Oak trees are amazing – there’s no denying it. They are tall, they are abundant, and they instantly beautify every and any outdoor space. However, although they are a true national favorite, as much as we hate to say it – oak trees are not always the best tree to plant.
There are many reasons why you shouldn’t plant an oak tree. As beautiful as they are, oak trees produce a lot of debris, attract wildlife, take up a lot of space, and can be destructive. Without the proper maintenance, and if not planted correctly, oak trees can do more harm than good.
In truth, planting an oak tree is not always the best idea. Today we will talk about oak trees and the reasons why you should reconsider planting one.
What is an Oak tree?
An oak tree is a medium to a tall tree and is surely a sight to see. Reaching to house-sized heights and beyond, oak trees are grand trees that generally range from 60 to 100 feet in height and up to 50 feet in width.
Part of the Quercus family, an oak tree produces green foliage for most of the year, and in the late autumn, its leaves change color. Oak trees are always one of the last trees to change color in autumn and one of the last to lose their leaves before winter.
Oak trees vary in size, shape, and growth rate – however, with up to 500 variations, and 90 natives to the United States alone, and living up to 300 years old – all oaks have one thing in common – lobed leaves. Those distinctly lobed leaves are easily recognizable and vary in texture from oak to oak.
Oak trees are typically categorized into one of the two: White Oaks or Red Oaks. A Red Oak also has a subset, Black Oak. The way to differentiate the two categories is by the tree’s bark. A Red Oak typically has smooth bark, whereas the White Oak has a bark full of ridges and furrows.
Oaks are loved all throughout the world, and often, they are considered special in many cultures.
Why Are Oak Trees Special?
Oak trees are loved and accepted around the world, as they embody the symbols of strength, morale, resistance, and wisdom.
Worldwide, oak trees offer humans and animals all types of benefits.
Oak Trees Produce Acorns
Have you ever seen acorns on the ground? Well, often one of our symbols of fall, acorns are produced from oak trees.
Oak trees are called mast trees – which means they produce fruit! And yes, acorns are fruit. Oaks can produce up to 1000 acorns in a month’s time and over 1,000,000 in their lifetime!
Acorns are considered hard mast fruit because they have a hard outer shell and a seed inside. Believe it or not, one single acorn can produce an oak tree on its own.
Acorns are actually a source of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and are used in the human diet and certainly the wildlife diet. While always producing acorns, oaks can provide nutritional variations to all of Earth’s creatures.
Lumbar is Made From Oak Trees
Another special feature of an oak tree is that it produces some of the worlds strongest lumbar and is still a source of raw material used today.
With natural strength and durability, the bark of the White and Red Oak trees is one of the most commonly used woods in construction.
Oak is also used in flooring and furniture, and let me tell you – it is worth a pretty penny.
Oak Trees Have A Long Lifespan
Oak trees have been said to be around for 35 million years, and there are fossil records to show that oak trees and their acorns were a staple in the early settlements around the world.
There are fossils dating back 40,000 years ago, showing how the trees were used by the first modern humans. As acorns were used for food, other parts of the tree were used for medicine, fuel, shelter, and art.
I know what you must be thinking – so, with all these special attributes, all the history, and all these amazing things we’re saying about an oak tree – then why would we tell you not to plant an oak tree? Keep on reading to find out.
If you’re interested, you can read our piece on the lifespan of common oak trees here.
12 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Plant an Oak Tree
Planting an oak tree is rather a personal preference at that, but there are some facts about oak trees that may contribute to why an oak tree isn’t right for you. And it’s okay, we’re here for whatever you decide, but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t tell you about some of the potential cons of planting an oak tree.
Oak Trees Require Frequent Branch Pruning
Pruning the branches when the oak tree is young is extremely important.
The branches can easily break and snap when young, and if they get too long, the weight of the branch may be too much for a young oak to carry.
Pruning the branches as it grows will help create a more stable weight throughout the tree, allowing the branches to grow strong.
Oak Trees Require Heavy Limb Removal
Along with pruning, checking the limbs of the oak to ensure that they are not too heavy is important as well. Any heavy limbs should be removed or trimmed so that the weight stays evenly distributed.
