Giant Sequoia / Sequoiadendron

I know that this interests several people and that one day maybe we’ll get a live stream on some proper material. Until then I thought it would be cool to get a design/maintenance thread going and theorizing on how we can make a natural and mature looking giant sequoia.
The weird thing is they don’t really look old when they’re ancient, kinda bushy actually. I’ve noticed they have that young conifer look starting out, then that typical branches down from the shoulder as they approach a middle age and then they seem to loose most of the lower branches, keep several of the top branches and several of those are about half the size of the trunk and first move upwards from the trunk. Not sure if this would be possible to replicate in a bonsai but I got a sapling a few years ago and I am just going to experiment with it.

First thing after repotting a couple years ago was to stick it into modern substrate (almost pure pumice, zeolit, diatomaceous earth and some organic) to fatten it up, choose some structure style it like a middle aged Sequoiadendron to have some solar panels and go from there.

What are your thoughts on this species? I feel they actually react a little bit like junipers, pinch a lot back and they sort of go downhill and through out new growth at the trunk - the new growth at the trunk after heavy reduction does seem to occur with the redwoods as well and this was mentioned in the last redwood stream by Ryan.

Here’s to a start, I’m sure many on here have more interesting and larger specimens. Not much on the internet and the 2 nice examples that I found just seem to lack that last piece of the puzzle, how to refine it and not have it be continually bushy.


I have two sequoia dendron as well, both started from nursery stock. One I believe is a dwarf cultivar that is supposed to only get about 6-8 feet tall even in the ground.

Anyway it’s a bit of a mystery still. I’ve had a similar experience as well, in terms of handling the foliage. I’m still experimenting to see if I can find a good way to have it bifurcate where I want it to, to build foliage mass.

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I have one that I’ve been growing in a container for maybe 10 years? Just to build up the trunk. I haven’t done much pruning yet so have no idea how it will respond to bonsai techniques. Also haven’t done much root work, I’ve basically just been shifting it into larger containers each year. This upcoming spring I may tear into the root system but I’ve heard from many that they don’t handle root work very well. Maybe that just means people haven’'t figured out the right time to do the work or whether the top should be cut back at the same time.

Have only seen 2 that I can think of that seem like “decent” bonsai. One is in the book “The Complete Book of Bonsai” by Harry Tomlinson. It’s a very basic formal upright with downswept branching that looks pretty much like “adult” sequoias I saw in California 30 years ago. Too full and symmetric to look really old. The other was by Craig Coussins and you can find information about it at Craig Coussins Giant Sequoia


Yeah haven’t understood the exact reasoning for the bifurcation yet either.

10 years should be a great start!

This year I want to pay more attention to it but I did style and remove a lot of green last summer so maybe the timing would have been better earlier, I really don’t know yet.

Yes I’ve only seen 2 online and 1 of them is the link you sent :slight_smile: But even that one just lacks refinement and feels young otherwise it’s ready for that last step to be a great specimen.

Nice post. I have 4 larger trees (around 1m each) which I will use in a forest plantation on a slab. One of them (largest) has wonderful bark. I will make sure to post some photos in spring when the “potting” is done.

@ThomasUrban I have only seen one sequoiadendron tree in my life which is 40m high and planted near my city some 100 years ago (I live in Transylvania, Europe). And it looks like any other conifer.
However looking at the videos on YT with giant sequoias in the states, I have to admit they look like “long” broccolis, and they give me the impression of a large trunk that has dozens of smaller trees growing around it.

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The trunks on the old sequoias are just incredibly massive. It’s almost impossible to get a sense of the scale from photos - probably the best photos I’ve ever seen of them were done by National Geographic a few years ago. Might be available somewhere on line. Lower trunks on the older trees are definitely bare. Tops…I can’t remember exactly what they looked like.

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There’s quite a few on google. You can get a sense of size by looking at the surroundings. Generally the foliage is only in the top 30% (or less on some)

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Interesting topic. We have quite a few mature giants around Portland, Oregon. Probably 50 to 100 years old. And, fairly common landscape tree on large properties. The mature trees grown in moist, valley floor sites have drooping branches nearly to the base and impressive, massive, fluted trunks. Similar to coastal, but bigger and with more juniper like fronds.

I’ve been playing with some gigantia for bonsai and so far not super easy. However, one has survived with nice trunk movement and shari. Seem to have issues with longer branch die back and strong intention to verticality. I’m pretty familiar with coastal redwood (have half a dozen landscape trees over 30 years old and large). These Sierra redwoods seem horticulturally different and more challenging for container growth. Definitely fussier than coastal. Sure would like to better understand their culture, timing and use as bonsai. Right now I’m just trying to keep one alive in a nursery container and figure out if it will ever thrive/survive in a small shallow pot.

