The Best Time to Plant an Oak Tree (And How to Do it)

Spring sun shining through canopy of tall oak trees. Upper branches of tree. Sunlight through green tree crown - low angle view.

Often times when we have the desire to plant a tree, it’s because we want to add some beauty to our outdoor spaces, or perhaps, add some shade or privacy to our surroundings. The thing is, we usually act too fast. We get the tree, plant it right away so we can reap the benefits of it as soon as possible, and overlook when the best time to actually plant the tree is.

The best time to plant an oak tree is between mid-fall and early spring. Oak trees grow best when planted during a drier time of year, as opposed to rainy. When planted properly during the correct time of year – oak trees can successfully live hundreds of years.

There are so many different types of oaks out there, and just as many different climates throughout the United States of America, that the time to plant an oak tree can differ from state to state. We’re going to give you the best time to plant an oak tree and how to do it. 

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What is an Oak Tree?

Before we get too deep, you need a little bit of background info on oak trees.

An oak tree is a medium to a tall tree that can live hundreds of years. Oak trees are part of the Quercus family of trees and offer 500 + variations of oak. Typically categorized into White Oak and Red Oak, oak trees are seen throughout every state in the United States of America and beyond. 

Oak trees at their tallest can reach heights of over 100 feet. They offer a lobed leaf that is distinct to the oak tree, and they have dark gray to black barks that contain ridges and deep fissures. Most oaks lose their leaves in the late fall and provide show-stopping colors before. 

Oak trees are the trees that provide the abundance of the autumn-favorite acorns and can produce up to one thousand in a month’s period. One oak tree alone can provide up to one million acorns in its entire lifetime. 

Why We Love Oak Trees 

Oak trees are some of the most fascinating trees out there. They provide so many benefits to our ecosystem and can provide so many benefits to us as well.

Not only are they beautiful to look at and are truly built for shade, but oak trees are also strong and long-lasting trees, that when taken care of, can provide limitless abundance. 

Oak Trees Help our Wildlife 

We love oak trees because of what they offer to our animals. Oak trees become the housing for more than 350 species of animals, and we love it when our wildlife is protected.

Besides this, the acorns produced by oaks are full of protein – and can feed our wildlife for their entire life span. 

Oak Trees Produce Oxygen

Although their exquisite beauty is enough to want to plant one, an oak tree is used for medicinal purposes around the world.

The leaves themselves from the oak trees can trap nearby pollutants and can even improve air quality by storing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. 

Oak Trees Can Lower Your Electric Bills 

Oak trees also can help with your electric bills – I know, right? The thing is since oak trees provide so much shade, oak trees can help keep your outside spaces cooler, and if it’s planted near a home, they can keep your house shaded from the sun. 

Oak Trees are Beautiful 

Visually, we love oak trees because of their stature and the beautiful colors that they bring to our environment during the fall.

From orange to red and yellow, oak trees are one of the last species of trees to lose their leaves in the fall, and therefore, provide a beautiful assortment of colors for most of the fall season. 

If we haven’t sold you already on oak trees already, we’re going to share with you some benefits as to why you should plant one in the first place! 

Oak trees are beautiful and really will last a lifetime. You can read our piece on the lifespan for the common types of oak trees here.

Now that we know some of the benefits, let’s get to it – when is the best time to plant an oak tree?

When is the Best time to Plant an Oak Tree?

Spring sun shining through canopy of tall tree

Depending on the type of oak you are looking to plant, there are specific climates, and with that, certain times, that all determine the best time to plant an oak tree. 

No matter the climate, though, the general rule of thumb is to avoid freezing temperatures when planting. 

If you’re interested, you can read our guide on the best oak trees to plant here.

In the United States of America, we have an overall temperate climate; however, being that oaks are generally easy to grow in all types of climates, the best way to guarantee your oak grows successfully is to determine the best time to plant in your climate.

