I have a small sequoia tree which I got from the San Francisco airport as a seedling. I planted it in January 2012 and it has been growing (slowly) and seemed healthy - it is about a foot tall and is planted in normal soil. I notice recently that the needles are browning starting from the base all the way up until about an inch from the top.

Any idea why this would be happening or what I can do to fix this (assuming it needs to be fixed)?

  • possible duplicate of How to care for a large redwood?
    – kevinskio
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 14:53
  • While helpful, my question pertains to a baby potted tree, not a mature outdoor tree as in the linked question. I'm hoping someone can provide some specific insight regarding my situation - thank you though.
    – Josh M.
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 14:59
  • Sounds like it's dried up?
    – DA.
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 20:18

3 Answers 3


Now you've said it's in a pot, that might be the problem. These trees have a root mass which spreads out laterally, and if you have it contained in the same pot as a year ago, it's possible it's either unable to produce enough root to support healthy growth, or is completely pot bound. I suggest you turn it out of the pot and check what's going on - if it has a solid mass of roots, it needs a much bigger pot, because the ratio of soil to root is incorrect, meaning the plant cannot take up sufficient water to remain healthy because there's not enough soil to hold any water.

  • Okay, I will check. It's possible I was under-watering it so I'm keeping the soil moist now and have noticed it seems to have perked up a bit. Thanks for the advice!
    – Josh M.
    Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 21:33

I carried out a simple experiment that proves that browning ends with warmth and sunlight. Here's how I concluded that. Last Fall (2022) I put out a batch of a dozen freshly purchased seedlings on my deck in Seattle. At first of April, all turned brown. However, of this batch, in early March I had taken one indoors, placing it in a window with a grow light and watering it occasionally. So, the key differences were: infrequent water vs full rain, and warmth and grow-light. The brown seedling that was brought indoors and got warmth and light turned totally green in 2-3 weeks. The outdoor seedlngs are still totally brown in early April. Conclusion: light, warmth, and perhaps water are the factors that determine the browning. Second, the browning is temporary. I have seen this for a few decades, with all trees planted in many parts of the world. Browning is temporary. The trees turn green in Spring.


Browning is often caused by an inability tree to uptake enough water to keep its needles alive. When moisture is over abundant and drainage is poor, root rot is often the culprit. Instead of watering; spray it with a spray bottle til the soil is damp and spongy. Giant sequoia grows in a sandy loam soil. Adequate water needs, soak it then leave it to the sun. But these trees while they LOVE sun in their adult years as seedlings, filtered light is a must.

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