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Sequoiadendron giganteum, photo courtesy of Mark Turner
Sequoiadendron giganteum, photo courtesy of Mark Turner

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Zone
Zones 1-9, 14-23
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Sequoiadendron giganteum

Giant Sequoia, Big Tree
Cupressaceae
Evergreen, Trees

Among the world’s largest livingthings, giant sequoias canreach a towering 325 ft. andhave the most massive trunk inthe world (to 30 ft. in diameter),yet young trees (in terms of a3,000-year life span) are neat,handsome trees for larger gardens,reaching 60–100 ft. tall,30–50 ft. wide. Giant sequoiais closely related to coast redwood(Sequoia), but its mountainousnative range, on thewestern slope of the centraland southern Sierra Nevada,gives it much extra hardiness.It also grows more slowly (2–3 ft. a year) than its coastalrelative and needs less water.Outside its natural habitat, thistree is subject to fungal diseasesthat can disfigure or killit; it is often more successfulin colder interior climates thannear the coast.

Giant sequoia’s dense foliageis bushier than that ofcoast redwood. It is a somewhatprickly tree to reach into.Branchlets are clothed withshort gray-green leaves; eachleaf is a pointed scale overlappingthe next, like pricklycypress (Cupressus) foliage.Dark reddish brown, oval,2–3-in.-long cones. Lowerbranches hang on for manyyears, so that tree form is adense pyramid; lowest branchessometimes root where theytouch the ground, forming secondary“trees” that blend intothe original. Removing lowerbranches reveals a fissured,craggy-looking trunk covered indark red-brown bark. In gardens,giant sequoia is primarilyused as a featured tree in alarge lawn (roots may surfacethere). Grow in good, deep, well-drainedsoil.

There are dozens of namedvarieties. ‘Glaucum’ has blue-greenleaves. ‘Pendulum’ and‘Barabit’s Requiem’ have irregularforms and strongly weepingbranches. Both grow to about25 ft. tall; ‘Pendulum’ can bekept to 6 ft. wide, while‘Barabit’s Requiem’ grows alittle wider and with a thickertrunk. ‘Bultinck Yellow’ hasgolden new growth and isslower (and ultimately smaller)than the species. ‘Albospica’is a dwarf variegated form thatgrows 4 in. per year.

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