GS Growing Environment Considerations

(Information Provided is for Recreational Purposes Only--No Liability Assumed) 

There are three Redwood species:
Coast Redwood (of Redwood Forest fame and lumber):  Sequoia sempervirens
Dawn Redwood (Chinese native, deciduous and similar to Bald Cypress in appearance):   Metasequoia glyptostroboides
Giant Redwood/Giant Sequoia (Big Trees of the Sierra Nevada interior, Yosemite and Sequoia Natl Park):  Sequoiadendron giganteum

In the NYC/Philly Area, Metasequoia grows easily, Sequoiadendron grows grudgingly and S. sempervirens generally
will not survive our winters. S.s. is seen growing in coastal Maryland, Virginia and DE (borderline zone 8 areas).

There are some tricks to growing Sequoiadendron in the area, so this site is dedicated to those interested.

Here I attempt to summarize what has been figured out:

Giant Sequoias are very impressive but rather fragile trees that need TLC to survive in the eastern US. Their closest relatives native to the east are Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) and Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana). Bald Cypress is an impressive, deciduous conifer known for its impressive adaptation to growing in swamps. It is very cold hardy and has a large range in the SE. It's main drawbacks are that is it slow growing and that it is not evergreen. It is relatively disease and insect resistant. Eastern Red Cedar is as tough as nails and has one of the largest native ranges of any tree species, particularly in the US. It can survive just about anything and grow anywhere. It has a number of negatives though. It is rarely attractive. It does not tolerate shade. It hosts many fungal diseases. It can be very weedy. Another relative that grows in the east and used to be native is the Dawn Redwood, which is practically identical to Bald Cypress except that it does not grow in water (though it can withstand wetness), and grows much faster.

Giant Sequoia has a number of weaknesses that need understanding. We can ignore trees that are less than two years old for this discussion. Here is a list of considerations:

1) Young trees are not physically tough. Damages to branches and leaders will set the tree back considerably. They are easily damaged as well. The bark can also be easily damaged.

2) Young trees are prone to foliar blights. These can kill the tree or slow its growth to a crawl.

3) GS are not shade tolerant. They need full sun--at least 6 hours per day. However, sun during the winter can damage foliage somewhat. It tends to recover in the spring.

4) GS attract animal damage. Animals like to chew the lower bark. Deer like to rub their antlers against saplings and browse the foliage. This can cause a great deal of damage. The worst time of year is fall, from the end of Sept. thru Dec.

5) GS need ample soil moisture and well drained soils. They particularly need soil moisture during the hottest times of the summer. Heat stress can cause significant foliage loss, particularly older foliage on the interior. Heat stress also makes the trees more susceptible to disease. The ideal soil is an organic silt loam. An ideal location would be along the border of a wet or damp meadow, or along a steady stream that rarely floods. Hard soils, such as sandy-silt loams or heavy clays are problematical.

6) Older trees attract lightning.

7) While in the west they are very fast growing. In the east they tend to grow about 1' per year, though 2' per year is possible.

8) They are not easy to water by hand. They love rain and have no trouble with a day or two of flooding, but hand watering, which often involves de-oxygenated water from a hose, seems to easily cause signs of over watering and root damage--particularly spotty yellow foliage. Watering should be done on alternating sides at most weekly, or using a drip system. Watering may be necessary to avoid heat stress foliage loss in July and August.

9) They do best when planted on a slight mound in an otherwise flat area. Perhaps 6" to 1' above the surrounding yard in a mound several feet in diameter is best.

10) They don't like weeds and they don't like mulch. Mulch should not be more than 1" deep and should not touch the tree. Try to weed under the area where branches overhang. Look out for tree surface roots when weeding. Mulch should be either very loose, such as bark chips, or well aerated like leaf mold. Slate pieces can be moved around to kill weeds. Mulch is helpful in the winter when the ground freezes.

11) GS are generally z7-z9 trees that can grow in z6. Mulching trees in the winter in z6 and z7 helps prevent damage.

Further Links:
Exotic Tree Home Page
Giant Sequoia Growing in NJ, NY and PA
More GS Photos in NYC/Philly Area
Photos of Area GS from Middle 2004
Photos of Area GS from Late 2004
Photos of GS Diseases
More Photos of GS Diseases
Conifer Winter Bronzing Photos
GS Photos from Other Photographers
Some Other Exotic Tree Species
Bald Cypress and Dawn Redwood Bark Photos

Germination Trials for growing by seed:
Summary of Tips for Growing GS from Seeds
Environmental Considerations
Germination Trials I
Germination Trials II
Germination Trials III
Germination Trials IV