Native to China, dawn redwoods are one of the most stunning and powerful trees one can see in the world. They stand above many other trees growing to a height of around 100 feet. It seems impossible trying to cultivate such a mighty tree from a seed, but growing dawn redwood bonsai from seed is quite a straightforward process.
Dawn redwood trees will drop their cones in autumn, so make sure you’re ready! You’ll find that the cones are more likely to fall after a rainstorm, so this is usually the best time to go out searching for the cones.
If you have no dawn redwood trees in your area, you can buy them from an online retailer for a low price.
Stratifying the Seeds
When you’ve collected your cones or received your seeds, it’s time to stratify them. Stratification is the process of giving a seed a cold period for a certain amount of time, mimicking what it would experience in nature. This will increase the chance of germination for the seed.
With dawn redwoods, you should place the cones or seeds in a mix of perlite and coir, placing a plastic bag over them and leaving them in the fridge for a few weeks (around 4-5).
Planting the Seeds
Once your stratification period is over, you can take the cones out. Twist them and take out the seeds; there should be around 70-80 seeds in the cone.
When you have your seeds, you can now get ready to sow them. The seed mix I usually use is a combination of compost, perlite and sharp sand, which I’ve found to work quite well for germinating seeds.
Sow the redwood seeds at a reasonable distance from each other (a few centimeters). Sprinkle about half an inch of soil on top of the seeds, ensuring they are covered. Keep the soil mixture moist while letting them receive sunlight, they should germinate within around a month, depending on the conditions.
After around three months from germination, the seedlings will most likely require transplanting into their own pot from the tray you are growing them in. This gives them their own room without competition from other seedlings for nutrients and water.
Prick the dawn redwood seedlings out gently, trying not to disturb the roots. You can plant each in a small pot that should last for about a year or two. I like to use organic soil mixes for bonsai seedlings, switching them to an inorganic mix of something such as Akadama after a few years.
When you have transplanted the dawn redwood seedling, you should water it thoroughly to ensure it has enough water to survive the initial repotting process. Newly repotted plants will likely have a higher water demand for the first few days, so check the soil’s moisture. You can do this by poking your finger an inch deep into the soil – if it’s soggy, then hold off on watering until it dries out slightly.
Growing Dawn Redwood Bonsai From Seed
By now, your seedlings are hopefully a few months to a year old! Soon, you’ll be able to start developing your seedlings into bonsai trees; however, beware that this can take around 15-20 years to make a lovely-looking tree. You can speed this up by planting a seedling in the ground, which will thicken its trunk a lot faster. However, you’ll still have to develop the branches and ramification.
When growing dawn redwood bonsai from seed, you should note that they will have a lower water demand than older bonsai trees. When watering dawn redwood bonsai seedlings, this should be considered, as you don’t want to overwater them, it could kill them quite quickly. At the same time, you don’t want to underwater them as this can kill seedlings even faster.
It’s ideal to keep the soil medium moist, not soggy. You should hold off on watering if the soil is soggy until it dries out slightly. I like to use a fine mist instead of drenching the soil.
Here is the final answer of your question: How Often You Should Water Your Bonsai
As with any other seedling, I’m not particularly eager to fertilize my dawn redwood bonsai seedlings until after a few months or the first year. Seedlings can have particularly sensitive roots, so they can’t handle large concentrations of fertilizer as soon as they germinate.
The compost I use is specialized for seedlings and provides them with enough nutrients to get by for the first few months. After this, I will fertilize seedlings with diluted concentrations until they’re past their first year.
You might find that your dawn redwood seedlings get crowded if you plant them in a tray, so you need to prick them out and transplant them into their own pots after around three months.
If they’ve been growing in their own pot for a while (around 1 or 2 years), they are becoming root bound. This is when the roots have no more room to grow, so they circle themselves, and therefore the tree can become quite unhealthy if this persists. It’s best to repot the seedling as soon as possible (around springtime) into a larger pot.
To repot seedlings, tease them out of the pot gently and work the sides and bottom of the root mass, being careful not to take too much soil off. It’s best to be as gentle as possible with seedlings, as they won’t have many roots.
Once out of the pot, you can plant the dawn redwood seedling in a larger pot. I wouldn’t recommend potting it in a bonsai pot, as these are used to restrict growth, and we don’t want that while trying to grow and develop it into a bonsai at first. Once repotted, water the seedling thoroughly.
I don’t wire my seedlings for the first year, as I’ve found that they are malleable enough to be bent in their second year. Wiring in the first year could damage them if you’re not careful, so I always hold off.
When I wire my dawn redwood seedlings, I use a low gauge of wire (around 1 or 1.5mm), which is usually enough to bend seedlings. To test this, you can press a piece of wire against the seedling, and if it stays in place, the wire is usually a high enough gauge to bend the trunk/branch.
To wire seedlings, I recommend using annealed aluminum wire. Using copper wire can be quite hard for seedlings, as it’s pretty stiff to work with and tricky if the seedling is still very small.
Hopefully, growing dawn redwood bonsai from seed seems simple to you after reading this. Still, if you’d like more general and in-depth advice on taking care of seedlings, then you can refer to this article in which I discuss it!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How long does it take to develop a bonsai when growing dawn redwood from seed?
It can be a while! On average, from seed, trees will take around 10-20 years to develop into a bonsai – this will depend on the species and the conditions you give it. This can be sped up by planting them in the ground to thicken the trunk quickly, but you still need to develop the branches, ramification, etc. Dawn redwood is a fast-growing species, so you might be able to make a bonsai out of it in around 10-15 years.
When is the best time to sow dawn redwood seeds?
You can sow dawn redwood seeds at any time of the year, but from research, it’s recommended that the best time to plant them is in autumn. This will allow the seed to go through the natural seasons on its own, going through stratification. Hopefully, this will improve your germination rate and leave you with a few dawn redwood seedlings in spring!
Are dawn redwood suitable for bonsai?
Yes, they are a suitable species with their vigorous growth and mighty trunks. Due to their strong upright growth, they are usually planted in groups in bonsai pots.