From Seed to Towering Beauty: The Lifecycle of Redwood Trees

The magnificent redwood trees are a sight to behold, reaching incredible heights and captivating the imagination of all who encounter them. These towering beauties have a fascinating lifecycle that begins with a tiny seed and culminates in the majestic giants we see today. In this article, we will delve into the lifecycle of redwood trees, exploring the stages of germination, growth, and maturation. We will also uncover the unique characteristics and environmental requirements of these remarkable trees. So, let’s embark on a journey through the lifecycle of the coast redwood tree.

The Seeds of Life

Collecting Seeds

The lifecycle of a redwood tree begins with the collection of seeds. Redwood trees flower between December and January, and their blooms give rise to cones that develop over the following months. These cones, which are about an inch long, contain tiny seeds, approximately the size of a tomato seed. To collect redwood cones, one must venture into areas with mature redwoods after a rainstorm. The most viable seeds are found within the cones, making November and December the prime months for collection. Each cone can hold up to 100 seeds, ensuring a bountiful supply for propagation.

In the UK, many of the trees, with the exception of some of the originals in Scotland are too young to produce cones, if they do produce cones you may have almost zero germination rate.

Buy seeds for all three types of redwoods from our store.

Stratifying Seeds

Once the seeds are collected, they undergo a process called stratification to enhance their germination potential. The cones and seeds are placed in a freezer bag or plastic box along with perlite or coconut coir in a specific ratio. The bag is then sealed and kept in a refrigerator for about 20 – 60 days. It is crucial to maintain the right level of moisture by periodically checking and misting the perlite if it begins to dry out. This stratification process prepares the seeds for optimal germination.

Planting Seeds

After stratification, the seeds are ready for sowing. Redwood seeds are best planted in a soil mix that mimics the conditions of the forest understory. A recommended blend consists of organic nutrient-rich topsoil, perlite for drainage, coconut coir for moisture retention, compost for added nutrients, and a mycorrhizal and/or fertilizer mix. The soil mix should have a slightly acidic pH of 5.5 to 6.5. The seeds are spread across the soil surface, with approximately 12 seeds per 3 square inches. A light dusting of soil and a thin layer of perlite are then added to cover the seeds and prevent dampening off.

Germination and Early Growth

Sprouting Seeds

The germination process begins as the seeds secure themselves in the soil. The first root emerges, anchoring the seedling and absorbing water for growth. Simultaneously, the embryonic shoot emerges from the soil, with the shoot leaves either appearing above ground or decomposing beneath the surface as the rest of the shoot grows upward. This sprouting stage marks the birth of a new redwood tree.


As the shoot grows above ground, it transitions into the seedling stage. Seedlings are vulnerable to diseases and damage, particularly from grazing deer. Therefore, protective measures such as fencing or cages may be necessary in areas with high deer populations. Seedlings require sunlight to thrive, and they should be placed in a shaded area during the warm spring and summer months. Adequate moisture is essential, especially during dry seasons, with around 1 gallon of water every two to three weeks per seedling.

Transplanting Seedlings

Approximately three months after germination, the seedlings reach a stage where they may need to be transplanted into larger containers or tree pots. The decision to transplant is based on the root system’s development, which can be assessed by carefully removing a seedling from its container and examining the roots. If the roots have reached the bottom of the pot, indicating restricted growth, it is time for transplantation. Care must be taken during the transplanting process to maintain the relationship between the soil and the roots. The seedling should not be buried too deeply or have its previously covered roots exposed.

Growth and Maturation


After two to three years of growth and the development of a strong root system, the redwood seedling is ready for outplanting in its permanent location. It is essential to select an appropriate space that allows the seedling to develop into a mature tree without obstruction from roads or utility poles. Redwoods should not be planted in direct sunlight, as they prefer shaded conditions. Mulch and leaf litter can be added around the seedling to help it survive and thrive in sunnier areas. In areas with high deer populations, protective cages should be used to safeguard the young trees.

Ancient Trees and Snags

As redwoods age, they enter the stage of ancient trees. While the exact age at which a redwood is considered ancient varies, it is generally when the tree surpasses a certain threshold of maturity. This stage is characterized by unique features such as a small canopy and a wide trunk, often hollow, indicating great age. Ancient redwoods are a testament to the longevity and resilience of these remarkable trees.

Eventually, redwood trees reach the end of their life cycle and become snags. A snag can either be a dead standing tree or a dying tree. Although the tree’s life may come to an end, its usefulness to wildlife is just beginning. Dead wood provides habitat for insects, fungi, birds, bats, and other small mammals. It forms an essential part of the woodland ecosystem, supporting a diverse range of organisms.

The lifecycle of a redwood tree is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of these awe-inspiring giants. From the collection of seeds to the growth of seedlings and the maturation of mature trees, each stage in the redwood’s lifecycle is a marvel to behold. By understanding and appreciating the unique requirements of these trees, we can contribute to their preservation and ensure that future generations can continue to marvel at the grandeur of the redwood forests. So, let us embrace the wonder of the redwoods and cherish their place in our natural world.

About the author

Dave Green

With a deep-rooted passion for nature and a decade-long journey nurturing redwood trees, Dave stands as a dedicated steward of these majestic giants. Over the past ten years, Dave has meticulously cultivated redwood trees, witnessing their growth from mere saplings to towering sentinels of the natural world. As a UK-based enthusiast, Dave has developed a profound understanding of the intricacies of redwood tree care, adaptation to local climates, and their unique appeal in British landscapes. Through Dave's expert insights and hands-on experience, readers are invited to explore the enchanting world of redwood trees and discover the wonders that these living monuments bring to our surroundings.