Oak Tree Sapling: How To Grow Plus Where To Buy

Growing young oak tree from dry leves

As you’ve probably realized at this point in your search, oak trees are a wide variety of organisms, and each species contains its own unique considerations. If you’re looking to learn how to grow your species of oak or where to buy it, this is for you.

Oak trees grow from a few inches to multiple feet a year. You can take advantage of this by finding out which species of oak grows best in your area’s soil and deciding to purchase a sapling from that species. Finding out where to buy the sapling from is the next step in this process.

But, before we get into the ‘who’s,’ the ‘what’s,’ and the ‘where’s,’ it’s best to know the ‘how.’ Learning about how oak saplings are grown is an important piece of information, so let’s dive in!

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How Do You Grow Oak Saplings?

Thinking about the ‘how’ in this equation means figuring out what best practices you should be using while planting and sustaining your oak tree from a sapling to a mature tree. 

Oak saplings are simple to grow because they are adaptable and resilient plants. 

Growing an oak tree does not require too much effort, but you will want to think about some other factors as they grow, like protection and how far from your home you’ll want them to sit once they have matured into a huge entity. 

For now, let’s just talk about the first steps that matter when you are just starting out. Here are some of the common considerations that you should be aware of while growing an oak tree:

When Should Oak Saplings Be Planted?

The best time of year to plant an oak sapling is going to be during the spring months. Once we get past the point where the ground is frozen, whatever that looks like in your area is going to be the prime time to plant your oak sapling.

Young oak sapling isolated on white background

The best time to plant an oak tree sapling is in spring when the ground is no longer frozen, and there is plenty of moisture in the soil. The weather is not too hot yet, and there is plenty of time until the next winter season comes around and freezes the ground all over again. The fallen leaves in autumn will help to fertilize your sapling, and the nutrients in the soil will provide a great location for your oak to thrive.

Can you plant your tree in summer if you make the decision to start growing an oak, or is that too late in the year? 

Of course, you can!

In fact, oak trees can be planted as far along as the late summer or very early autumn months. Essentially, you would just want to be sure that you have enough time before the winter months really close in. If you plant a tree too late in the year, you run the risk of it freezing before it even has the chance to really settle in its soil.

You can read more about the best time to plant an oak tree here.

How Do You Plant An Oak Tree Sapling?

As is true for seedlings of other species, oak trees should begin their lives in a pot. Whether this is indoors or outdoors is ultimately up to the grower. 

You’ll want to transplant your sapling from the pot and into the ground, however. 

If you’ve planted your tree from a seedling (whether it is balled up or bare-root), you won’t want to keep it in a pot forever.

New oak tree growing in clay pot indoor. Reforestation concept. Hand holding fresh new leaves on stem of oak tree, growing from acorn seed in pot. Care of earth, woods, environment

Once your tree is officially a sapling, at about 1-5 inches in diameter and 4-5 feet tall, a pot will no longer provide the right environment to sustain the oak tree. 

When you purchase a sapling, this should be one of your first steps upon bringing it home. You take the plant out of the pot and transplant it into the soil outdoors. 

This step should be done while the tree is dormant, but the ground is not frozen. This is best done in the mid-autumn months as the tree slips into dormancy, but the ground remains soft and malleable.

How do you know where you should be transplanting your sapling, though, you may be asking. Well, don’t sweat it. Just keep reading this next section!

How Far Should You Plant An Oak Tree From Your House?

Not only can trees extract water from the soil and cause foundation damage when too close to a house, but they can also cause other types of damage to buildings if they are planted too close to these structures. 

A general rule of thumb for any tree is that you plant between 15 and 20 feet away from structures like a house or office building. 

It won’t matter for quite some time, but in 20 years, when a root is cracking your foundation, or a branch breaks your window in a wind storm, you’ll wish you would have planted a bit further away.

You can read more about the potential damage oak trees can cause here.

So, take the time when you plant your oak tree to think about the placement. Not only should your tree be at least 15 feet from your house, but make sure this does not push it too close to your neighbors if your area is small. 

Also, you’ll want to double-check where any pipes are before planting because an accidental leak a few years down the road due to forgetting this small factor could end up being a huge pain.

Really just take some time to plan out what you want out of your tree and how you can best position it for both now and the future.

Oh, and make sure that you actually should plant an oak tree in your backyard.

How Long Do Oak Saplings Take To Grow?

So, this question is an important one because it brings up the fact that not all oak trees grow at the same rate. Frankly, some oaks grow rather quickly and appear mature much earlier than their counterparts, while others take their time and may look younger for longer. 

Oak sapling five leaves in the summer forest

It is most typical for an oak tree to grow at a rate of about 2 feet per year in its first 10 years of growth. After that, as the tree has matured to a larger size, the rate of growth slows down. If it didn’t, we’d have trees touching the clouds!

Oaktree seedlings grow more slowly, in a similar way that mature trees do. Seedlings, the category that falls upon trees just younger and smaller than those deemed ‘saplings,’ typically reach 4-6 inches in their first year. 

Now, in relation to some species of oak like the bur oak that grows less than a foot per year, this is pretty similar. However, compared to the valley oak, whose growth rate gets up to 5 feet per year in its prime growing years, this is absolutely nothing.

Tree growth is relative to species, environment, and other external factors, but the average does come out to be about 2 feet per year.

If you’re interested, take a look at our data on how long it takes to grow common types of oak trees.

Oak Tree Annual Growth and Hardiness Zones

We know that it can be tricky to get started. How are you supposed to know what to research? So, we have compiled 16 of our favorite oak trees, their annual growing rates, and the USDA growing zone that they are best suited for. 

