If you are planning your landscape and are looking for a beautiful talking piece, you may be considering an oak tree. Good choice. These trees are stately and provide plenty of shade, but how fast do they grow and when can you expect shade?
In truth, some of the quickest growing oak trees include the Japanese Evergreen Oak, Nuttall Oak, Southern Live Oak, and Valley Oak, all of which can grow up to 36 inches per year. Healthy oak trees can live anywhere from 100-600 years and reach heights of over 100ft, depending on the species.
We’ll walk you through 12 of the fastest-growing oak trees and give you some insight into what the best conditions are to grow each tree. Let’s get to it!
Are Oak Trees Fast Growers?
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s answer the obvious question: are oak trees fast growers? We know that there are different types of oak trees, and some grow faster than others, but what about compared to a maple or aspen tree?
Compared to other species of trees, oak trees are considered slow-growers. Some species of Poplar, for example, can grow up to 8 feet in a single year. Willows, Aspen, and Maple trees are all faster-growing trees than the mighty oak.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plant them! Oak trees, though slow-growing, will provide you (and most likely your children and grandchildren) with years of shade, beauty, and wildlife habitat.
The 12 Fastest-Growing Oak Trees
So, you’ve decided to plant an oak tree and you’re wondering how long it’ll take to grow? When will you have shade? How big will it get?
We got you covered!
Here’s a chart of the 12 fastest growing oak trees, and how tall you can expect them to grow. Be sure to check out which zones each oak tree will perform the best in so you can plant a tree that will last for many years, if not centuries.
|Tree||Annual Growth||Lifespan||Full Height||Best Hardiness Zone|
*growth may vary based on conditions
Let’s take a closer look at each of these fast-growing oaks and see which one might be best suited for your yard, park, or space.
Quick side note, if you’re interested, you can view our piece on how long oak trees live here.
Japanese Evergreen Oak
Our first fast-growing oak tree is not native to North America, as the name suggests. It has an impressive lifespan that can stretch through millennia.
The Japanese Everygreen Oak can grow up to 36 inches per year but only reaches about 30 feet at its full height. So, although it is a fast grower, it will only grow for about 10-20 years before reaching its full height.
This particular oak is great for smaller yards. It still provides plenty of shade, branching out with a spread of up to 20 feet. Don’t expect too many compliments on your Japanese Evergreen Oak. It’s not the showiest of the oaks, and will not change colors in the fall.
Southern Live Oak
The southern live oak is an iconic tree in many of the southern states of the U.S. It grows just as wide, and in some cases wider, than it grows tall. If you’ve ever seen those iconic droopy-branched trees with beautiful Spanish moss hanging from them, you’ve probably spotted a Southern Live Oak.
Southern Live Oaks typically grow between 24 and 36 inches per year, making them one of the faster-growing oak trees. They grow to a height of about 50 feet, sometimes reaching 80 feet, but the most impressive thing about the Southern Live Oak is its spread! This tree can reach up to 120 feet wide!
Talk about a shade tree, right?
Southern Live Oaks need lots of space to grow. As they grow older, roots can grow close to the surface and impact sidewalks and roads. They are pretty tolerant of most conditions, including drought. They are also resistant to tree disease and pests.
The Valley Oak, also called the California White Oak, is native to California. It is a large oak tree considered one of the faster growing oaks. Like many oaks, it measures its lifespan in centuries.
This impressive tree grows between 24 and 36 inches per year and can reach a height of up to 130 feet. Its impressive height is paired with a canopy spread of about 50 feet, making it an excellent shade tree. With time, its branches can even spread far enough to touch the ground.
Valley Oaks prefer full sun conditions and need an area greater than 10’ to grow properly. According to the University of North Carolina, Valley Oaks can have a trunk up to 10 feet in diameter!
Unlike the Southern Live Oak and Valley Oak, the Nuttall Oak grows more upright and provides a little less shade due to a smaller spread.
The Nuttall Oak grows between 24 and 36 inches per year and reaches heights of about 40-60 feet. It’s a favorite of tree nurseries because it is easy to transplant and one of the fastest-growing oaks while young.
Another great characteristic of the Nuttall oak is its tolerance for a variety of soil conditions. Poorly drained soils and varying PH conditions are no hindrance to this tough oak.
Southern Red Oak
Not to be confused with the Southern Live Oak, the Southern Red Oak is an impressive, fast-growing oak tree that is sometimes referred to as Spanish Oak.