Depending on where you are located in the USA – the best time to plant an oak depends on the climate you are in. Below is a general list of the best times to plant oak trees in the United States of America per region.

Best Time to Plant Oak Trees in The Northeast

Beginning in the northeast region of the United States, states such as New York, Maine, Connecticut, and Massachusetts are characterized by a generally diverse climate. 

Winters are cold, especially in the states bordering our northern neighbors, and can often sustain temperatures below freezing for extended periods of time. Summers, on the other hand, is hot with moderate humidity levels.

If you are planting an oak tree in the Northeast region of the US, you should start planting your oak tree in the late winter/early spring or late fall. 

Best Time to Plant Oak Trees in The Southwest

Moving towards the southwestern part of the USA., states such as Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico are typically dry with warm temperatures year-round. 

When it comes to summer, everything’s truly bigger in Texas, with average high temperatures exceeding 95 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In Arizona’s Death Valley region, daily temperatures of over 125 degrees Fahrenheit have been observed. High temperatures during the winter average around 70 degrees. It is best to plant your oak tree in late winter to early spring in the Southwest region of the USA.

Best Time to Plant Oak Trees in The West Coast

Along the West Coast, like in California, the climate is sub-tropical and mild, with warmer summers and cooler winters. 

In the winters, the weather never gets to freezing temperatures on the West Coast, and the weather is oftentimes rainy. However, in the summer, it gets very hot and dry and rarely rains. If you are going to plant an oak tree on the West Coast, fall is often ideal – especially after it rains! 

Best Time to Plant Oak Trees in The Southeast

Along the Southeast, in states like Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia, the climate is basically mild; however, it also exhibits extreme temperatures. 

In the summer, the heat is often intense, and it’s possible for extreme winter temperatures as well.

Subfreezing is common throughout the Southeast, while extreme weather like hurricanes happens often. The best time to plant an oak tree in the Southeast is during its dormant season and after the last frost. Late fall to late winter is ideal. 

Best Time to Plant Oak Trees in The Midwest 

Along with the Midwestern states like Kansas and the Dakotas, the climate is humid.

The weather in the Midwest is often severe, with severe heat and humidity in the summer, severe cold and snowy in the winter, and also severe storms like tornadoes throughout the year. If you want to plant an oak tree in the Midwest, the best time to do so would be in the fall – before the first frost.

What To Consider Before You Plant an Oak Tree 

Summer sunny forest old oak trees. Nature green wood sunlight backgrounds.

Now that you have determined your climate, there are some things that you need to consider before you plant. Planting an oak tree can bring immediate beauty to an outdoor space, but there are certain things that oak trees require and certain personal preferences you may need to go over before you choose to plant.

Specifically, if you’re thinking about planting an oak tree in your backyard, consider these things before planting an oak tree.

Oak Trees Needs Space

Before planting, you have to make sure that there are no power lines above the tree and watch out for any nearby structures like sheds, barns, or houses that may be on either of the four sides of the tree.  

Oak trees generally range from 60 feet to 100 feet, and their canopies can get up to 50 feet wide. So, space definitely needs to be considered before you plant! Because of how large they can get, oak trees need to be planted 15 feet away from all structures. 

Another thing you have to take note of is the space available underground. An oak tree’s roots grow wide and deep. You need to make sure that the roots will not interfere with any foundations or pavement as it can cause damage to these structures. 

Oak Trees Produce Debris

It’s the truth – oak trees produce a lot of debris. Whether it’s acorns or falling leaves, oak trees have a lot of both, and if you are planting it over a lounging area or anywhere close to gutters or roof, you have to be prepared for some clean-up. 

Oak Trees Provide Shade 

Another thing to consider before planting is if you desire the amount of shade that an oak tree provides. Oak trees grow tall and wide, and depending on your space, can provide an ample amount of shade – or way too much. 

Consider what your personal preference is for the space before you choose to plant an oak tree. 