We know that it can be tricky to get started. How are you supposed to know what to research? So, we have compiled our favorite oak trees, their annual growth rates, and the USDA growing zone that they are best suited for. 

TREEANNUAL GROWTHBEST HARDINESS ZONE
Willow oak13–24"5-9
Japanese evergreen oak36"9a-11
Water oak24"6-9
Pin oak24"4-8
Chinkapin oak12-24"3-9a
Post oak2"5-9
Bur oak12"2a-8a
White oak12-18"3b-8b
Coast live oak24"9-10
Interior live oak12-24"8-10
Canyon live oak24"8-10
Southern live oak24-36"7b-10b
Valley oak24-36"7-9
Southern red oak12-36"6-9
Blue oak6"5-10
Black oak8-12"3-9
Laurel oak24"6-9
Red oak24"4-8
Nuttall Oak24-36"6-9

Where Can I Get An Oak Sapling?

Some local governments have guides for exactly this situation.

For a quick example, The North Carolina Tree Seedling Guide is the kind of place that you’ll be able to browse species lists and information if you happen to be a North Carolina local. 

I really like looking for state directory guides before making a purchase as the information they publish is consistent with what type of tree will thrive for the soil conditions of that state.

If not, there are plenty of other places you can find a list of local flora to purchase and grow. 

There are lots of oak tree saplings available for purchase at your local greenhouse or nursery, where you can browse the aisles while seeing the real plants in person and getting advice from trained professionals. 

If you are unable to visit a local spot, never fear! That’s why online options are available, too. 

Take this Valley Oak Live Tree Seedling (Medium), for example. Complete with instructions, a guarantee that they’ll send you a new seedling if something happens to your first one, and the assurance that this plant is pesticide-free, you’ve got it all. 

So, whether you decide to opt for an in-person experience or a one-stop shop, purchasing an oak tree sapling has never been easier. 

It all depends on what you are looking for. Do you want to inspect the sapling (or less-mature seedling) itself, or would you like to have someone else do the work of picking it out while you do the honors of planting and sustaining your new tree? 

Either option is a good one, and some people may buy a certain sapling in a nursery while opting to buy another online. There’s no ‘right’ way to do this!

How Much Does An Oak Sapling Cost?

So, the bread and butter question!

Typically, an oak tree is going to cost something between $10 and $200 when bought as a single sapling. Factors that affect the price include the size of the tree, whether it is 3-4 feet or a bit taller, the quantity that you are buying in, and where you decide to purchase from.

This is also something that may influence your decision about whether you’ll be buying your oak tree sapling from a private vendor, a chain nursery store, or a different online entity. 

The Forestry Commission has Price Guides for Tree Seedlings, among other things, and this can help to show just how different prices can be when saplings are bought in bulk.

All of that is to say; external factors play a large role in the cost of any trees of any species. This is something you should keep in mind while purchasing your oak, however, to keep it from being taken too off guard.

What Do I Do Once I Have My Oak Sapling?

Oak sapling in hands. The leaves of rays of sunlight.

Once you have done your research on which species is going to fare best in your yard, lot, or field, you’ll purchase your sapling (or a bunch of saplings) from the vendor of your choice. 

When you get your tree, we’ll want to turn back to those initial oak tree planting tips from the first part of this piece.

Planting and growing an oak tree are relatively simple processes. You just need to be prepared to plant before the ground is frozen and transplant in that time period, as well.

Other than remembering not to try to plant while the ground is frozen, you’ll want to protect your sapling as it works to mature in the best way that it knows how. 

Here are a few ways to do just that.

You can also read our guide on the best places to plant an oak tree here.

Let Leaves Fall

You may not have realized that raking your leaves actually does your tree and others around it a disservice. 

Part of the natural process that deciduous trees follow is this cycle of losing leaves for the winter. This cycle is not all about the loss of something, however, because fallen leaves act as the best natural fertilizer around! 

Even if you have to rake part of your leaves, let some of them go back to the soil that they came from. 

This is an easy way for you to save on fertilizers, not to mention the time and energy you’ll save raking those leaves- all for the benefit of the trees!

Protect The Trunk

Animals, lawnmowers, and other external forces can be quite dangerous to a young tree. 

Thankfully, there is a simple solution to this!

Try looking into something like this Smart Spring Plant and Tree Guard Protector that will give you peace of mind while giving your tree protection with the room to breathe (figuratively, of course.)

Products like this help ward off bugs, animals, and even vines. Oh, and when your neighbor accidentally gets a little too close for comfort to your sapling, you won’t have to worry quite as much!

Go On, Grow Your Own!

Well, that’s all we’ve got for now.

Remember that oak trees contain a wide range of species that all do well in different conditions.

It might be frustrating to feel like you don’t know which tree is best to plant from a sapling or where the perfect location is, but knowing how these trees work is the first step of success!

Just keep in mind that you’ll want to ask about the species name, grow time, and growing zones before you commit to a tree for… well, the rest of your life. If that sounds bold, at least consider it for the next few years as your tree begins to mature and helps your house feel like a home. 

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about oak tree saplings!

I hope this article helps you as you embark on your oak tree journey.

References

Andersson, M., Milberg, P., & Bergman, K. O. (2011). Low pre-death growth rates of oak (Quercus robur L.)—Is oak death a long-term process induced by dry years?. Annals of Forest Science68(1), 159-168.

Lawson, M., & O’Callaghan, D. (1995). A critical analysis of the role of trees in damage to low rise buildings. Journal of Arboriculture21, 90-90.

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