The Southern Red Oak grows anywhere from 12 to 36 inches per year, reaching heights of 60 to 80 feet. It has an impressive lifespan of about 150 years and is an excellent shade tree with a spread of up to 70 feet.
Besides providing plenty of shade, the Southern Red Oak is pretty resistant to diseases and pests that plague other oak types. It grows best in full sun and well-drained soil, so long as it is not clay. You don’t have to worry too much about branches breaking off, but the acorns will litter your yard and attract critters (but maybe you’re okay with that!).
Despite its name, the water oak does not require wet conditions to thrive, though it does love growing alongside streams and near water sources. It is native to the southeast but is found throughout much of the United States from Washington to New Jersey.
The water oak typically grows about two feet per year, reaching a full height of 100 feet. It is a shorter-lived tree with a lifespan of 60 to 80 years. This majestic tree can have a spread of up to 70 feet, providing plenty of shade.
If you’ve ever thought about what a typical acorn looks like, you’re probably picturing the acorns from a water oak: Dark brown in color with a ridged brown cap. Water Oaks are great to have around in the fall as they will change to a bright yellow once the seasons start changing.
Pin oaks are one of the most commonly seen trees around human populations. They’re often used in parks and along streets, as parking lot islands, and planted in yards. Why are these trees so popular?
With a pyramid shape, little upkeep requirements, and beautiful fall colors, the Pin Oak is a very popular tree! The roots have little potential for problems and even in the wintertime, this tree is pretty to look at.
The Pin Oak grows about 24 inches per year and reaches a full height of 60 to 70 feet. It provides decent shade, having a spread of up to 40 feet, but has the potential for branches to break off.
Pin Oaks provide food for squirrels, deer, and other mammals in the form of their acorns. This is one of the reasons why they make such good trees for parks.
Coast Live Oak
Coast Live Oak, California Live Oak, and Encina are all the same tree here. This tree is similar in shape and appearance to the southern live oak as it has a massive trunk and the branches spread out enough to touch the ground in some instances.
The Coast Live Oak grows about two feet per year and reaches a full height of around 70 feet. It’s a long-lived oak, its lifespan numbering two centuries on average. It has an impressive spread of up to 70 feet.
This admirable tree provides food and shelter for birds, squirrels, and other tree-using animals. It is an important tree in California, its native home, but is susceptible to some of the more serious tree diseases such as sudden oak death.
Canyon Live Oak
As the name suggests, canyon live oaks are found in high-elevation, mountainous regions. Its home range includes the west coast from Oregon down to Arizona. This little tree can survive at altitudes of up to 9,000 feet!
Canyon Live Oaks grow about two feet per year and reach a full height of up to 100 feet. More often than not these trees only reach heights of 20 to 60 feet. They’re typically as wide as they are tall and can appear more shrub than tree in some cases.
These hardy trees thrive in several different soil conditions, making them attractive to many homeowners in drought-ridden areas such as California. They’re quaint little trees that can provide food and shelter for wildlife as well.
Native to the southeast and eastern Texas, the Laurel Oak is a tall, proud, and fast-growing oak. It’s not quite as showy as the Pin Oak in the fall, but its leaves do change color.
Laurel Oaks grow up to two feet per year and reach a full height of up to 100 feet. For its height, it has a smaller spread than expected of up to 45 feet. It is another short-lived oak with a lifespan of 50-70 years.
These trees have more of the picturesque acorns that attract squirrels, deer, and other wildlife. Unfortunately, the branches are susceptible to breaking, so be careful if you decide to plant these next to your house or outbuildings.
Red Oaks are one of the prettiest oak trees to see in the fall, with vibrant reds, oranges, and browns. But trees aren’t all about looks, right? Red oaks also thrive in a variety of conditions but tend to prefer moist and well-drained soil.
These mighty trees grow up to two feet per year and reach a full height of up to 140 feet. They can live up to 500 years, providing generations with shade and wildlife viewing. Red Oaks are one of the easier trees to transplant, making them a favorite in tree nurseries.
The final fast-growing oak on our list is the Willow Oak. It’s one of the most stately of the oaks and is a prized landscape piece for its ornamental value.
Willow Oaks grow between 13 and 24 inches per year. It’s one of the shorter oaks, reaching a full height of up to 60 feet. It can live for up to a century and has beautiful fall colors of yellow and red.
