Oak trees are some of the most beautiful and most common trees that are grown throughout the United States. So vast, so beautiful, and truly a symbol of strength and endurance, oak trees are not known specifically for their size but are sure enough to always make a statement.
In truth, oak trees should be planted anywhere from 15-30ft away from your home and all other structures. Smaller oak trees should be planted at least 15ft away, where large oak trees should be at least 20-30ft away from your home. Oak trees branches generally have a spread of at least 50ft.
Depending on your location and the amount of space you have, and dependent on your own personal preferences when it comes to your outdoor space, there are a lot of variables when considering an oak tree, and today, we’re here to offer you an in-depth look to help you decide. But first – let’s start with the basics – and learn a bit about oak trees!
What Is An Oak Tree?
Part of the Quercus species of tree – although there can be five hundred plus types of oak, they generally can all be categorized into one of the two: White Oak or Red Oak – and as a subset of the Red Oak – a Black Oak.
Depending on the type, oaks can be considered a medium to tall tree, as many oak trees range anywhere from 60-100 feet tall when fully grown. While they all grow at different rates and speeds, and even in differing environments, with differing shaped crowns, oak trees all have that distinctively oak, lobed leaf.
Although the leaf varies in color, shape, and size, a similarity amongst oaks is that they produce the fall-favorite acorns! Acorns are actually considered a fruit – I know, right? and an oak tree can produce up to 1000 acorns every year.
Fun Fact: Did you know planting a single acorn can actually produce an oak tree? If germinated and taken care of properly, an acorn can successfully start to grow!
Oak trees are a monumental tree in the United States of America – and you will absolutely be sure to see an oak tree in almost any wooded area. However, the question we wonder is – should we be planting oak trees in our backyards? But before we dive into that – let’s talk white, red, and black.
The Difference Between White, Red, And Black Oak Trees
Although there are many variations of oak trees out there, oak trees widely fall into one of these colored categories as either a White, Red or Black Oak tree. Similar in many senses, there are also some distinct differences amongst the oaks.
White Oak Trees
Native to North America and growing up to 100 feet tall, White Oak Trees take their sweet time until they finally achieve those skyscraper heights.
Tall but with a lighter gray-toned, shorter, and stockier bark, White Oak branches grow upward and out, mimicking that of an upward crown. With dark green leaves in the spring and summer and burnt orange to wine red in the fall – the White Oak is always a showstopper.
Red Oak Trees
Growing up to 80 feet tall and with a rate of growth much faster than a White Oak, a mature Red Oak provides a beautifully rounded-off crown spread and is the absolute perfect medium-sized tree. With its bristle-tipped leaves, a Red Oak provides those beautifully rusty brown and red leaves in the fall and is the easier of the oaks to grow.
Black Oak Trees
Technically considered a variation of a Red Oak, and although called Black Oak, the interesting thing about a Black Oak is that its bark is actually yellow inside!
With lobed-shaped leaves, and velvety-textured, bi-colored leaves year-round, and with a darker green on top and a coppery tone underneath, a Black Oak’s leaves are nothing short of amazing. Growing up to 100 feet in size, Black Oaks, although a bit more uncommon, make great shade trees and have a distinctively dark, almost-black trunk.
Further, all types of oak trees are classified based on their barks, leaves, acorns, and shapes.
What is Special About an Oak Tree?
Before we start talking about planting an oak tree – let’s simply talk about why oak trees are so special! A symbol of strength, morale, resistance, and wisdom – an oak tree is a tree that has been fully loved and accepted worldwide and has much significance in many cultures.
Oak trees grow slowly; however, they stand very tall and can live up to 300 years. There are hundreds of oak tree variations across the globe, and in the United States of America alone, we have 90 different types.
An oak tree is a tree that wears many hats, thus, making it one of the most beloved trees. Its bark even has therapeutic properties.
An oak tree’s fruit, the acorn, will feed many species of livestock and also is edible to humans. The tree itself is the home to many different animals, as its vast canopies provide ample shade and protection for wildlife.
Specifically, from the bark of Red and White Oak trees, lumber is created and is used in construction, flooring, and furniture – due to its natural strength and durability.
How Much Space Do I Need For An Oak Tree?
Now that you know a little bit more about oak trees, and you may have more of an overall feel of the oak tree you would want to plant – there are some ideas to consider about the space before you start digging.
Plant Oak Trees Away From Overhanging Structures
I know that it may be hard to visualize an oak tree in its fullest capacity when you begin to plant; however, it’s important to think about how tall the tree will get and the amount of space that is available before planting.
Before you plant – take a walk around the area that you want to plant the tree in. Stop, and look directly upwards! Do you notice if there are any power lines close by? Is the roof too close? Are there streetlights nearby that can get in the way? Any structures that it could interfere with?
We often forget to look up when planting trees because we are focused on the here and now, and more often than not, the view in front of us. But when planting a tree, the most important area to consider before any other is the air space.
Making sure there are no limiting factors in the air space before you plant is so so important – especially when dealing with trees that are larger-than-life.
