How to grow burr oak trees from acorns

Yard and Garden: Handling, Germinating and Planting Acorns

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September 23, 2015, 2:33 pm | Richard Jauron, Greg Wallace

AMES, Iowa – Fall is here, and so are acorns, falling from oak trees into yards everywhere. Viable acorns can be grown into oak trees, if properly handled. How is this done?

Here are some tips from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists on how to best handle, germinate and plant acorns. 

My oak tree produced just a few acorns this year.  Why?

It’s common for the acorn crop on oak trees to vary from year to year. Most oak species produce a good crop of acorns once every two or three years. However, the white oak (Quercus alba) tends to produce a good acorn crop once every four to six years.  

Weather and other factors can affect flowering and fruiting. For example, freezing temperatures in spring (when trees are flowering) can damage or destroy the flowers, drastically reducing the fruit crop.  

The acorns of white oak, swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), and bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) mature in one year.  Red oak (Quercus rubra) and pin oak (Quercus palustris) acorns mature in two years.

How do I germinate acorns?

Acorns should be collected as soon as they fall to the ground. Sound, viable acorns can be separated from damaged or unfilled acorns by placing them in water. Sound acorns sink.  Most floating acorns are not viable and can be discarded.  

The acorns of white oak and swamp white oak should be planted in fall. They will germinate immediately after sowing.  

Acorns of bur oak , pin oak, and red oak will not germinate until they have been exposed to cool temperatures and moist conditions for several weeks. Winter weather in Iowa normally provides the necessary conditions to break dormancy.  The cold-moist requirement can also be accomplished through a process called stratification. Acorns can be stratified by placing the seeds in a moist mixture of sand and peat moss and then storing them in a cool location.  

Suitable containers include coffee cans, plastic buckets and food storage bags. The refrigerator is a good storage location. (Stratification temperatures should be 32 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit.) Acorns of the bur oak require a 30 to 60 day stratification period, while red and pin oak acorns require 30 to 45 days.  Acorns of bur, pin and red oaks can be planted in fall or stratified seed can be sown in spring.  

When planting acorns, place the seeds one-half to one inch deep. Choose a planting site where the oak seedlings can receive good care for one to two years before they are transplanted to their permanent locations.  

To prevent squirrels and other animals from digging up and eating fall planted acorns, cover the area with chicken wire or hardware cloth fencing after planting. Promptly remove the fencing material in spring when the acorns begin to germinate.

There are small, round holes in many of the acorns on the ground.  What made the holes?

The small, round holes on the sides of the acorns were likely caused by the larvae of the acorn weevil.  

The adult acorn weevil is a brown beetle about three-eight inch in length and has a long, thin snout. Adult females lay their eggs inside developing acorns on trees in mid-summer. The eggs hatch into creamy white, grub-like larvae that feed inside the acorns until fall. In fall when the acorns have fallen to the ground, the fully grown grub chews a round one-eighth inch hole in the side of the acorn, exits the acorn and tunnels into the soil to complete its development.  

Squirrels and other wildlife eat or stash away the good acorns, leaving the “holey” (destroyed) acorns on the ground. 


Yard and Garden


trees, acorns, seeds, planting

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Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa): Native Plant Guide

The adjective that is most often used to describe bur oak is “majestic” and it fits. This long-lived native oak reaches a height and spread of up to 90 feet, hence it is not the tree that you would want to plant in your average urban backyard. But if you have space, it is an excellent shade tree for a sprawling landscape. Its 8-inch long oblong leaves have 7 to 11 lobes, are dull green above, and yellow-green and hairy underneath. The fall foliage of bur oak is unremarkable, but the tree makes up for it with its deeply ridged bark and corky twigs that stand out, especially during the winter. The gray bark has deep furrows and grooves that become more distinct as the tree ages.

Common Name Bur oak, mossycup oak
Botanical Name Quercus macrocarpa
Family Fagaceae
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 70-90 ft. tall, 60-90 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Sandy, silt, clay, loamy
Soil pH Acidic, neutral, alkaline
Hardiness Zones 3-8 (USDA)
Native Area North America

Bur Oak Care

To successfully grow a bur oak, make sure that there is sufficient space, both for the tree’s significant height and width and for the roots. Bur oaks have a deep taproot and their expansive roots grow more deep than wide. As a result of their wide roots, they are less likely to damage sidewalks, though it's still possible they could. That's because the absorbing roots occur in the top 12 inches of soil.

