Giant Sequoia Landscape Questions
- Will the giant sequoia grow here?
The Sequoiadendron giganteum (giant sequoia) is grown in all zones. Zones refer to climate. Extreme environments like low desert and far north present challenges for the sequoias. Specimen sequoias can be found in most climates indicating that the species is remarkably adaptable. The limiting factor is the availability of liquid water in the root zone. A sequoia can suck the ground dry on a warm day. If there is no natural means of replenishing the soil moisture consistently the grower must supplement the sequoias with irrigation. Failure to keep the soil moist results in a dead tree. Sequoias require moist, rich, balanced ph, and well-drained soil. Permanently swampy or muddy soil will not work. Our website gallery at http://www.giant-sequoia.com/gallery/ shows giant sequoias growing in many different places around the US and the world.
- How big can a giant sequoia grow in my lifetime?
The giant sequoia given good conditions and good gardening techniques will put on growth rings of one inch per year. That would increase the trunk diameter by 2 inches per year. At that rate you could expect the tree to have a trunk diameter of 20 inches in its 10th year, 60 inches in its 30thyear, 100 inches in its 50th year, and 200 inches in its 100th year. 200 inches is nearly 17 feet in trunk diameter. Given excellent conditions and excellent gardening techniques the growth rings could approach 2 inches doubling the 100-year total to 34 feet in trunk diameter. That would put the tree in competition with the largest diameter trees in the wild. The General Grant Tree is nearly 41 feet in diameter. In the wild the sequoias must compete with one another and other species of trees for nutrients, water, sun, and space. This results in shortages of the essentials for rapid growth. In the wild it can take 3000 years to do what we can do in 100 years by exercising certain controls over the growing space for the sequoias. We can supplement with water and nutrients and eliminate competition providing the greatest possible potential for rapid growth.
- Why is my sequoia discoloring in the winter?
Young giant sequoias typically undergo color changes in the winter and early spring. The younger the tree the more susceptible to the color change it is. Trees less than one year old are most often affected. I have seen this condition in trees up to five years old but never in older trees. The wintertime discoloration produces colors that are yet to be named by whoever names colors. The colors have been described as burgundy, purplish-red, rust, brown, and bronze. Those who try to describe the color struggle with an attempt to describe a color that has yet to be named. The discoloration does not occur every winter. It typically will come on suddenly in the wake of a cold snap after a period of unseasonable warmth. We have found that adequate water in the soil will help to reduce the burgundy discoloration phenomenon. Seedlings that are buried in snow do not discolor, only those that are exposed to drying conditions and the wind. The discoloration does not harm the trees it simply brings out a pigment that is already present. The condition will disappear when sufficient irrigation is applied and the temperatures remain warm for an extended period in the spring. You can see photos of this condition on http://www.giant-sequoia.com/about-sequoia-trees/wintertime-discolration-of-the-young-giant-sequoias/ page under wintertime discoloration.
- How do I fertilize my giant sequoia?
The most cost effective way to fertilize your soil depends on your climate and soil type. The temperature of the soil is a factor as well as the chemical makeup of the soil. Here at the 5,000 foot elevation of the central Sierra Nevada Mountains of California we use a blend of fertilizers that we created from knowledge gained by trial and error over many years. We have a warm season blend and a cool season blend. The warm season is for soils that are over 70 degrees F and the cool season is for soil that is less that 70 degrees. These fertilizers are available at http://www.giant-sequoia.com/sites/giantsequoia/cart/plant-food. Experienced gardeners can use their own tried and true method of enriching the soil. It is a requirement of the giant sequoias is that the soil is fertile.
- How fast do giant sequoias grow?
The giant sequoia is the fastest growing conifer on earth given the right conditions. We expect 4 feet of upward growth in the third year for trees in large pots and one-inch plus growth rings. They have the potential to grow faster every year. Giant sequoias grow rapidly tall and less dense when the rising and setting sun is blocked. They quit growing tall rapidly once they reach full sun. Once they reach full sun they begin to grow a thick trunk, dense foliage, and rapidly put on weight.
- How far apart do you plant giant sequoia trees?
