How to Grow and Care for Sequoia Sempervirens (Coast Redwood)

Stand of coast redwoods near the San Francisco Bay.

 Sundry Photography/Getty Images

John Steinbeck wrote, "No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe."

Steinbeck was right. If you have never seen a coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens in person in its native habitat, it is something to put on your bucket list. These beautiful giants will grow to only 100 feet in cultivation, but ancient trees in the wild reaching 300 feet are common. Even at a "modest" 100 feet, these unique organisms are something you need to see for yourself to experience.

Common Name Coast Redwood, Coastal Redwood
Botanical Name Sequoia sempervirens
Family Name Cupressaceae
 Plant Type Evergreen
 Mature Size 60 to 100 ft. tall, 35 ft. wide in cultivation
 Sun Exposure Full sun
 Soil Type Moist, rich, humusy, well-drained
 Soil pH Slightly acidic
 Bloom Time Non-flowering
 Flower Color Non-flowering
 Hardiness Zones 7-9, USDA
 Native Area Western United States

Sequoia Sempervirens Care

Depending on where you reside, the coast redwood might be one of the most common landscape trees in your area or a unique specimen sure to be the topic of plenty of conversations. Native to the coastal woodlands of the west coast from Oregon south to central California, the easiest way to make this beautiful evergreen conifer thrive is to replicate its native conditions. If you do this, you'll find that caring for your redwood care is pretty effortless.

Light

Coast redwoods prefer full sun and will show a notable structural change in the shade. Trees that get too little sunlight will appear thin and bend to grow towards sunlight.

Soil

Though it prefers the well-drained acidic soil naturally found in its natural habit, redwoods are great at adapting to other soil conditions. They will thrive in almost any soil except for highly alkaline or salty soils.

Water

Keeping your coast redwood watered sufficiently is key to having a happy, healthy tree. The naturally occurring fog in its native habitat creates a mist that irrigates the tree in the woodlands, constantly fulfilling moisture needs. You will not have this natural irrigation in a residential setting, so it is essential to keep your tree watered until it is thoroughly established. To do this, water the tree weekly for the first five years of its life out at the dripline, where its fibrous and shallow roots will absorb the most water.

Temperature and Humidity

Coast redwoods favor climates where the temperatures range between 15 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit with high precipitation levels. The tree's native range has an average temperature of 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit, with steady dampness provided by the coast and mountain weather systems. As long as you plan to provide your tree with plenty of moisture and are in USDA hardiness zones 7-9, it should do just fine.

Fertilizer

Your tree should do fine without any added nutrients and should thrive without supplemental fertilizers. One issue to watch for is yellowing needles during the summer, pointing to alkaline or neutral soil. The redwood prefers acidic soil; this can cause a shortage of iron, leading to needle yellowing. If you notice yellowing, it is best to test the soil's pH, then, if necessary, add apply iron sulfate to correct the iron shortage.

Types of Sequoia Sempervirens

Often when you have a tree as large as the coast redwood, people will seek out cultivars of the species that will fit their needs, and spaces, and sometimes conditions while still providing most of the plant's most attractive qualities. The nursery trade has not let us down; it has provided consumers with tons of options. Here are a few popular cultivars:

  • Sequoia sempervirens 'Kelly's Prostrate' Is a dwarf cultivar that is flat-growing, ground cover with bright-green foliage that turns slightly gold in cooler climates. After 10 years, the tree will measure no more than 8 inches tall and 60 inches and wide. 
  • Sequoia sempervirens 'Pendula' is an upright weeping cultivar with intermediate growth habits. It will reach a modest height of 5 to 10 feet after 10 years.
  • Sequoia sempervirens 'Yurok Prince'  is another spreading cultivar of redwood, this one with layered horizontal branching.  This cultivar develops no leader and layers branches as it grows. A mature specimen will measure five feet tall and twenty feet wide.
  • Sequoia sempervirens 'Filoli' is a large and fast-growing cultivar with an upright form and chosen for its beautiful steel blue foliage. A mature tree will measure 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide.

Pruning

Coast redwoods require very little pruning. You can remove broken branches and lower branches from your tree to expose the attractive bark. Falling needles and broken branches around the bottom of the tree will create its own naturally occurring mulch called duff.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

One of the truly wonderful things about coast redwood trees is that they are very resistant to all pests and diseases once mature. Even a tree that is temporarily plagued by pests will not suffer any ill effects.

Common Problems with Sequoia Sempervirens

You can prevent the only issue you may experience before you even plant your tree. The coast redwood is massive, and it may cause issues with your infrastructure due to its size and large, shallow, fibrous root structure. The best thing you can do to avoid this is to plan and think about the proper placement and mature size of these majestic giants before committing to care for one on your property.

Article Sources
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  1. Steinbeck J. "Travels with Charley: In Search of America." New York, NY: Penguin Books; 2017:105.