Another important consideration when choosing a location for a bur oak is that while the tree is tough, it does not tolerate salt spray well. For that reason, it should not be planted next to a road or driveway with winter maintenance.

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


Bur oak prefers full sun with at least six hours of direct light.


The tree can adapt to many different soils, both in terms of texture and structure. It grows in sand, silt, and clay, and can withstand compacted soils and poor drainage.

Occasional flooding of the planting site is not a problem. However, the tree won’t do well when there is repeated and extended flooding, especially during the growing season.


A newly planted bur oak needs to be watered deeply and regularly for at least two years after planting. In the absence of rain, continue to water the tree during the third year to make sure it develops a strong root system.

Once the tree is established, it is drought-tolerant thanks to the taproot that allows it to draw water from deeper layers of the soil.

Temperature and Humidity

Bur oak is well-adapted to the continental climate of its native range with its humid summers and subzero winters. The tree can be found as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Texas. It is one of the most cold-tolerant oak species. 


If at planting time, the soil is amended with organic matter, or the tree starts out in soil with a good nutrient balance, bur oak does not need extra fertilizer. In fact, a high-nitrogen fertilizer will harm the tree.


Bur oak should be pruned in late fall or early spring. Start by removing any dead, diseased, or damaged branches at the base, or where they meet a lateral branch. Cut off any branches that grow downward, or those that are rubbing together. You can prune out up to 1/3 of the branches in a season to open up the canopy and allow better sunlight and air circulation.

Propagating Bur Oak

While growing an oak from acorns is the most common route, you can also propagate bur oak from cuttings. Here's how:

  1. With sharp, clean pruners, take several cuttings from hardwood, each at least 6 inches long, from stems that are at least the diameter of a pencil. The cutting should have at least three or four nodes.
  2. Snip the leaves off the bottom, leaving only a few at the top. Make a fresh, sharp cut at a 45-degree angle on the bottom of the cutting,
  3. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and plant it in a container filled with potting soil made of peat moss and perlite.
  4. Keep the soil moist and the humidity high by wrapping a clear plastic bag loosely over the cutting. Place it in a warm area until roots form, which might take two or three months. Keep in mind that not all cuttings will "take" and grow—don't be disappointed if you lose several of them.
  5. Once roots do grow, put the tree indoors in a sunny, warm spot for the first year. Then it is ready to be transplanted into the ground.

How to Grow Bur Oak From Seed

If you don’t mind tending to it for a few years before the seedling is large enough to be transplanted, you can grow bur oaks from acorns.

Inspect the acorns for cracks and holes and choose only fully intact ones. Soak them in water for 24 hours, which helps you identify hollow ones that float on top. These should be discarded. Remove the caps if they haven’t fallen off on their own yet.

Fill a 1-gallon planting container with a drain hole with the same soil as the location where you intend to plant the tree. Mix in about one to two trowels full of organic matter or compost.

Place two to three of the soaked viable acorns in the container, laying them on their sides. Cover with 1 to 2 inches of soil. Water regularly and deeply. The acorns will start to sprout in about one month. Once the seedlings emerge, only keep the strongest one and gently pull out the others with their acorn. Protect the young roots from root burn by shielding the exterior of the container from the sun either with wood, heavy fabric, or a second, larger pot.

Potting and Repotting Bur Oak

When starting a bur oak from an acorn, you'll want to use a 1-gallon container with good drainage. The container might seem much too large at first but keep in mind that bur oaks are finicky to transplant because of their taproot. You want to avoid transplanting the seedling to a larger pot when it outgrows the original one.


These are very cold-hardy trees that can tolerate freezing temperatures in their usual growing zones. Young trees that are still in containers or newly planted can benefit from a layer of mulch or straw over the roots.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

The bur oak is affected by the same pests and diseases that are common among oak trees in the Northern hemisphere. Some of these include oak-leaf blister, which looks like small white blisters on the leaves in mid-summer, as well as leaf spot, which creates small black or brown spots on the leaves. Both can be treated with a fungicide. A white-rot fungal disease, sometimes known as canker, can affect the trees as well—and in this case, there isn't much you can do. The best treatment is the removal of the tree before the fungus affects other plants nearby.

