Dawn Redwood - Dry or Drown?

mickeddie(6)May 8, 2006

I planted a Dawn Redwood tree about a month ago and have been watering it about every other day or every 2-3 days. Recently I noticed that the needles are turning reddish brown and someone told me that these trees require a LOT of water. So for the past week I have been giving it LOTS and LOTS of water. Now the needles are almost 50% brown and I don't know if I've drowned it. Should I stop watering it for a few days and then see if it gets worse, or should I continue to water it and assume that it just didn't get much water the past few weeks. I'm usually pretty good with new plants, but I just don't know about this one. If something is planted in the ground, can you really over-water it? Should I err on the wetter side?



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Doesn't sound good... if the tree was very stressed by the time you planted it...? How tall is the tree? Was it in burlap or in a pot?

If it is a water problem, the planting hole probably has not been draining very well so far. i've got a new Dawn Redwood and i've been watering it obsessively without problems so far this spring. Do you have lots of clay soil?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 7:19PM
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It is about 3 feet tall and was in a pot, not burlap. I have clay "soil," but the hole itself with the tree is made up of miracle grow soil and is much bigger in diameter than is the tree.



    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 8:35PM
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Sounds like you are drowning it.

Ease up a bit on watering and watch it come back.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 10:19PM
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Michelle, "is much bigger in diameter than is the tree." good. " the hole itself with the tree is made up of miracle grow soil " bad. Always try to match your backfill soil up pretty much to what the tree is going to have to grow in anyway. Not doing so, esp. right around a new transplant, can cause drainage weirdness, either too good or not enough.

From your post, the image I got was of over-saturated soil. I have no idea if this was the case though. And water needs of plants are highly temperature-dependent, so I can't say too much on that score either. Stick your finger in the soil right near the tree, getting under any mulch that may, and should, be present. If bare ground is dry an inch or two under the surface, and if the surface is dry or nearly so under mulch, it's water time.


    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 12:56AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i would also suggest 'native' soil .... BUT .. and its a big BUT ... i never played in clay ... good luck with that ...

a peat based miracle soil plus a cauldron of clay translate to me into a bog .... and there are but a few trees that appreciate such ...

but the number one rule you must put to memory is that YOU HAVE TO STICK YOUR FINGER INTO THE SOIL [not the mulch, if any] TO SEE IF A PLANT NEEDS WATER .... its is not a gut feeling.. it is not a calender thing ....

my DR's are on pure sand with good mulch... and i haven't watered them in 5 years ... they don't care ... so i suggest this means you are over-watering it ...

good luck


    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 9:08AM
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Thanks, everyone.

I think you are right, I may be over-watering. I will hold off watering and keep sticking my finger in the soil (fun).


    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 6:33PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

I'd go for less water for awhile myslef. Metasequioas are similar to bald cypress but I've never read they grow in swamps.

One Dawn Redwood I had stored over summer in a pot got a similar half brown needle problem. We planted it in my neighbor's yard and it has done better. I think the roots either cooked in the sun exposed pot, or didn't deal well with compacted soil.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2006 at 1:21AM
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Michelle... How did your Dawn redwood end up doing?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2007 at 8:13PM
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I have a redwood tree in my backyard (Napa, CA) and the needles have just started to turn brown. This happened very, very quickly....in a matter of a week. We have been dumping about 40 gallons of water on the base of the tree each week, and some on the lawn surrounding it, but not as much as the previous owners did. They used their lawn sprinklers almost every day. I do a deep lawn soaking about every five or six days. Would think this would be better for the tree.

Our tree is about 60 ft tall (with a 5-6 foot diameter trunk) and has very modest size branches for a tree this tall. I'd think this would make the branches more likely to dry out quickly...no??

My two questions:

1. Do the needles turn brown this time of year naturally on redwoods? (guessing not)

2. Is the fact that it has turned 10%`- 15% brown in one week a sign of GREAT tree dehydration?

Thanks in advance to any and all that respond.

Best regards,

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 5:23AM
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Been reading about the finger sticking method and am always worrying about under or over watering. I have really small short fingers so I bought a long water meter and have been using it every day and it really helps.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 10:23AM
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I also live in the town of Napa. I've been in this house (Bel Air neighborhood) since 2001 and I have two old redwoods. While I have done nothing differently for these years, THIS year one of the redwoods is behaving exactly the way you describe yours. The branch undersides started turning brownish/reddish a couple of weeks ago and now they're that way all the way to the top of the tree. The other redwood is OK. The brown areas seem to be more pronounced on the west-facing side of the tree, although I haven't gone into the neighbor's yard to look at the east-facing side. I think I will call a tree person tomorrow; I HATE the thought of losing this tree!! I am baffled.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 2:37PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

I had the brown needle thing happen to one i had in a pot to. It was about 200 feet from a former bare rooter which was doing just fine in the ground.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 5:47AM
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greyneedle(z6b NJ)

Overwatering generally causes foliage to die from the inside out and from bottom to top, however, heat stress can do similar damage. Likewise, overwatering results in soggy limp dying foliage, whereas underwatering produces crisp dying foliage, generally all over the tree or top to bottom.

