Giant Sequoias in the Landscape Garden
The Sequoiadendron giganteum, aka giant sequoia, sierra redwood, or California big tree, can be a valuable and useful addition to the landscape garden. They can be valuable because of their awesome beauty when they are well taken care of, and useful as screening plants for privacy and windbreaks. The big tree offers a unique opportunity to the home gardener who enjoys watching things grow big. The big tree is the fastest growing conifer in existence. The Sequoia sempervirens, or coast redwood, can compete in height, in a race to the sky, but not in girth. In a lifetime, these trees, with proper care, can grow to enormous size. In the third year of growth we get as much as six feet of growth in the containers. If conditions are right, these trees grow faster every year. The giant sequoia can be grown in all climate zones. Some tips are offered below.
Tips for Growing Giant Sequoias
Water your trees!
These trees originated at a time when the earth was warmer and wetter than it is today. Once the soil surrounding the roots of the giant sequoias totally dries out these trees are dead. They are not at all forgiving to those who forget to water, like most landscape trees are. On hot summer days your newly planted giant sequoias will consume all of their available water within 24 hours. The roots of the container grown trees are bottled up into a relatively small area. You must be diligent with your watering at least until the roots have spread out to where they can pick up enough rainwater and subsurface water on their own. For the best results continue to irrigate your trees for their entire lifetime (about 3000 years). If this isn’t possible, ask someone to water them in your absence or put in an automatic irrigation system. Remember that water is critical!
Fertilize your soil.
Plant your trees in fertile well-drained soil. Try to keep a high nitrogen level in the soil. These trees are heavy feeders. There are many ways to achieve fertile soil. If you’re not sure how to achieve fertile soil, speak to a successful local gardener in your area. This would be someone who maintains a variety of beautiful and healthy plants. If you live in the country ask a farmer. Nurseries often try to sell organic fertilizers, for a variety of reasons, but they are usually the least effective. Avoid using wood ashes on giant sequoias. Avoid using lime unless you have a serious acid problem.
Plant your tree in a sunny location.
Partial sun will do if necessary. The giant sequoias tend to grow tall faster in partial sun but not as dense. In climates with blistering hot summer day’s partial sun would be better. The giant sequoias handle severe heat but they may sunburn on tender new stems. They recover once the summer heat is over. In places with bitter cold winters it is a good idea to bury your seedlings and small trees in the snow to protect them from the drying of frigid Arctic blasts. Cold dry winds tend to discolor giant sequoias turning them a reddish color in the winter. This happens even in their natural range. Good color returns in the spring.
During mid to late summer the giant sequoias will undergo a natural process known as brownout. This is a defoliation process involving some of the foliage on the interior of the tree. It can appear unattractive when it is excessive. The interior foliage first turns yellow and then brown and eventually falls out on its own. When it dries you may choose to put on leather gloves and strip the dead foliage out by hand. Brownout cannot be prevented but it can be limited by good horticultural practices such as proper fertilization and irrigation. A healthy root system with plenty of room to spread limits brownout. Brownout will be present every summer but it will not be visible through the dense foliage on the exterior of a healthy tree.