The distance between newly planted sequoias depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you are seeking screening for privacy or windbreaks they can be planted as close together as six feet. If you are attempting to grow specimen giants, 30 to 60 feet apart would be more appropriate.
- Can I bare the roots of a giant sequoia for transplanting?
Giant sequoias have very tender little white feeder roots. The tree depends on these feeder roots for hydration and sustenance. These roots snap off with the slightest touch. In the national parks, visitors are instructed to stay on the trails when visiting the sequoia groves because simply walking on the ground under the giants will crush the shallow feeder roots. Sequoias should never be bare rooted. The process of removing the soil will also remove the feeder roots. Once the feeder roots are removed the tree will slowly dehydrate until it is dead or nearly so. The only hope the bare rooted sequoia has is to regenerate the feeder roots before death from dehydration. That is not likely. Many people have tried sequoias in their area and assume that they died because of soil, climate, fungus, and other types of problems. Most of those trees died because bare rooting destroyed the feeder roots. Shipping costs are higher to get sequoias with the roots intact but the chances of transplant success are improved from a very low percentage with bare root to 100 percent for container grown stock.
- How do I improve a failing young giant sequoia tree?
Remove the dead wood from the failing trees by making cuts close to the trunk with sharp pruning shears. Clean the debris away from the base of the trees being careful not to scrape the trunks. Leaf litter and other debris can be a hiding place for slugs and damaging pests. Eliminate the grass and weeds in a 3 foot diameter circle. Construct a basin with some imported soil. Do not attempt to dig around the trees. The roots are very shallow. Use soluble plant food such as Giant Sequoia Bonsai Plant Food at full strength. Pour about 2 gallons of this mixture into the basin every two weeks during the growing season. Send a picture by email to [email protected] for an expert diagnosis and suggestions.
- Can I plant a giant sequoia near a pond or creek to provide water?
Planting near a creek, especially in a flood plain, is not advisable. The trees could wash away in a flood, or be crushed by floating debris. Sometimes the water table is too high in low lying land near streams or ponds. When there is a high water table there is a chance that the soil is not flushing clean. Water moves upward from a shallow water table as if being drawn up by a sponge. That leads to a build up of toxins. Only plants adapted to swamp-like conditions can handle the toxins. The giant sequoia needs clean soil that drains well.
- Can I keep a giant sequoia indoors for the winter?
A heated indoors is not a beneficial environment for long-term maintenance of giant sequoias. They will most likely survive the winter inside a house but will have lost their bearings somewhat concerning their dormancy period and climate adaptation. It is helpful for them to spend some time outside in the cold of winter basically resting and getting used to their environment. Ideally the container kept sequoias will be watered well and then placed outside to be buried deep by winter snow. Once they are buried deep in snow there will be no maintenance needed until the snow melts in the spring. The trees will be insulated from cold drying winds and be unable to dehydrate under the snow. If you have freezing weather but no snow then the container kept sequoias will have to be taken into a garage or cellar occasionally to be thawed and watered. After a few days of above freezing temperatures and moist roots the trees can be set back out. They should not be set back out into sub zero temperatures. They will keep in the garage or cellar until the temperatures moderate some. The shock of rapidly changing temperatures should be avoided. The cold of winter does not harm the sequoias. Wintertime damage is done by wintertime dehydration from cold dry winds.
- How do I care for my new giant sequoia seedling?
1) Plant your seedling in fertile well-drained soil. Plant your trees in ground that is neither muddy nor frozen. Store your trees upright in the containers that they come in until the ground is ready for planting. The trees will store best outdoors. Keep the soil moist during storage. Full sun is best, but partial sun will do.
2) To remove the seedling from the container tube simply invert the seedling and tap it out by gently striking the edge of the container on a table edge or other hard surface. Be careful to hold the tree away from the hard surface so the trunk will not be scraped during removal. These trees are very flexible. They will bend easily without breaking. Use one hand to shield the tree from the table edge and the other hand to grip the container and tap. Do not break or disturb the roots any more than what may occur during removal from the containers.
