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Sequoia sempervirens, photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters
Sequoia sempervirens, photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters

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Zones 4-9, 14-24
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Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate

Sequoia sempervirens

Redwood, Coast Redwood
Cupressaceae
Evergreen, Trees

Native to Coast Ranges fromsouthwest Oregon to California’sBig Sur coast. One of theWest’s most famous nativetrees (equally renowned is itsclose relative Sequoiadendron,called giant sequoia or bigtree). Coast redwood is amongthe tallest of the world’s trees:some individuals in the wildare over 350 ft. tall. Fine landscapingtree—almost entirelypest-free and almost alwaysfresh-looking and woodsy smelling. In its native range, ayoung redwood tree grows 3–5 ft. a year but will reach onlyabout 70–90 ft. tall, 15–30 ft.wide in 25 years. In less favorableareas, grows more slowlyand tops out at perhaps 50 ft.Typically forms a symmetricalpyramid of soft-looking foliage.Flat, pointed, narrow, inch-longleaves are typically mediumgreen on top, grayish beneath;they grow in one plane on bothsides of stem, giving stem afeatherlike look. Small (1/2–1 1/2-in.), roundish brown cones. Red-brown,fibrous-barked trunkgoes straight up. A trunk withnearly parallel sides indicatesa healthy redwood; one with anoticeable taper means the treeis struggling. Habit is somewhatvariable, but most redwoodshave main branches that growstraight out from trunk andcurve up at tips; slightly droopingbranchlets grow from these.

The tree’s natural variabilityhas led to selection of distinctvariants. ‘Aptos Blue’ hasdense blue-green foliage onnearly horizontal branches withdrooping branchlets. ‘EmilyBrown’ is columnar, green, andvery fast growing. ‘Kelly’s Prostrate’ grows flat, at about 6 in. per year. ‘Simpson’s Silver’ has silvery green foliage and quick-screening growth of up to 12 ft. per year.

Fine-textured ‘Soquel’ bears blue-tinged green foliage on horizontal branches that turn up at tips. ‘Filoli’ and ‘Woodside’ are similar if not identical to each other; both are nearly as blue as Colorado blue spruce (Piceapungens glauca). They have anirregular habit, with branchesthat tend to droop, and needcareful training when young toestablish good form. ‘Adpressa’(‘Albo-Spica’), to 3 ft. high and6 ft. wide, is a dwarf variety forrock gardens; it has white-tipped new growth that turnssolid green as summeradvances.

Grow redwood trees singlyor in groves with trees spaced7 ft. apart; can also be used fora hedge (plant 3–4 ft. apart andtop at least yearly). One of thebest planting locations is in ordirectly next to a lawn, since thetree thrives on regular moisture;in 10 to 20 years, however, itmay defeat a lawn. Away fromlawns, it needs occasional feedingand regular summer wateringfor at least the first 5 years.Where it is best adapted, anestablished tree gets most ofthe moisture it needs from fogdrip. Resistant to oak root fungus.Troubles the tree encountersare mostly physiological.Inadequate moisture or a hot,dry site will make it sulk andgrow slowly; too much competitionfrom bigger trees and structuresmakes it lanky, thin, andopen. Lack of available ironmakes needles turn yellow insummer, especially on newgrowth; treat with iron sulfate orchelates. Remember, however,that it is normal for oldestleaves to turn from green to yellowto brown, then drop in latesummer and early fall.

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