A variety of pests make their home in bur oaks, such as caterpillars, oakworms, and scale. Introducing ladybugs into the landscape can help control the issue, as can removing caterpillars by hand. The use of an insecticide is a last-ditch effort but often works, especially for immature trees.

Common Problems with Bur Oak

Oak trees quite commonly develop lichen, which appears as a gray or green growth on the trunk or larger branches of a tree. Lichen can develop at any point during its lifespan and are not indicators on health. The lichens don't actually cause a problem, however, and can be left alone.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that often attaches to oak trees. You can spot mistletoe because it remains green in the winter, long after the bur oak has dropped all its leaves. To control mistletoe, cut the affected limbs from the tree at least 1 or 2 feet below the point where the mistletoe is attached. Large infestations might require the use of chemicals designed to attack mistletoe.

How to grow an oak from an acorn and a seedling at home

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  1. How to grow a tree
  2. Acorn preparation
  3. Sprouting
  4. Soil for oak
  5. Oak transplant
  6. How to determine if seedlings are ready to move
  7. Finding a suitable location
  8. How to properly plant
  9. Oak care

Mature oak is a tall stately tree with dense foliage and a solid trunk. No wonder it has been a symbol of power, strength and knowledge since ancient times, as folk tales and works of the classic A.S. Pushkin.

In the modern world, oaks are planted in parks and roadside areas, in summer cottages and even at home in a pot, decorative bonsai is grown in a special way.

Cultivation of oak in conditions close to home, and its subsequent transplantation to a summer cottage or house territory will allow you to acquire your own tree of strength and wisdom, which will please the eye of more than one generation of observers.

How to grow a tree

You can get a healthy and strong plant from any planting material - an acorn or a cutting. In the first case, it will take more time; from the finished shoot, a tall oak will grow 2-4 years earlier. The cutting needs to be prepared, to sprout its roots. However, there is no guarantee that such a seedling will take root. It is easier to grow an oak from an acorn, therefore this method is preferred. The growth rate in the first 2-3 years is much higher than the following years, so the process of monitoring development will be an exciting activity for small family members and amateur growers.

Acorn preparation

It is possible to grow an oak from an acorn quickly if the planting material is properly prepared.

The fruits are harvested in autumn when the tree sheds its leaves and the acorns are fully ripe. In search of material they go to the deciduous forest. In Russia, pedunculate oak is more common than others, its other names are ordinary, summer or English. The plant is characterized by frequent branches, medium-sized leaves with rounded edges, brown-gray thick bark. The height of an adult is up to 40 meters.

There are 2 types of common oak: winter and summer . In summer, the leaves bloom in late spring in May-June, by autumn they hardly change color and fall off until October. In winter, these processes occur 2-4 weeks later, the leaves become dark brown by October and can remain on the branches until the next flowering.

Fallen oak fruits are suitable for sprouting. It is necessary to listen to the acorn - shake it and determine if the nucleus is alive in it (it should not rattle). From the place of collection, you need to take a little fallen native foliage and topsoil. They are necessary for the preservation of the material until the moment of disembarkation.

At home, the suitability of the material is checked again: cold water is poured into a basin and fees are lowered into it. The specimens that quickly float to the surface are empty, nothing will grow out of them. A re-check is carried out after 5 minutes: those that have not surfaced are good raw materials for planting.

The most natural and favorable planting of a tree is in spring, for wintering the fruits are sent to hibernation in conditions close to natural :

  • Take a jar with a lid, which should have holes for ventilation;
  • Put the collected soil mixed with foliage into it;
  • An acorn is placed in a "fur coat";
  • Close the jar with a lid and put it in a cellar or refrigerator where the temperature is not lower than +2-3 0 C.

Such "preservation" imitates wintering under snow crust and the seed is preserved in its original form.


How to grow an oak from an acorn: then the fascinating process of plant development begins.

Before planting the overwintered fruit in the ground, it is necessary to germinate the roots . To do this, closed "nuts" are placed in a humid environment, for example, in a bag with wet sphagnum, and left in the refrigerator for 90-120 days. How long it will take to break through the roots depends on the type of tree.