Oak Trees Need Minimum 15ft Of Space From Any Home
The next step in determining if you have the space for an oak tree is simply at eye level. Take a look at the area surrounding where your oak tree will be planted.
Remember, oak tree branches can get quite wide, so making sure there are no sheds or other restrictions on either side, and in front of or behind the anticipated planting spot is extremely important.
Make sure that you plant your oak tree at least 15ft away from any sheds, barns, and houses. If you already have an oak tree planted near your home, make sure that the spread (branches) are trimmed so that they are not touching your home and are as far away as possible.
Oak Trees Need To Be Away from Underground Structures
Another essential idea to consider before planting an oak is the ground coverage. Do you have pavers/concrete nearby? Do you have a pool? Oak trees grow fast and have vast roots, and need space underground to grow!
Much like in the space above our heads, there can’t be anything limiting the underground area because it not only can stunt the growth of the tree, but the roots can collide with and uplift any pavement.
If you’re planting a new oak tree, make sure that your oak is at least 50ft away from any septic field, lines, or underground wiring. It’s important to make sure that the roots of the tree don’t get intertwined with any underground utilities.
Should Your Oak Tree Provide Shade?
The next thing to consider is sun coverage. Imagine a canopy of leaves straight above where you’re going to be planting the tree – will it bring a lot of sun coverage to the area, or will it be too much shade?
As a general rule, most oak trees have a spread of at least 50ft. The spread is how far the branches and leaves stick out from the center of the tree. When considering planting an oak tree in your backyard, place your oak tree in a spot with ample room for the oak tree’s spread.
Mostly a personal preference, it’s good to think about whether or not you want sun or not in your outdoor space – because once you plant this tree and it grows, it will be difficult and costly to remove it!
Oak Trees Produce Debris
Remember, oak trees produce up to 1000 acorns a year – so, it’s important to consider debris when choosing an oak. Make sure the tree isn’t around any pools or growing over gutters – because the acorns can actually cause blockages in filters or gutters!
Besides that, if it’s growing over a lounge area or possibly an outdoor dining area – are you prepared to constantly pick up and move acorns from the area?
The thing with planting an oak tree is that there can’t be restrictions in terms of space. The trees need ample space to grow, and giving this tree the proper space, is one of the key ingredients in having this tree grow successfully! Besides space, planting an oak tree also consists of many personal preferences, all of which should be considered prior to planting.
The Pros of Planting an Oak Tree in Your Backyard
Now that you’ve considered the space and your own personal preferences let’s talk about the benefits of planting an oak tree!
Oak Trees Are Strong
Stranding tall yet strong, oak trees are a great tree to plant in your backyard because of their sturdiness and stability. There is no doubting how stable these trees are, making it a great choice for a tree that may be close to your home, especially in areas that exhibit high winds and more extreme weather conditions.
Oak Trees Are Aesthetically Beautiful
Oak trees offer a wide variety of dark green leaves and velvety textures – and have some of the most beautiful Autumn colors. From reds to golds to browns to oranges, oak trees never have a dull moment and will continue to wow you from season to season.
Oak Trees Are More Disease Resistant Than Other Trees
Oak trees are very resilient. They are able to grow in many different soil environments and can even survive a drought! Oak trees are trees that surely love full sun, can take a lot of heat – and are generally not susceptible to disease or fungus.
Oak Trees Produce Countless Acorns
How about those acorns? Oak trees produce high-protein acorns that, although they can be consumed by humans, help feed nutrition to many different species of wildlife. Producing up to thousands of acorns a year, or even up to one million in a lifetime, healthy oaks can produce protein for animals and humans for years and years to come.
An oak trees’ leaves are also nutritious and provide food to over 500 species of moth and butterflies!
Oak Trees Are Environmentally Friendly
As you’d probably assume, oak trees are very environmentally friendly – but it’s not just because they are a tree! Oak trees actually provide health to the environment by stabilizing soil with their roots.
Believe it or not, because of their wide crowns and canopies that produce a ton of shade, they not only help a bunch of different wildlife species, but oak trees can even help you save on electricity! By providing areas of vast shade to your yards and homes, oak trees can potentially help by keeping your electric bill lowered!
Oak Trees Attract Wildlife To Your Property
Based on your personal preference, this can be considered a benefit – if you happen to like wildlife. Ranging from animals as small as birds or ducks to bigger animals such as deer or bears – oak trees attract all types of wildlife, and if you’re into that kinda thing, Oak trees would be perfect for your backyard!
Oak Trees Are Easy To Grow
Oak trees are also extremely easy to grow and are low maintenance in regard to the growth process. It’s possible to have an oak tree sapling form from a few seeds or an acorn.
Once planted, depending on the type of oak tree you choose, you can expect the tree to grow deep roots and continue to grow for many, many years thereafter.
If you’re interested, you can read our full guide on the best oak trees to plant here.
Oak Trees Can Live Hundreds Of Years
You would only need to plant an oak tree once because it can live for hundreds and hundreds of years. Because of its longevity, the oak tree is a common choice amongst the entire United States of America – and has become a staple in the American culture.