For those with redwood problems, please state the species. Neither Coast nor Giant redwoods like intense summer heat and will reabsorb nutrients through inner foliage leaves late in the summer if deprived of water, but Coast redwoods are very hard to overwater, while Giant Sequoias generally dislike being handwatered unless done very slowly. Coast redwoods do not like compacted soils though.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 8:20PM
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I just saw a 15 ft. Dawn Redwood today at a local nursery and fell in love with it! Anyone know how big these get, or if they grow pretty fast? And, can they survive in partial shade??

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 6:12PM
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greyneedle(z6b NJ)

They get to about 90' and produce very large, highly tapered trunks. They grow 3' or more per year in z6 PA and do very well in general. Note that they lose their foliage in the winter--they are not evergreens. They will survive in part shade but may not look their best. Avoid golden or white colored cultivars if you don't have full sun. Deer will probably munch on small trees too.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2007 at 11:43PM
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"Anyone know how big these get?"

In the wild, they get up to 50m tall. In cultivation they have already reached over 35m tall in just 60 years.


Here is a link that might be useful: Gymnosperm Database: Metasequoia

    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 4:40AM
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Yikes.. maybe I will pass on buying that one then. I just thought it would make a "pretty little shade tree" hahaha They really are gorgeous trees though! Wish I had someplace here to put one so that it won't eventually be too close to the house.

Anyone know if the Dawn Redwood's branches break in storms as easily as the white pines' do?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 11:02AM
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"Anyone know if the Dawn Redwood's branches break in storms as easily as the white pines' do?"

They don't, they're fairly tough. Won't say they never break, but it isn't common.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 5:14PM
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I ordered 3 each 4' Dawn Redwoods. I am so excited! I will have a very special tree that nobody in my neighborhood has.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2011 at 2:26AM
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My dawn redwood came late May. It was only 2' 3" and had a few green buds. I dug a hole, no special potting mix or anything just a regular hole. I made sure I soaked it everyother day. Sometimes every 3 days, depending on the weather. The grass has grown around it covering the hole. The only thing I have done is add coffe grounds once. It's now august and the Tree is 4' and covered with soft feather like needles. I have never felt a tree this soft!!! It's very lush! I love it!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 3:48PM
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The Dawn Redwood was thought to be extent and one was found along the Yankee river, in China . In 1949 some of the cultivated trees were sent to England and the US. They like sun, and water. They grow the fastest in the first 5 years , up to 20 feet, then they slow down . It is believed that they could grown 150 feet tall and hundreds of years old in the right conditions. Mine is planted in clay, mixed with leaf grow, compost and manure. Mine is 7 years old and about 25 to 30 feet. I water it extra each week. It turns brown and gold in the fall and the leaves fall off. it comes back in late spring. I don't fertilize it. The branches do not falloff in the snow or wind. Its very flexible and during strong winds its just blows back and forth. We call it the dancing tree. Birds seem to really like it especially cardinals and woodpeckers. Ours is in the middle of our yard so we can see it from our patios and kitchen windows. It is my favorite tree. It is actually considered extinct in the wild.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 5:36PM
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I have been having a similar problem with my newly sprouted dawn redwood seedlings, but in my case I know exactly what the cause was. My seedlings were "burned" by sunlight exposure that they were not prepared for.
I bet that your browning has something to do with a change in sunlight exposure, perhaps in combination with cold air. I reccomend that you continue to water them well and hope that they thrive for the next growing season.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 9:13PM
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In planting several varieties of trees I have used a mixture of Miracle Gro garden soil, mushroom compost, top soil, sand, & soil conditioner as well as a little of the soil from the hole I will plant the tree in, usually from the top layer of this soil. This has worked well with great growth. It will allow watering without the soil becoming water logged. About equal amounts of the above are used except for the sand & soil from the hole; much less of these. Mix well (I use a wheel barrow) put a good portion inthe hole below where the trees roots will rest & the rest around the roots. This has worked consistently with great results.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2012 at 9:37AM
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