When confident roots appear, the future seedling must be protected from mechanical damage.

If it was not possible to stock up on raw materials in autumn, you can find an already germinated acorn immediately after the snow melts, when the sprout has not yet entered the soil. Need to quickly pack it in a humid environment. It is impossible to keep a seedling in the open air for a long time - the roots require constant moisture and care.

Soil for oak

Oak is unpretentious to the soils of the middle lane, but loves fertile soil rich in nutrients. So that the budding sprout does not die out, it is planted in moist soil taken from the place of growth of the mother oak. If this is not available, you can take the soil in the country or a fertile garden plot, add peat moss or vermiculite to it to retain water.

Pot must have drainage holes to remove excess moisture . The sprouted material is planted to a depth of 3-5 cm. For the first time, before the seedlings grow, you can use small plastic cups, which are conveniently placed in the apartment on the windowsill. Landings are covered with a damp cotton wool or rag, they create the effect of a greenhouse with glass or a film with ventilation holes. The first year and up to 10 years, the growth rate of seedlings can reach 25-35 cm, then the process slows down.

As the plants grow, they need to be transplanted into larger pots with soil replacement.

Oak transplant

When the seedlings have grown stronger, it is time to transplant them into the ground in an open area.

How to determine the readiness of seedlings for a change of place:

  • The plant has reached a height of 15 cm or more, it is more than 100% taller than the pot;
  • The root system is formed, the central rod is clearly identified, it has a healthy white color;
  • The plant has already put out leaves.

Finding a suitable location

Oak can only be transplanted without damage at an early age. When a tree sits in one place for a long time, its root system grows and deepens, the plant thoroughly takes its place. This fact must be taken into account before transplantation. There should be enough free space on the site, new houses and structures should not be placed near the oak - the root system can further violate the integrity of the foundation.

Oak does not tolerate a dark place - it is impossible to plant it in the shade or under other mature trees, it will take root for a long time, the growth rate drops significantly, you will not have to wait for a mighty stately representative of the Beech family.

Where to plant an oak in the country:

  1. Place must be open;
  2. Light-loving oak should be identified in the west-south of the site;
  3. In the future, a grown tree with a rich crown will itself become a source of a dark place, therefore it is not worth placing a seedling in places where it is inappropriate;
  4. Near the place there should be no communications and paths that can be damaged by roots.

How to plant

Procedure for a successful transplant:

  1. The site is being cleared of tall grass. How much space is needed for a seedling depends on the desired result - a strong tree requires a free diameter of 15 - 20 m.
  2. A site with a diameter of 1.5 meters is dug up, achieving uniformity of the soil and loosening it for enrichment with oxygen.
  3. Dig a hole a few centimeters deeper than the length of the roots, moisten it.
  4. The seedling is taken out of the pot together with the soil and moved to the prepared hole, sprinkled with earth, compacted.
  5. Water planting abundantly. Do not be afraid to flood the roots - excess moisture will go deep into the soil.
  6. At a distance of 30 cm from the trunk, mulch is poured in a circle - it will protect the soil from drying out and the spread of unnecessary weeds.

The same plan of action should be followed if you want to make a house oak. In this case, the container must have a volume of at least 100 liters. Of course, no matter how much you take care of, the potted plant will not become so big and powerful, but it will delight the eye with greenery for a longer time.

Oak care

Like any plant, young oak requires care and attention. At first, in the open space, "new settlers" may feel uncomfortable - a new place, soil, lighting. It is important to constantly monitor their condition.

Young shoots are attractive to birds and rodents. So that uninvited guests do not spoil the plant, they arrange protection - a small frequent fence around the planting. To avoid attack by insects, the foliage is treated with pesticides.

Any type of young oak requires high light and constant moisture. To avoid competition on the site, the space around must be cleared of extraneous plants and fast-growing trees.

At first the oak requires constant watering.

Care for the plant until it is strong, on average up to 4-5 years . Upon reaching this time, a young tree up to 1.5 meters high will already flaunt in the country.

How to grow an oak is now clear, there is nothing complicated about it, just be patient for a few years.