You can read our full guide on how long oak trees live here.
If you don’t want to read the guide just yet, you can view our table below for some data on how long most of the common types of oak trees live.
|TREE||LIFESPAN||ANNUAL GROWTH||FULL HEIGHT||BEST HARDINESS ZONE|
|Willow oak||100 years||13–24"||40-60'||5-9|
|Japanese evergreen oak||2000 years||36"||30'||9a-11|
|Water oak||60-80 years||24"||100'||6-9|
|Pin oak||120 years||24"||60-70'||4-8|
|Chinkapin oak||100 years||12-24"||50'||3-9a|
|Post oak||300-400 years||2"||40'||5-9|
|Bur oak||200-300 years||12"||80'||2a-8a|
|White oak||500-600 years||12-18"||80'||3b-8b|
|Coast live oak||250 years||24"||70'||9-10|
|Interior live oak||150 years||12-24"||70'||8-10|
|Canyon live oak||150 years||24"||100'||8-10|
|Southern live oak||1000 years||24-36"||50'||7b-10b|
|Valley oak||300 years||24-36"||130'||7-9|
|Southern red oak||150 years||12-36"||60-80'||6-9|
|Blue oak||90-100 years||6"||100'||5-10|
|Black oak||100 years||8-12"||50-60'||3-9|
|Laurel oak||50-70 years||24"||100'||6-9|
|Red oak||300-500 years||24"||90-140'||4-8|
|Nuttall Oak||100 years||24-36"||40-60'||6-9|
The Cons Of Planting An Oak Tree in Your BackYard
Although there are many pros – there are also a lot of cons to consider when deciding to plant an Oak Tree!
Oak Trees Are Messy
Firstly, as wonderful it is that Oaks produce an abundance of acorns, acorns can be a mess to clean up and a lot to keep up with if you’re trying to keep your backyard tidy. Oak trees also shed catkins and other heavily pollinated flowers.
If you have an Oak over your patios or gardens, you will surely be doing a lot of maintenance to your space to keep it clean!
Oak Tree Roots Destroy Utility Lines
Although the Oak Tree itself is sturdy, the roots are, in this case, the root of the problem! The roots growing so deep and vast contributes to its sturdiness; however, it can possibly destroy anything in its underground path.
Because of this, you shouldn’t plant an Oak close to your home because the roots can crack foundations and other structures.
Oak Trees Require Annual Pruning Maintenance
So, although considered relatively low maintenance in the growth process, as it will grow well on its own without intervening, when an Oak Tree is grown, it requires routine pruning. If the branches get too heavy, they can actually break off and snap.
Insects Are Attracted to Oak Trees
Much like wildlife, oak trees attract many different types of insects, and because of this, it may not be a great idea if bugs aren’t your cup of tea. If oak is too close to your home, it’s likely that you will have some extra insects flying around and possibly getting indoors.
Oak Trees Attract Nearby Wildlife!
As mentioned earlier, the additional wildlife in your backyard can be pro – but it also can be a con! Because an oak tree attracts all of your favorite typical forest animals and insects – one oak tree can house an entire life cycle! Again, it’s your personal preference if that’s something you want in your yard!
Oak trees can also attract some unwanted guests, such as raccoons or squirrels. Although cute from a distance, a raccoon family or squirrel family moving in isn’t always the best thing and can cause problems for you and your family.
Where To Plant An Oak Tree
If you choose to plant an oak tree – we recommend planting it in an area that has full sun, well-drained soil, and has a humus-rich soil. An oak tree will grow best in this environment and especially in a hardiness zone of 8-10.
However, this is a general rule. Refer to the table we put above for more accurate info based on your specific tree.
Wrapping It Up
All in all, an Oak tree can be or may not be an option for you. The thing is – there really isn’t a right answer as it all comes down to personal preference.
Although there can be some destruction, or maybe the tree attracts some extra bugs – there’s nothing like the beauty the tree brings to the space and the abundance of food and life that it offers.
A true forest tree at that, oak trees are monumental in the USA and can be a great addition to your space.
And, C. D., & Rambal, S. (1995). Field study of leaf photosynthetic performance by a Mediterranean deciduous oak tree (Quercus pubescens) during a severe summer drought. New Phytologist, 131(2), 159-167.
David, T. S., Gash, J. H. C., Valente, F., Pereira, J. S., Ferreira, M. I., & David, J. S. (2006). Rainfall interception by an isolated evergreen oak tree in a Mediterranean savannah. Hydrological Processes: An International Journal, 20(13), 2713-2726.
Drake, C. (2011). Biomimicry: emulating the closed-loops systems of the Oak tree for sustainable architecture.
Schmid-Siegert, E., Sarkar, N., Iseli, C., Calderon, S., Gouhier-Darimont, C., Chrast, J., … & Reymond, P. (2017). Low number of fixed somatic mutations in a long-lived oak tree. Nature Plants, 3(12), 926-929.
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