What You Need to Know Before Planting Oak Trees

Oak tree

Oak trees are deciduous hardwood trees with toothed leaves. Most of them lose their leaves in the fall in a shower of scarlet and brown. Oak trees have the reputation of being slow-growing and hard to successfully transplant. You can plant this type of tree either by acorns or by purchasing a sapling at your local nursery store. Oaks are big and have massive and well-developed roots.

If you are planning on planting an oak tree you need to know what species are suitable in your area. Then, choose the location wisely. You can either start by planting acorns or buying saplings at your local nursery.

Red and white oak trees are the most common kinds of oaks that people plant in their backyards. Oak trees require basic care through cabling, pruning, and trimming to remain lovely.

In this article, we will tackle how to plant an oak tree in your backyard. We will also help you differentiate red and oak trees and offer you some basic care when growing them.


How to Plant an Oak Tree

Oak trees produce acorns during fall, which germinate rapidly and sprout into new oak trees. They can live for hundreds of years, grow 30 to 40 feet high, and develop a beautiful shape without any pruning.

It is ideal to plant an oak tree either in spring or fall. The cool temperatures help ease the transition of the tree and enable them to grow with strong roots. If you’re planning on planting oak trees, here’s how to do so.

  • Choose the location wisely

Some species of oak trees remain small, even when they are mature, like the dwarf chestnut oak. Although, most oaks become large trees faster than you think, so picture an area where you want to plant such a tree. Make sure the area is big enough to support the oaks’ root system.

Before planting an oak tree, create the right-sized planting hole. Make a wide hole but not deep. The common source of transplant is from planting an oak below its root line. Some people dig a deep hole and backfill to the appropriate depth.

However, the loose soil at the bottom of the hole settles a few inches, enough to sink your tree into the danger zone. Avoid digging a deeper hole than the root ball of your tree.

  • Start small

Planting an acorn or sapling of the tree is the best way to start your project. Collect acorns as soon as they fall from the trees. Oak trees’ seeds are mostly found scattered in schoolyards or wooded areas.

Acorns are abundant during the fall. As long as the acorns plump with no splinters, they can be directly planted into the ground.

If you want to plant a red oak, hold on to the acorns until the next planting season. Usually, red oaks need two seasons to mature, while white oaks can be planted right after you’ve found an acorn.

If you can’t find acorns, you may visit your local nursery if they have tree saplings. Saplings are seeds that have been germinated and have the beginnings of a tree trunk. Saplings can be transported from the nursery to your home without any hassle and do not require you to wait as much time.

It is recommended for both saplings and acorns to be planted in deep pots and protected against chipmunks, mice, and squirrels until the plants are above the soil line. Take care of them through the first summer and plant them in your backyard in early September. Water them occasionally until they are well established.

  • Protect them against deer

Install a fence around your young oak tree. Use a five-foot-high wire fence and form a cage about 5 feet in diameter around the oak. In the first few years of your oak, it is the best way to protect it from deer. When your tree grows taller than the cage, remove it and wrap its trunk loosely with plastic or wire fencing material.

This will discourage deer and other animals from scratching their body against the oak. When the bark of the oak is scraped, it causes it to die easily. Thus, make sure to remove the fence before the tree grows around it. Also, a young barked can get sunburned too.

  • Don’t fertilize your oaks

Oaks can easily adapt to soil with low nitrogen and fertilizers can cause rapid growth periods that split the bark or stimulate leaf growth. This growth can cause insect infestation to your oak tree.

If you think you have poor soil, tend the planting site with some soil and litter from an established oak tree of the same kind. This process introduces the mycorrhizal species that aid nutrient exchange in your oak.

You can also put mulch in your oak tree. Mulch it with oak leaves but do not build a pile of mulch around the oak’s trunk for it may rot your tree’s trunk.

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Red vs. White Oaks: What’s the Difference?

Oaks come in different kinds, with the most common species being the white and red oak trees. It is also important to know what species is suitable for your environment before planting an oak tree in your backyard.

The clear difference between red and white oak trees is their leaves’ shapes. The red oak tree’s leaves have a pointed lobe or spiny teeth on their margins, while a white oak tree’s leaves are round. Also, white oak tree’s acorns develop faster than red oaks, and the bark of a white oak tree has a grayish color while the red oak has a naturally dark tinge.

The terms red and white oak refers to a general group of trees. Here are several species that fall within each group.


Red Oak Tree

  • Sawtooth
  • Scarlet
  • Shingle
  • Shumard
  • Black
  • Pin


White Oak Tree

  • Bur
  • Chestnut
  • Chinquapin
  • English
  • Swamp

White and red oak trees produce a high amount of reusable energy for the ecosystem. It is important to have both kinds in our ecosystem due to the season changes. Red oaks’ acorns remain throughout the year, while white oaks are used as food every late summer and fall.

If you look closer, red and white oak trees have different pores. Red oak has large pores with an open-grained wood, while a white oak’s pores are closed-grain wood that water can hardly penetrate. White oak is less likely to shrink compared to red oak.


Basic Care for Growing an Oak Tree

Oak trees are amazing and drought-tolerant native trees with lots of benefits for people and wildlife. Aside from watering, fertilizers, and organic pesticides, there are other things you need to know when growing an oak tree. Here is some basic care involved when growing an oak tree.


Common Problems of an Oak Tree

Disease, fungi, and pests are common problems faced by plants, especially outdoors ones. However, an oak tree has particular enemies that can affect its growth and health. Indeed, caterpillars, borers, lace bugs, aphids, and leaf miners can chew your oak’s leaves and branches.

Root rot, canker disease, fungus, and powdery mildew can cause dead leaves or branches, discolored foliage, and even a white coating on your tree trunk. Infestations are a serious thing. Thus, when you notice one, you can contact a local tree service to get your oak tree inspected and cured.

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Cabling Your Oak Tree

Cabling or bracing your oak is the best way to support it while it grows and matures. It offers respite to weak limbs because of the stress of heavier branches, and it also is a good way to anchor new trees as they grow.


Pruning Your Oak Tree

Once your oak trees have matured, you might need to prune them to keep them lively and healthy. Pruning is the process that consists of removing dead branches that can hinder your trees from growing healthily and developing green leaves. This can also prevent accidents and injuries resulting from falling branches.

If your tree requires pruning, look at its canopy or the outer layer of leaves to check if the limbs look heavy. Heavier limbs are likely to cause damages to your tree and property or injure you. However, pruning is routine maintenance and its sole purpose is to keep your tree healthy.

You can hire a professional for the pruning service and remove the dead branches in your local area. A reputable company must be able to skillfully remove dead branches and be licensed to execute the work.


Trimming Your Oak Tree

To keep your oak trees beautiful and mighty, you need to trim them from time to time. Trimming helps improve the growth of your trees and is an efficient way to enhance your trees’ appearance. To maintain their pleasing personality, trimming oak trees requires skill and artistry.

Tree shaping is one of the methods used for trimming. It refers to the manipulation of the tree shape and growth of your trees. It is widely done by homeowners who have grown oak trees in their backyards.



Oak trees are a great addition to any backyard. They can be planted from acorns with great success if the proper steps are taken. And if acorns are not available, you can purchase saplings.

Oak trees are slow-growing plants, so patiently wait for them to grow. And while they are growing, make sure to apply the basic steps of sheltering an oak tree in your backyard.

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