Oak Trees Can Get Messy
Another aspect to consider when planting is an oak is that – oak trees are messy! Oak trees, as beautiful as they are, produce a ton of leaves, a ton of acorns, and a ton of pollen!
Although we can’t argue to say how fascinating it is that oaks can provide all living things with such abundance, you have to ask yourself – do you want an abundant clean-up routine throughout most of the year?
Of course, it all just depends on where you are planting the oak, like for instance, if you are planting it in a forest, that’s not the worst thing, but if you are planting it in your back yard – the mess is something you should consider.
Oak Trees Can Provide Too Much Shade
Again, completely a personal preference, but when planting an oak, just know that eventually, your space will be covered in the shade.
An oak tree’s canopy reaches far and wide and will provide a beautiful shade no matter where it is planted. But the question is, do you want all that shade?
If you have a lot of plants and flowers, or perhaps a vegetable garden in your space, then planting an oak may not be a great idea. Flowers and plants need sunlight to grow.
If you just so happen to also enjoy sun coverage here and there, depending on the size of the outdoor space, planting an oak may not be a good idea for you.
Oak Trees Require A Lot of Space
Bringing a lot of shade to any area that it’s planted brings us to this point that – you need a lot of space for an oak tree!
Oaks simply cannot be planted within 15 feet of any structures. Homes, power lines, concrete and pavements, decks, sheds, pools – all of these structures need to be considered before planting an oak.
Oak tree canopies also, when grown, shouldn’t be leaning over houses, pools, or gutters, as they produce a lot of debris that can clog filters and gutters or make a mess of your homes.
Since oak trees can get up to 50 feet wide, you need at least 50 feet of space for them to grow. Because these trees are truly larger than life, they also house a lot of wildlife, which in turn, if planted too close to your house – can be a problem!
You can read our guide to whether or not you should plant an oak tree in your backyard here.
Oak Trees Attract Wildlife
Arguably a benefit at times, depending on your feelings toward wildlife – oaks do attract a large variety of wildlife, and they house wildlife as well. However, sometimes there are some unwanted guests that live in these trees that can cause havoc to your space.
Squirrels, birds, raccoons, chipmunks, and even reptiles like snakes, salamanders, and frogs – may live in an oak tree. Depending on the surrounding environment, whether it’s more wooded or swamp-like with wetlands, the type of animals that typically live in those environments will stay seasonally in an oak tree.
Because of its ample source of nutrition from acorns, oaks also attract other types of animals like deer, rodents, foxes, and opossums.
Animals will use an oak’s hollowed-out trunks, branches, and even its roots, to build their shelter, and some may say – forever homes.
Oak Trees Attract Insects
Although maybe at face value, and especially if the oak is planted far away from you and your homes, insects may not be an issue to you. However, insects can be an issue to oaks, and this becomes a two-part problem as to prevent insects, a lot of maintenance must be done.
Oaks attract insects like worms, beetles, caterpillars, and spiders, all of which can eat at certain parts of an oak. Worms love to eat the foliage, and in turn, it can cause the tree to lose its leaves. Beetles, and specific ones known as Oak Bark Beetles, can eat at the bark and introduce disease to the tree.
Sapling Oaks Require A lot of Maintenance
You may have heard that oaks are easy-to-grow trees, and yes, that is true – oaks require little maintenance to actually grow once they’re past the sapling stage.
However, sapling oaks require a lot of maintenance in all other aspects to survive, grow successfully, and live their full lifespan. Once an oak tree is in adulthood, you won’t need to do too much to help it thrive.
Fertilizer Is Needed For Young Oak Growth
Fertilizing your oaks will give it the nutrients it needs, especially young oaks or oaks that are being transported.
Fertilizing an oak will help it absorb sunlight, which is needed to produce its food and energy.
Additional Soil Is Needed To Protect Oak Tree Roots
Adding soil to the base of the tree will help it survive because covering the roots with soil will prevent them from root damage or erosion. Healthy roots are the absolute key to having a healthy oak.
Again, this is primarily geared towards young and sapling oaks, who need a bit more attention while they’re growing.
