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General Background:

Known as the “Dinosaur Tree”, the quick growing Dawn Redwood or Metasequoia glyptostrobides, was originally found in Manchuria, China and is one of the most exciting of the redwood family; Having once been feared to have become extinct being known only through fossils, the Dawn Redwood was rediscovered in the forties and was planted in the US in 1948.  This particular Redwood is a true Redwood quite like the American Redwood and is an incredible bonsai specimen because they are really relics of bygone times which truly make them living fossils that will delight every bonsai enthusiast with their beauty and majestic stature. 

Trees Features:

In its natural Habitat, the Dawn Redwood quickly reaches heights up to 110 feet with a 25 foot spread. The original Dawn Redwood Bonsai trees are hearty conifers that have a lacey type of needled foliage on gracefully upswept branches.  The needles are deciduous and quite pretty in the fall when the airy light green spray turns to yellow and then to bronze before shedding from the trees. Redwood Bonsai trees make wonderful sights and this can be attributed to the way in which the Redwood tapers away from its root flare which is broad and heavy.  Dawn Redwood Bonsai trees feature trunks with reddish bark that are well grooved and strikingly straight and slim; if the trunk is especially large and heavy it will be well suited as a formal upright.


If your Dawn Redwood Bonsai is to be an outdoor specimen, it will require ample protection from extreme cold and frost during the dormant season.   Also, in the hottest part of the summer, it is wise to be vigilant about moisture levels in the air as well as in the soil.  This bonsai will do best in conditions that provide ample humidity and moderate warmth. 


Though this tree will grow best in full sun outdoors, Redwood Bonsai are well suited for growing outdoors as long as they are given plenty of abundant sunlight and southern exposure and ample humidity which will ensure proper growth for the tree.


You Dawn Redwood Bonsai will prefer moist, deep, well drained soil. The best way to ensure proper moisture levels is to reach down an inch or two into the soil with a finger.  Do not allow this tree to go without ample moisture as it is not drought tolerant. 


Fertilize this bonsai from late spring to late summer with a well balanced organic fertilizer.  Do not feed in the fall.

Pruning / Training:

Using wire to shape this bonsai is possible when the tree is dormant from early winter to early spring.  The wires are wrapped around the trunks in a counter clockwise direction and should be of sufficient thickness to hold the branch in place.  Once the wires are placed, the tree’s branches and trunk can be gently bent into the desired position. Leave wire in place for 3-6 months, and make sure damage to the bark is prevented.  Prune in the summer by trimming back new shoots.

Ideal trained as a formal or informal upright style and works very well for clump, slanting and for bonsai forests.

Insects / Pests:

If kept outdoors, your Dawn Redwood bonsai will benefit from the heartiness that comes from the abundance of fresh air, sunlight, and variety of weather conditions which will increase its ability to prevent pests and disease.  That being said, all plants, if stressed can succumb to invaders or illness, and so should be monitored often for signs of weakness.  Always attempt to control infestations with harmless materials before bringing in the chemical warfare!  A very effective treatment for many types of insects is a solution of 1 tsp. dish soap to 1 quart warm water sprayed over the entire plant until runoff is achieved.  Rinse the plant well with tepid water and repeat as needed.  Giving your tree a quick rinse in the sink on a weekly basis will remove dust and offer additional humidity which will encourage proper cell growth and health. 


The Dawn redwood is a prolific grower, dating back to the time of the dinosaurs when it populated regions in thick redwood forests.  To propagate your own, simply take some seed cones and a bunch of the debris found at the base of a redwood; be sure to measure the depth of the duff under the tree, and use that as your duff depth. Take a big black plastic tub (the kind that concrete or mortar gets mixed in) and make holes in the bottom for drainage, then put clay (river clay or clay used in construction would be fine) in the tub. Then put the collected Dawn Redwood duff on top.  You can also encourage sprouting through mimicking conditions that occur after a fire, making nutrients more readily accessible as mineral rich soil; to do this, burn the collected duff and then put the ashes on top of the clay. Set about six Dawn Redwood seeds on the duff (whether burned or not).  Put your pot outside in an area with strong natural light.  After the seeds have opened up, gently use a small branch to stir up the surface mimicking the activity of birds and other small animals in their search for the edible seeds which is vital to create different layers that the seeds are in.


Repot every other year in the springtime providing fresh mineral rich quick draining soil and provide minimal root pruning.

Additional Comments:

Providing your Dawn Redwood with a humidity tray filled with pebbles or stones will add humidity and will ensure that the roots of your bonsai do not succumb to root rot.

DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Bonsai Outlet. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. Happy bonsai gardening.

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