What are the Best Tips for Planting Oak Trees?

Deborah Walker

Oak trees may be planted from root stock or grown from an acorn. All oak trees, with the exception of live oak, lose their leaves in fall. Acorns are produced at that time. Successfully planting oak trees may be achieved by following some basic tips. Oaks are fairly specific in terms of their soil needs and their relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. With regular watering and the proper soil, oaks may live long, healthy lives.

Acorns, the fruit of an oak tree.
Acorns, the fruit of an oak tree.

Before planting oak trees, determine the U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone. Oak trees tend to grow best in Zones 4-10. This means that most species will tolerate cold temperatures as low as -30° Fahrenheit (-31.7° Celsius) and that the highest minimum temperature tolerance is 40° Fahrenheit (5° Celsius).

Oak leaves and bark.
Oak leaves and bark.

The best time for planting an oak tree is in the fall or spring. The cool weather will help the tree adjust to its new location with a minimum of stress. An unstressed tree will be able to focus most of its energy on developing a strong, healthy root system.

Soil preparation is especially important when planting an oak tree. These trees have developed a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. This fungus lives in the roots and provides minerals and moisture; in return, it receives sugars from the tree. Soil must be amended with a large amount of compost and manure or a special pre-made mix meant for this purpose. Enhancing the soil in this way will increase the numbers of fungi available for the tree.

When planting oak trees from the nursery, dig holes at least twice as wide and twice as deep as the root balls. The covering on the roots must be removed before placing the oak in the hole. The holes may be filled in with the amended soil, taking care not to pack soil over the trunk flare at the bottoms of the trees.

After planting oak trees, watering so that the ground is thoroughly soaked is essential to giving them a good start. Mulch may be spread around the bottom of each tree. Once again, avoid covering the trunk flares.

If oaks are started from acorns, some oak species should be planted in their permanent locations because they do not do well with transplantation. Other species of acorn do handle transplanting much more easily. These may be started indoors and nurtured very carefully until they have a good, solid trunk and root system.

One can plant oak trees raised from acorns in the spring or fall. The hole sizes and soil amendment requirements are the same as when planting oak trees from the nursery. Placing a wire cage or fence around the trees may keep animals from eating them. Staking the trees will give them extra support as they get established. With regular watering, oak trees may live as long as 400 years with very little effort on the gardener's part.

Oak trees should be planted in the fall or spring.
Oak trees should be planted in the fall or spring.

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