Redwood Bonsai Tree

forest of dawn redwood bonsai trees
© Brian Maudsley/Shutterstock.com

Written by August Croft

Published: December 10, 2022

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It may feel a bit silly to grow a redwood Bonsai tree when you consider the fact that redwoods are some of the tallest trees in the entire world. However, growing one of these gentle giants in miniature form can be particularly rewarding and special. But how can you best care for a redwood Bonsai tree, and what should you know when it comes to propagating and maintaining one? 

Whether you’re brand-new to Bonsai tree care or an old pro, taking care of a redwood Bonsai tree requires knowledge and patience. If you are interested in bringing a redwood Bonsai tree home, here’s everything you need to know in terms of its care and best practices. 

Redwood Bonsai Tree

While all species are grown around the world nowadays, one redwood tree species is native to China and the other two are native to the west coast of the United States, particularly California.

©Brian Maudsley/Shutterstock.com

Redwood Bonsai Tree Facts
Botanical NameSequoia
Common TypesSequoia sempervirens, Sequoiadendron giganteum, Metasequoia glyptostroboides
SunlightBright, direct sunlight for at least 6 hours per day unless it’s summertime; add some shade during the hottest parts of the day!
SoilExtremely well-draining; Bonsai soil mixture with organic compounds and lava rocks recommended
WaterKeep moist but ensure that your redwood’s large and intricate root system isn’t rotting
For Beginners?Intermediate; climate and large growth habits make it difficult to maintain
Indoors or Outdoors?Outdoors only, with cold weather protection starting at 40 degrees Fahrenheit
Pairs Well With…Moss, rock accents, and low-lying ornamentation; let these large, powerful trees speak for themselves!

Common Types of Redwood Bonsai Trees

While there were many different types of redwood trees once upon a time, there are only three species currently living. All other redwood trees became extinct at some point in history, but the three types that remain are among the tallest and strongest trees in existence. Members of the Sequoia genus, some redwood trees reach over 300 feet tall. 

While all species are grown around the world nowadays, one redwood tree species is native to China and the other two are native to the west coast of the United States, particularly California. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of redwood trees you can cultivate as Bonsai trees now. 

Coast Redwood

Redwood Bonsai Tree

Coast redwoods are the second most common redwood species for Bonsai tree cultivation, though the wood of this particular tree is extremely hard and difficult to shape.

©Lilly Kauffman/Shutterstock.com

Credited as the tallest type of redwood tree and likely the tallest type of tree in general, coast redwoods are native to the West Coast. These striking trees produce relatively thin trunks for their height, towering and slender in a forested setting. Coast redwoods are the second most common redwood species for Bonsai tree cultivation, though the wood of this particular tree is extremely hard and difficult to shape. 

Giant Sequoia

Infamous for their size, giant sequoia trees are the final species of redwood tree still in existence. However, this particular species is the least utilized when it comes to Bonsai tree cultivation. This is likely because giant sequoias are even stronger than coast redwood trees, making them nearly impossible to shape or style. However, they still make an impressive specimen in any container, so long as your container is larger than average! 

Dawn Redwood

Redwood Bonsai Tree

Growing in cool, temperate locations, your redwood Bonsai tree needs much more water in the summertime compared to other parts of the year.

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Rediscovered alive in China in the 1940s, dawn redwood trees were once considered extinct. However, this particular redwood tree species is now the most commonly cultivated redwood tree around the world. It is also the most popular redwood tree used in Bonsai tree cultivation. One of the reasons why dawn redwood trees are special is because they are deciduous, changing colors in the fall depending on their overall health. 

Caring for Your Redwood Bonsai Tree

Redwood Bonsai tree care differs from a number of other types of trees, making it unsuitable for the beginning artist. However, intermediate Bonsai tree owners may opt for a redwood Bonsai tree if they are looking for a larger specimen to care for. Keep in mind that redwood trees grow in temperate climates, making them difficult to care for If you experience particularly hot summers or cold winters. 

With all this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the overall care needs for redwood Bonsai trees. 

Sunlight

Redwood trees thrive in bright, direct sunlight. For the overall health of your specimen, plan on placing it in a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight each and every day. However, your redwood tree may need some shade in the summertime, particularly during the hottest parts of the day. The foliage and bark of these trees can suffer in hot climates and direct summer sun, so keep this in mind. 

Soil Type

Well-draining soil is a must for any redwood Bonsai tree, but they are fairly unfussy otherwise. Choosing an option with plenty of organic material is a good idea, along with rocks and stones. Akadama is a type of clay used in Bonsai tree care and maintenance, something you may consider if you are worried about drainage and water retention. 