Oaks Are Prone to Certain Disease
Oak trees, in general, aren’t the first tree to be said to get diseases. Remember, oaks are strong and resilient. However, the problem is that disease does show up, and when it does, it requires a lot of maintenance, treatment, and possibly, an expensive removal of the tree to manage.
Oaks can get the disease from the bottom of the roots to the tips of their canopies, and it’s often caused by a lack of maintenance by humans!
Some things like improper irrigation, leaves that have fallen and are infected and not raked, not pruning correctly, and not controlling insects – all contribute to oak tree disease.
If you’re interested, you can read our piece on the most common oak tree diseases here.
Lifespan: Oak Trees Live A Long Time
Once you plant an oak tree, you can guarantee that this tree will live for centuries and centuries to come. Although you may be saying, so how does this affect me? Well, since Oak tree roots grow fast and strong, once you plant an oak – if you are not satisfied with it – it will be a pain in the butt to get rid of!
Oak trees can live hundreds of years, and they are built to grow to sustain these long-lived lifetimes. They are strong, they are resilient, and they are stable – and although these are absolutely great contributions as a whole, they are difficult attributes when wanting to remove one.
Before planting an oak – consider its longevity, as if you ever want to remove one, it is not – 1,2,3 and done!
Oak Trees Can Cause Damage
Due in part to their strong nature, oaks can cause a lot of destruction if planted in the wrong place.
An oak’s roots grow deep, and long, and fast at that matter, and if planted near any underground structure like a pool, or near underground pipes, or home foundations, or near an above-ground structure like a deck, pavement, and well, houses – an oak tree’s roots can actually uproot these structures.
An oak tree’s roots can puncture underground pipes and structures and cause a lot of destruction to your systems.
Oak trees also grow extremely tall and can collide with nearby power lines if planted in the wrong spot. Because of their strength, and their abundance of leaves and limbs, intertwining with power lines can cause electrical issues – and even wifi issues in your home! I know – not the wifi!
Also, due to their abundant producing nature of acorns and leaves, oaks can clog up gutters, sewers, creeks, and filtration systems, if not kept up with!
3 Places you Should Never Plant an Oak Tree
If we haven’t convinced you yet, and you still want to plant an oak tree – there are some places that you should never plant it.
Oaks Should Never be Within 15 Feet From a House
Oak trees should be no closer than 15 feet from your house. The roots and limbs can quickly cause damage to the structure if they are too close.
Besides damage, oaks house a lot of insects and wildlife, and the closer they are to your home, the more likely they are to get in!
Branches Should Not Hang Over a Roof
Although some may say that oaks can help with the electric costs since it provides shade and therefore, less sun coverage, the truth of the matter is – oaks should not be above roofs. If the tree’s branches or limbs reach out above a roof – it is too close!
The problem is that it will create a lot of debris on your roof and can easily clog up gutters. Another consideration is that since oaks house wildlife, giving an animal easy access to your roof from a branch can further cause an infestation of your own home!
Oak Trees Should Not Line the Streets
Oaks should never be the go-to tree to line the street, especially if there are powerlines lining the street as well.
Depending on the type of area you live in, you may have sidewalks or street parking, and it’s best to avoid spots where debris may fall and cause someone to slip or trip or cause damage to your car! Acorns are no joke, and when falling from full-grown-oak-heights, they can actually crack windshields and cause dents in your car!
That’s A Wrap!
Although an oak tree is definitely beautiful, it definitely does not always need to be planted. Oak trees need a lot of maintenance, attention, and care, and if not taken care of, they have the potential to create quite the mess.
Leroy, T., Plomion, C., & Kremer, A. (2020). Oak symbolism in the light of genomics. New Phytologist, 226(4), 1012-1017.
Plomion, C., Aury, J. M., Amselem, J., Leroy, T., Murat, F., Duplessis, S., … & Salse, J. (2018). Oak genome reveals facets of long lifespan. Nature Plants, 4(7), 440-452.
Phipps, R. L., & Whiton, J. C. (1988). Decline in long-term growth trends of white oak. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 18(1), 24-32.