How to Plant an Oak Tree  

If you have gotten to this part of our article, it goes without saying that you are so ready to plant your oak tree! So, without further adieu – let’s teach you how! 

Determine Where You’re Going to Plant Your Oak Tree

Using the information above, first, determine your location. Take a stand in the middle of the spot and look around. Take note if there are any structures nearby and how much ground room you have to plant. 

You’ll want to make sure of what oak tree you’re planting. Red Oak Trees and White Oak Trees can grow to different heights and take up more space.

Plant Your Oak Sapling in a Spot With Little Grass

The tree shouldn’t be planted in a spot where the grass is going to surround the base of the trunk. Grass can harm the tree in that it will be in a constant fight with it for air, water, and nutrients – and it may not grow as successfully. 

Dig a Hole Twice the Size of The Oak

Once you have the spot, look at the bottom of your tree or the root ball – oftentimes, the root ball is wrapped in burlap. Once the size is determined, dig a hole double the size of the root ball – twice as wide and twice as deep. 

Keep the soil on the side so that you can refill the hole with it. 

Place The Oak Tree in The Hole

After you dig the hole, remove the covering of the root ball, and place the tree in the hole and move it around until the tree is standing straight up. 

If you need to – add more soil to ensure the tree is tall and even

Fill the Hole with Compost and Soil

Once the tree is standing straight, fill the hole with compost and the soil that was set to the side while you originally dug the hole. Keep filling the hole until the tree is sturdy and the soil is compact. Using the shovel, pat the soil into place. 

Adding mulch on top of the soil can be an extra step to help protect the tree so that the tree doesn’t fight with any nearby grass for air, water, or nutrients. 

Water The Oak Tree

When you are done planting, make sure to water the tree thoroughly. Watering once to twice a week is ideal; however, in the hotter months, if it doesn’t rain at least an inch that week, make sure to water more often. 

Benefits to Planting an Oak Tree

Other than the obvious, there are so many reasons why you should choose an oak tree to plant in the beginning. Strong, reliable, and full of life – oak trees go unmatched! 

Oak Trees are Strong 

Choosing an oak tree is always a good option if you are looking to plant a tree because of its strength. They grow sturdy and stable, and when planting close to your home, these are great options as their roots grow deep and will keep the tree standing for hundreds of years. 

Oak Trees are Resilient 

Oak trees are resilient. They can grow in all different climates, in all different soils, and can even live through a drought. When planted correctly, oak trees can survive the highest winds and are very susceptible to disease. 

Oak Trees Require Little Maintenance to Grow 

After planting, oak trees require little maintenance and are very easy to grow. Although the time they take to grow can range, the roots of an oak tree will always grow deep, and with very little intervening, can grow for hundreds of years. 

Wrapping it Up! 

There are certain times to plant an oak tree to ensure successful growth. By planting before the last frost and by avoiding freezing temperatures, based on your climate – whether it’s the fall or spring – planting an oak tree in mild, less extreme conditions is always ideal.

Oak trees are absolutely beautiful, are wonders of nature, and provide beauty, abundance, shade, shelter, and nutrition to all of Earth’s creatures.  

References

“How to Plant a Tree.” How To Plant A Tree – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, www.dec.ny.gov/lands

Dahlgren, R. A., SINGER, M. J., & Huang, X. (1997). Oak tree and grazing impacts on soil properties and nutrients in a California oak woodland. Biogeochemistry39(1), 45-64

“K-State Research and Extension.” Fall Tree and Shrub Planting Instructions, www.johnson.k-state.edu/lawn-garden/agent-articles/trees-shrubs/planting-trees-shrubs-in-fall.html. 

“Planting Native Oak in the Pacific Northwest.” Https://Www.fs.fed.us/Pnw/Pubs/pnw_gtr804.Pdf

“Southeast Temperature.” Southeast Temperature | North Carolina Climate Office, legacy.climate.ncsu.edu/edu/SETemp. 

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