Water

Growing in cool, temperate locations, your redwood Bonsai tree needs much more water in the summertime compared to other parts of the year. However, the root system of the average redwood tree is extensive and large, so make sure you don’t overwater your specimen. It’s a difficult balance to maintain, but root rot is common in redwood Bonsai trees. Try to keep the soil evenly moist but not soaking wet, and pay special attention during the hottest months of the year. 

Placement

Choosing to place a redwood Bonsai tree based on your local climate is a good place to start. The dawn redwood tree is more versatile compared to the coast redwood and the giant sequoia. However, all redwood tree specimens require a certain amount of sunlight in order to thrive. You may prefer to leave your tree in one location and simply add shaded elements during the summertime. Redwood trees will also need protection during the winter, particularly their elaborate root systems. 

Redwood Bonsai Tree

Many Bonsai tree artists use guy wires to gently tilt or direct the shape of their redwood branches, given the fact that the wood found within redwood trees is particularly strong and resistant.

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Pruning Your Redwood Bonsai Tree

The primary reason why redwood Bonsai trees are not recommended for beginners is because of their intricate and resistant pruning style. Redwood trees produce growth quickly, particularly during the spring and summertime. This is why fertilization should be done in the fall and winter rather than during the growth periods for this tree, as fertilizer will likely result in far more growth than you need. 

When it comes to pruning new growth from your redwood tree, you should do so as soon as it appears. Buds and burls are common occurrences on a redwood Bonsai tree, so remove whatever growth you don’t want with care. Many Bonsai tree artists use guy wires to gently tilt or direct the shape of their redwood branches, given the fact that the wood found within redwood trees is particularly strong and resistant. 

You may also find that pruning simply isn’t enough to tame your redwood Bonsai tree. Many cultivators of redwood Bonsai trees have to repot their trees every two years or less, depending on the growth habits and overall size of their specimen. Pruning the roots of your redwood tree is necessary for its continued health as well as an ideal way of limiting its growth to a container. 

Unfortunately, most redwood tree species are difficult to shape or style. Their aggressive and strong growth habits make them poor choices for any intricate or twisting Bonsai tree styling methods, such as cascade or semi-cascade choices. However, a formal upright style truly helps this tree shine. You may even be able to grow your redwood Bonsai tree in a raft or forest style as well, creating an intricate scene in your preferred container!

Propagating Your Redwood Bonsai Tree

Redwood Bonsai Tree

A primary problem with redwood Bonsai trees is the fact that they are hardy in Zones 7 through 9 but need protection from both extreme heat and extreme cold in other regions.

©Gheorghe Mindru/Shutterstock.com

It’s important to note that nearly all redwood tree species are threatened or endangered. That’s why you should grow your redwood Bonsai tree with care. Cuttings should only be taken from trees outside of protected state or national forests and you should ensure that your tools are properly sanitized. While highly resistant to disease, all redwood trees are special and deserve the utmost care!

You can also choose to propagate your redwood Bonsai tree from seed. While it will take a bit more time to shape your Bonsai tree when grown in this way, this method helps protect our redwood trees in the long run. Plus, given just how strong redwood trees are, it may be slightly easier to shape an infant redwood tree rather than one grown from a cutting!

Common Problems with Redwood Bonsai Trees

Despite most redwood tree species facing endangerment and threats in their natural environments, they are extremely disease-resistant and generally free of pests. This is good news for those of you worried about insect infestations or other fungal infections happening to your new Bonsai tree. However, this doesn’t mean that redwood Bonsai trees are completely without issues. 

A primary problem with redwood Bonsai trees is the fact that they are hardy in Zones 7 through 9 but need protection from both extreme heat and extreme cold in other regions. It can be frustrating to babysit an outdoor-grown Bonsai tree, especially one that requires a temperate region in order to thrive.

Besides this, the average redwood Bonsai tree grows far larger than most Bonsai tree artists prefer. Having the space to both protect and preserve a specimen of this size is important. Not only are redwood Bonsai trees recommended at a large scale, but they also are difficult to shape. You likely won’t be able to achieve an intricate or complicated styling method with this tree species, so don’t be disappointed when your pruning doesn’t go as planned. 

With all of this in mind, redwood Bonsai trees are beautiful and special given their relative rarity in our natural world. Caring for one is rewarding and likely easier than you think, with plenty of practice and research! 


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About the Author

August Croft is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on astrology, symbolism, and gardening. August has been writing a variety of content for over 4 years and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theater from Southern Oregon University, which they earned in 2014. They are currently working toward a professional certification in astrology and chart reading. A resident of Oregon, August enjoys playwriting, craft beer, and cooking seasonal recipes for their friends and high school sweetheart.

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