3) Water your trees! It is very important to never allow the roots of the giant sequoias to dry out completely. Giant sequoias need consistent moisture to remain in optimum condition. Excessive moisture is not necessary or helpful but an occasional flooding to insure deep moisture in the root zone is helpful. The major cause of death in the young giant sequoias in the landscape garden is drought. There are no known diseases or insects that plague giant sequoias in the wild. Sequoias can suffer from deficiencies in the soil. We recommend Giant Sequoia Plant Food for sequoias planted in the ground and Giant Sequoia Bonsai Plant food for potted giant sequoias. Both products are available at http://www.giant-sequoia.com/sites/giantsequoia/cart/plant-food.
4) For best results keep your soil fertile. Giant sequoias are voracious feeders and the fastest growing conifer on earth when given fertile loose soil and consistent moisture. They will grow in hard soil very well but much slower.5) Protect your seedlings from gophers, moles, snails and slugs. Slugs and snails feed at night and can destroy your seedlings without being detected.
- How do I overwinter a giant sequoia landscape tree in a cold climate?
Young sequoias are not very sappy and are subject to freeze-drying. Freeze-drying usually only discolors and does not harm the trees but it can damage or kill the young trees if they go into the winter already dry. Keep them watered up until the ground freezes. Then if possible bury the trees in snow. In their natural environment the young ones are buried in snow all winter. You may want to construct a windbreak or find a box to place over them when the deep freeze comes if there is no snow. As the sequoias mature they become sappier and less vulnerable to freeze-drying. The cold is not a problem. The cold dry wind is.
- How do I stop lower branches from dying?
Lower branches will abort naturally when there is not enough sustenance to sustain them. If there is a lack of sunlight to the lower branches or an insufficient root system the lower branches will begin to die. Remove any damaged and dead lower branches by cutting them close to the trunk of the tree.
- Should I plant my trees in a large pot until Spring?
If you plant your trees in a larger pot, you must wait until the trees are fully rooted in the pot before removing them. If you were to attempt to remove the trees from the pots prematurely the root balls might crumble and the tender roots would crumble away as well damaging the tree. The root ball must stay intact upon removal to prevent damage to the root system. If you plant trees in a larger pot in fall they will probably not be sufficiently rooted to remove from the pots by spring.
- What time of year is best to plant a giant sequoia?
Our container grown trees can be planted any time of year as long as the ground is not frozen or muddy. I have not seen any real difference in the success rate of trees planted in any particular season. Each season presents its own challenges to the grower. Vegetable plants generally need to be planted in the spring because they only live for one growing season. Trees live for many years so the season for planting is not really important. What is important is the condition of the soil that you will be planting in.
- What type of soil do giant sequoias prefer?
The preferred soil for the giant sequoia is loose, rich, pH balanced, well drained, and moist. The soil can lack some of those qualities and the sequoias will still grow, only slower. Our soil here is red clay and they grow faster than any other conifer in that. You must never let the soil dry out completely. You will most likely have to hand water to get them rooted down to permanent moisture.
- Why is my giant sequoia dripping sap?
During the spring the sequoias attempt to build in a new layer of “skin” under the surface of the old skin of the branches and the upper trunk. If there is not enough moisture in the soil available at that time the new layer will go undernourished and will not complete the task. The skin will crack and drops of sap will emerge and drip down the trunk and drop to the ground from the branches. The sap is a defense mechanism to keep insects from entering the damaged tissue. Your tree is damaged and it might take some time to recover. There will be no sap dripping next summer if you can get enough water to it in the spring and early summer but it will still take a few years to completely heal over the damaged tissue and return to normal growth.
- What is a cold frame?
A cold frame is a structure that prevents damage to trees that may be sensitive to extreme cold or winter winds. The structure can be as simple as a wooden box made from a 2x4 frame with osb or plywood siding and a removable roof. In cold winter climates the cold frame is most effective when sunken into the soil to a depth near the winter frost line in the soil. The sunken cold frame should be constructed so that it drains and does not flood. In mild winter climates the cold frame can sit on the surface. The lid should be removable so that during times of moderate temperatures it can be removed to allow for fresh air ventilation and sunlight. Dormant plants need little to no sunlight in winter so the roof can be constructed of osb or plywood as well. A cold frame allows freezing temperatures but does not allow freeze drying winds and deep freeze temperatures.