Willow Oaks make great shade trees and are very attractive to birds and small animals. They’re also easy to transplant and require little upkeep. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this majestic tree!
What Is The Best Oak Tree To Plant?
If you’re set on planting an oak tree, you’re making a great choice. Oak trees are strong, stately trees that grow to last. They provide plenty of shade on a hot summer day to both you and the wildlife that depend on them for food and shelter.
Although oak trees are slow growers, they are typically easy to care for and can be a family project that will stay a part of the property for generations to come.
So, which oak tree is the best? Which one should you plant?
This question is a little difficult to answer because there are so many different types of oak trees, each with its own unique qualities. To get right down to it, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions:
If you’re interested in this topic a bit more in-depth, you can check out our guide for the best oak trees to plant here.
What Are You Looking For In An Oak Tree?
When you think of planting an oak tree, are you picturing a tree you can sit under in the summertime and enjoy the shade? Or are you looking for an ornamental tree that can be a talking piece for visiting guests? Maybe you want one that will be bursting with colors in the fall?
If you’re in the market for a shade tree, Live Oaks are a good choice. These massive trees boast wide trunks, drooping branches that sometimes touch the ground, and impressive shading with a spread of over 100 feet for some types.
Looking to get shade quickly? If you want a faster growing oak tree, consider the Nuttall Oak or Japanese Evergreen Oak. These are going to be the fastest growing oak trees, growing about 3 feet per year.
Want an oak with the prettiest fall foliage? White, Red, and Black Oak trees as well as Pin, Sawtooth, and Chinkapin Oak trees are all great choices for oak trees with beautiful fall leaves. As the seasons change, these trees will begin to change from green to all our favorite reds, oranges, and yellows of fall.
If you’re thinking about planting a White, Red or Black Oak Trees, check out our guide to planting oak trees in your backyard.
What about small yards? If you don’t have very much space, don’t let the reputation of the ‘mighty’ oak scare you away. There are plenty of options for smaller yards. The Nuttall, Pin, and Japanese Evergreen Oak are all great choices. These trees don’t get too tall or wide, so they can thrive in even the smallest of yards.
I just want an awesome-looking oak tree. If you’re not too concerned with space, don’t have a lot of time for upkeep, and just want a cool-looking tree, try the Willow Oak. This tree is considered one of the best-looking oak trees and will definitely grab the attention of your guests in the fall.
What about cold climates? If you live in the northern regions of the U.S. it can be tough to find a tree that will survive in such harsh conditions. The best oak trees for cold weather include the Scarlet Oak, White Oak, Swamp White Oak, Bur Oak, and Black Oak. These can all survive in hardiness zone 3, which can see temperatures as low as -40° F.
Hot climates? Texas, Florida and Louisiana are three of the hottest states in the country. Which oaks survive the best in scorching temperatures of over 100°F? Myrtle Oak, Cork Oak, Live Oak, Holm Oak, and Japanese Evergreen Oak Trees can all survive up to zone 10.
That’s About It!
That’s all we have for now on the fastest growing oak trees. To recap, here are the 12 fastest growing oak trees:
- Japanese Evergreen Oak
- Southern Live Oak
- Valley Oak
- Nuttall Oak
- Southern Red Oak
- Water Oak
- Pin Oak
- Coast Live Oak
- Canyon Live Oak
- Laurel Oak
- Red Oak
- Willow Oak
Depending on what kind of oak tree you are looking for, you may want to consider what hardiness zone it thrives in, what PH conditions it needs, it’s maintenance requirements and how much space you need.
This way, you can choose the oak tree that will thrive in your unique situation. With a few years’ work you’ll be able to kick back and relax under a beautiful, stoic shade tree that will be around for years to come.
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Hinckley, T. M., Dougherty, P. M., Lassoie, J. P., Roberts, J. E., & Teskey, R. O. (1979, October). A Severe Drought: Impact on Tree Growth, Phenology, Net Photosynthetic Rate and Water Relations. The American Midland Naturalist, 102(2), 307-316. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2424658
Phipps, R. L., & Whiton, J. C. (1988, January). Decline in long-term growth trends of white oak. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 18(1), 24-32. https://cdnsciencepub.com/doi/abs/10.1139/x88-005
Wallace, Z. P., Lovett, G. M., Hart, J. E., & Machona, B. (2007, May 31). Effects of nitrogen saturation on tree growth and death in a mixed-oak forest. Forest Ecology and Management, 243(2-3), 210-218. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378112707001624