can create a beautiful bonsai from any of these types of Redwoods, although of the three species, the easiest, to begin with, would be the Coastal Redwood. These are the easiest to grow and have been very popular as bonsais since the hobby took off in America after the Second World War.
Coastal Redwood appearance
The Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is a hardy, evergreen tree from Coastal California and Oregon. It has flat and soft leaves that have a tendency to droop, but this can be eliminated when pruned correctly. The leaf formation is often compared to that of a Yew tree. The bark is attractive and quite textured.
Coastal Redwood bonsai likes and dislikes
If you want to create a bonsai with a Coastal Redwood, your best bet would be to gather seeds or take cuttings from trees you have seen in the area. It is not easy to get healthy specimens from nurseries. And there is so much satisfaction to be had with cultivating this plant. Because it is quick to grow, you won’t have to wait too long for some results.
California and Giant Redwood appearance
The Californian Redwood, Giant Redwood or Wellingonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) are native to California’s Sierra Nevada region. They are also an evergreen tree, with unusual bark that is reddish-brown. These tones contrast nicely with the mid to dark green foliage of the leaves. The trunks can be encouraged to develop twists and turns, creating unique bonsais with individuality and charm.
California and Giant Redwood bonsai likes and dislikes
The biggest challenge here is keeping your plant contained. Californian Redwoods grow very quickly and you will need to make a commitment to supporting the shape and growth in check with regular pruning. These Redwoods prefer a warm spot, especially during the growth period in spring and early summer. They are accustomed to growing in temperate conditions.
Dawn Redwood appearance
The Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) is only native to a small region in China is a much smaller tree than its American relatives. For many decades, only fossilized forms of these beautiful trees had been found and there were no living examples known. Then, during the 1940s, a group of botanists found some examples in China. Since then, we have learned a lot about this majestic species and have been able to celebrate them as truly prehistoric bonsais!
Dawn Redwood likes and dislikes
Unlike other conifers, the Dawn Redwood is deciduous, losing its leaves in autumn and remaining barren during winter. These are fast-growing plants that reach 70 -130 ft and have a width of more than 15 ft. You can create them as either indoor or outdoor bonsai, but they should be protected from extreme temperatures if kept outdoors. They are happiest in warm and humid environments with a consistent amount of water provided. The soil will need to be rich and dense but allow for good drainage.
Watering Redwood bonsai
Test for adequate moisture by popping a finger into the soil- you should be able to feel some damp at all times. Root rot can be a problem as well, so find a balance with your watering. Coastal Redwoods can be sat in a bucket or tub of water during extreme heat. For all types, washing the leaves will remove dust and encourage health.
Repotting Redwood bonsai
As is typical for many bonsai plants, be prepared to repot every two years or so. When you go to repot, you will likely encounter a dense root ball made up of very thick roots that have become interwoven and tanged up. Do your best to untangle and trim the roots, and remove between half and two thirds before replanting.
Bugs, pests and problems
- For the Coastal Redwood, bark beetles can be a problem.
- For the California and Giant Redwoods, branch dieback can occur without any explanation; however, regrowth is usually quick to emerge.
- Pests and bugs tend to move in on the Dawn Redwood at the first opportunity. Using a simple soap and water mix can deter them.
Redwood bonsai timeline
- Spring – fertilize as we head into the growth season
- Summer – maintain humidity if possible, protect from blazing sun to avoid burn
- Autumn – keep the soil just damp, shedding of foliage will begin
- Winter – Coastal, California and Giant Redwoods will remain green but Dawn Redwoods appear dormant and dull
Tips to help your Redwood bonsai
General fertilizer can be applied to any type of Redwood. The best time for fertilizing is early spring to really kick start the tree for the growing season. Formal upright styles suit Redwoods, and you will be able to get a decent space between branches in this way.
Advice for growing Redwood bonsai
Wiring will be essential to keep your Redwood under control and into the desired form. Be prepared to pinch and prune almost year-round. This will encourage tighter shoots and help you keep the size under control. Branches will tend to grow upwards and because of quick growth in the two American varieties, you can quickly lose structure. It’s advisable to remove the wire from Californian and Giant Redwoods over winter, but wire can be kept on the Coastal Redwood all year round.
The bottom line: If Redwoods take your fancy as a bonsai plant, start with the Coastal. There is a lot to enjoy about these plants; and with your care and attention, they can come to be smaller versions of the majestic Redwoods we see around America today.