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@AFVcliff , never heard the term ‘Sierra redwoods’. You need to clarify.
Which genus and species are you referring to…?
I’ve also heard Ponderosa and red ceader referd to as ‘redwoods’ by local loggers…
All of the sequoia Ive seen locally have strugled in containers. (Inland Pacific NW, mountain / desert.)

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Kurt, the two species I’m familiar with are coastal (Sequoia sempervirens - the one’s Ryan has been styling) and Sierra (Sequoiadendron giganteum).

Here’s a quick link describing the differences:

Fifty years ago, I spent most of my early adulthood hiking coastal and mountain trails throughout California.

Sempervirens definitively live near the ocean, typically in fog belts. According to Ryan, they are unusual in being able to extract moisture out of the air using their fronds. I believe this to be true as the mature trees I planted many years ago never seem to let even our heaviest rains make it to the ground beneath (unlike our even older Western Red Cedars).

On a week-long backpack, the giant or Sierra redwoods blew us away as we were descending the steep slopes around Kings Canyon in California’s high Sierras. Magistic, spare and special in a way very different from their coastal relatives.

I’m optimistic about the one small, Sierra Redwood I have in a nursery pot right now. If I can get to growing strongly (modern substrate, balance of water and oxygen, aggressive organic fertilization), it has lots of potential (trunk, exposed roots, shari, movement) as a bonsai.

If anyone has specific horticultural/bonsai insights, I’d love to hear more about their special needs.

With his experience in California, Ryan probably knows about giganteum…maybe that’s why he is styling sempervirens rather than Sierra?


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It might also be that no one is collecting sequioadendron giganteum (maybe illegal, or maybe just really hard to find stunted, collectable ones).

The whip like foliage seems like it is hard to reduce and control.

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Nursery stock of giant Sequoia is available here in Oregon. They seem to be fairly common in the Willamette Valley. There is a nice stand along the western part of the trail in Champoeg State Park (planted, not native).

They are annually available at the Yamhill County Conservation District native plant sale…my source.

You’re probably right about collecting in nature, since I believe their range is contained completely in protected wilderness areas and parks.


Yeah I meant for why Ryan might not work on them as much. He seems to mostly do yamadori and field grown stock.

I have two giganteums from nursery stock right now that I’m trying to figure out.


I have one I’m growing from a seedling purchased at a gift shop in the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park 2 summers ago. You can buy young seedlings for 7 bucks there. I bought two, and planted them both in the ground. I twisted one up and left the other one straight to see what would happen. What happened was the twisted one died, lol, not much of a surprise there. The other is going strong, about 2’ tall now and the base is spreading like crazy. I plan to dig it up to do rootwork in the spring.


The twisted one died eh? I wonder if they’re such aggressive growers they just don’t like anything other than going up, up up?

Thanks to everyone jumping in on this topic, it’s really cool to read that everyone is having issues or complications with them compared to other species we work with.

I’ve also never heard of Sierra Redwood but that is a cool thing to call them.

I agree that there are probably a handful of possible candidates for collection maybe even not possible with just how much energy this plant has. Just a couple years in the ground is insane what they can do.

Last I heard Ryan mention anything about them, I think it was a Live Q&A, that they will do a live stream on them but that they’re just waiting on some decent material. I assume that would be a nursery grown tree.
Really lookin’ forward to learning more about this crazy species and what the one I have in a container will do. Keep your guys’ input coming! And pictures too! :slight_smile:

Hey team

Ive been growing two giant sequoia from seedlings, purchased in the airport on way home to Canada from San Fran. Ive had them in nursery containers for about 7 years. I didnt know anything about bonsai techniques until the last 2 years. In the 7 years I had them I potted them into progressively larger pots. 4 years ago they were almost 3 feet tall. Then we had our house fire. The sequoias were close to the house and they got savaged. Charred up and lost all foliage. Lone and behold next growth season they put out new growth and the trunk re-grew from new advantageous growth. This gave them cool deadwood and a twisted shape. They have been happy ever since and just this year I repotted them with bonsai knowledge into smaller containers


Show us some pictures! :slight_smile:

That sounds exactly like the unpredictability of nature! Sorry for the loss but now you have something cooler and with a story!

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Thank you for this thread. As mentioned already I am still searching for a thorough way of reducing foliage mass. I have tried the pinching method- result: tips turn brown.

I have two planted in the ground, one is about 3m tall and the smaller one around 70cm. They are both future bonsai projects. I haven’t done anything to them except for planting in the ground and allowing them to grow.

The smaller one has a twin trunk. Not sure whether to use it as sacrificial trunk and allow it to thicken the tree. Or should I use it as a secondary trunk and keep it a twin trunk tree

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From my limited experience with them, the tips do go brown when damaged but that falls off over time. Mine are and will be in development for many more years so I dont really pinch. I take a minor few branches off or cut back now and then (especially apex).

I believe cutting back the ends of a branch allow for readily back budding and branch bifurcation/ramification. Ryan also mentioned the idea that all future wanted branches are the small back budding ones that im sure you see now on the trunk

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