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How to Plant Oak Trees – Ultimate Guide

Oaks are trees that are mainly used for their timber. Oak has high-quality wood suitable for carpentry work and for making furniture. Learn all about how to plant oak trees in this article.

Oak seeds are easy to germinate all they need is moisture for a few weeks. Cotton or other material can be used to keep the acorn moist. In the case of wanting to germinate many acorns, cotton is not the most suitable in my tests because I have to use this element and it does not offer the best result. It is not necessarily more than a simple closed plastic bag with some water without the acorns being waterlogged but wet is enough and gives very good results.

Seeds need the right conditions to germinate. For some types of seeds two processes are used, scarification and stratification, the first simulate the degradation of the seed that would occur under natural conditions and the second simulates the cold conditions of winter. Artificially simulating scarification is done by abrading the seed with sandpaper or deteriorating the seed shell, stratification is simulated by leaving the seeds for some time in the refrigerator but not in the freezer. All seeds do not need these two processes and can germinate by simply wrapping them in damp kitchen paper and keeping them there for several days.

In the case of the seeds of common oak or quercus robur, which will be the ones to germinate and later plant, in some internet pages the germination is explained differently. In any case, the first thing is to obtain the seeds of the plant or tree that we want to germinate. For garden plants, there are numerous pages and also physical stores that sell packages with several seeds. In the case of trees, it is more difficult, some nurseries sell seedlings (trees already germinated and with little time of life) but seeds are more difficult to find. However, it is enough to look for in our area some specimen of the tree of which we want to plant and to wait for the time in which they produce them to obtain the precious seeds.

How to Plant Oak Trees – Seed Selection

Follow these steps to learn how to plant oak trees correctly. To obtain a higher success rate in germination it is necessary to find out which of the seeds are viable. In the case of the seeds or acorns of common oak the viable ones are those that submerging in water do not float, in the left photo none floats since these I have collected them in the current season but in the one on the right if some float for being of some previous season and although they have the suitable color they are considered not viable and apt to germinate since very possibly they have some type of rottenness. Those that float are empty or rotten and are not likely to germinate so they are thrown away directly. In the collection, the best seeds are those with brownish color, with certain brightness when cleaning them, that squeezing it does not yield and that has the biggest size of those that we find.

If the seed still has some green color in a few days it acquires the brown color. The seeds that have a light brown color are those of the previous season, you must collect the seeds of the current season because those of the previous season lose their germination power. It has to be without holes caused by bugs or cracks so that they are not rotten.

In the acorn comparison photo, the one on the left is a large caliber acorn and the most suitable for selection, the one in the center is smaller but it is also possible to germinate it, the one on the right is from a previous season which can be seen by its light brown color and is not suitable.

The time that the common oaks generate seeds is in late September or early October for young specimens although if it is a large and developed specimen as the one in the previous photo produces them in mid-August and at the end of this month, they begin to fall to the ground. A large specimen generates a large number of seeds and good size and good caliber, many more than we may need to plant a good amount of oaks, the largest seeds are the most suitable because they have more energy to develop the initial seedling. This sample of acorns that I have collected is not even possibly 10% of the acorns from the previous oak specimen.

acorns seeds selection

Sprouting Acorns

Follow these steps to learn how to plant oak trees correctly. To force the germination I have read several methods commented on some pages of the Internet. One of them consists of wrapping the seeds with kitchen paper and leaving them constantly moistened (not submerged) for about 10-15 days in a glass. Another similar method is to use absorbent cotton instead of kitchen paper. The third is to use a closed plastic bag also keeping it constantly moistened. In all three cases, I provide darkness to the seeds.

The method that has worked best for me has been the plastic bag, with a higher germination success rate. In addition, it seems to be the most practical to try to germinate more than half a dozen acorns. For many acorns, a lot of paper towels or absorbent cotton is used.

So that the seeds germinate before it is recommended to sand them or to abrade them a little the tip without damaging the fruit. And in the case of the bag, I have tried to moisten them by changing the water every 3-4 days because if not the bag acquires some odor.

You can also use seedbeds but I find the plastic bag method better to plant in the soil only the seeds that have germinated. With any of the methods when they have begun to swell breaking the shell and started to sprout the root and stem you can plant the seed in the soil.

Not all seeds will germinate but oak acorns have a success rate and are fairly easy to germinate. With the bag method in about 15 days the seeds will have already swollen and somewhat broken the husk and in another 15 days started to develop root and stem.

germination sprout acorns

Planting Oak Trees

Once the seed has already begun to sprout the root, it is recommended to plant it vertically with the root downwards and in others horizontally on the soil partially covered but always trying to keep the stem at the top to facilitate the growth of the future seedling. Follow these steps to learn how to plant oak trees correctly.

As a container to plant the seeds in the case of the common oaks it is advisable a pot that has a certain depth since these have long roots that during their first months and years are dedicated to making them grow more than to grow the stem or the leaves. In my case, I will use milk cartons cut on the top, with a height for the roots of about 5″ (12 centimeters) and with some holes in the inferior part so that the water when watering them drains and the roots do not rot with the accumulation of water. So that the earth does not come out of the lower holes I have put a piece of kitchen paper at the bottom.

Once planted, it is not necessary to water them very much, once a week without too much abundance. The oak seedlings should have light but not be exposed to direct sunlight and be protected from frost on very cold days. Next to a window or on a balcony should be sufficient.

I know very little about this subject, what I comment here I hope is the right thing for the oaks I plant to grow and survive the first year of life and beyond. If you are also going to plant trees, choose preferably those species that are native to your area.

You also have to watch the seedlings so that they do not grow fungi or generate bugs in their soil but above all… be patient because their development and growth are slow.

We hope this article on how to plant oak trees will be useful. We recommend our article on how to plant acorns.

how to plant oak trees

About Henry Morgan

Henry Morgan is an agronomist horticulture founder of The Garden Style Company and The Garden Style Website. He previously worked for Mondelēz International as an Agronomist Engineer specializing in agricultural products management in highly populated areas. In 2000, Henry started working with farmer-producers in agricultural businesses selling wholesale fresh produce and retail plants in Van Buren, Arkansas. Nowadays, Henry lives in California, where he offers expert consulting services for organic vegetable gardening. As a science writer working with his wife, Julia, Henry shares his passion for gardening and farming, trying to reach and teach as many folks as possible.

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