Already after 30-40 years a single oak begins to bear fruit - every 6-8 years acorns ripen on the branches, from which new seedlings can appear.

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How to grow an oak from an acorn at home

Our distant ancestors considered mighty trees sacred. Oak was nicknamed the king of the forest for its propensity for longevity and endowed it with magical powers (for example, a conspiracy from childhood insomnia or a snake bite).

To this day, this mighty tree is associated with courage, strength and nobility. Having grown an oak on your site, you can leave a memory of yourself for more than one generation of descendants, since the life cycle of an oak ranges from 200 to 600 years.


  • 1 Preparation of seeds
  • 2 Processing process
  • 3 How to choose the ideal place for landing according to the gardener
  • 4 Randing plants
  • 5 Successful landing algorithm:
  • 6 Care for young arc

is easier grow an oak tree from an acorn rather than from a cutting. For cultivation, it is necessary to choose the healthiest and strongest acorns. Since not all seeds are highly germinating, and at the time of planting on all seedlings take root to the ground, it is necessary to take several hundred good acorns.

The growing process is slow, but interesting and entertaining enough for any amateur gardener. From the beginning of germination to landing on the street, it can take about three years.

It is better to start collecting seeds in early autumn, before the onset of cold weather. It is desirable that the hat is easily removed from the acorn, which means that it has matured well. Listen and tap the acorn to identify the living core, there should be no sound!
You can postpone the selection of seeds until spring, but then they will dry out a little and the percentage of germination will decrease.

In both cases, choose only whole fruits, rotten or wormy ones will not germinate, it is easier to throw them away than to waste time and effort. The selected seeds must be soaked in a cup of water, discarding all the elements that have surfaced. Then blot the selected acorns with a towel and dry.

Important! Walking through the park already in summer, pay attention to the densest and most beautiful oak crowns to understand where it is better to collect initial material for germination in spring or autumn.

Germination process

Fruits are best sent for wintering in a cellar or refrigerator, planting in spring is the most favorable. To do this, add some earth and leaves collected from the same place as our seeds to a jar of acorns. Make holes for ventilation and store at a temperature of two to three degrees Celsius.
In the spring, we start sprouting: the stratification process will strengthen the endurance of the seeds. To do this, it is recommended to germinate acorns in a bag with a moist environment, placing them in the refrigerator. Control the humidity: too little moisture - the seeds will not germinate, with high humidity - they will rot.

The roots of germinated acorns are very brittle and fragile, so we take them very carefully and plant them in small pots or disposable dishes, be sure to make several holes around the perimeter, thereby giving access to oxygen and preventing moisture stagnation. Ordinary garden soil must be mixed with peat moss, we plant a sprouted acorn root three to five centimeters down.
You can take a chance and plant a young oak immediately in open ground, but there it is not protected from rodents and insects. For the first few weeks, acorns require frequent and abundant watering. Under the spring sun, young powerful stems will appear on the windowsill in two weeks.

How to choose the ideal place for planting according to the gardener

  • oak is a lover of sunlight, plant it not on the south or south-west side of the site, an adult oak creates a lot of shade and a garden in this place is not worth planning, it is better to put a gazebo or a swing ;
  • oak develops powerful roots over time that can destroy any obstacles (water supply, pipeline, paths), consider this when choosing a place;
  • oak planting can be an excellent option for shading the sunny side of a house or summer cottage;
  • in densely vegetated areas young oak will develop slowly and may die.

Planting seedlings

Oak is an unpretentious plant, but still loves fertile, nutrient-rich, well-moistened soil. Having decided on a place for planting, we transplant the plant into the ground.

Tip ! Transplant the plant at an early age until the root system is strong. The sprouts are a little more than 15 centimeters, they have a healthy light color and a few leaves are missing - the plants have grown stronger and are ready to change places! In no case do not transplant to a shady place, you will not be able to grow a powerful representative of the Beech family!

Algorithm for successful planting:
  1. we clear a plot with a diameter of 15-18 meters from weeds if we want to grow a powerful light-loving oak;
  2. we dig up the soil, with a radius of 1 meter, making it homogeneous and enriched with oxygen;
  3. make a small hole, pour water into it and plant the seedling along with the soil; sprinkle with earth, slap and water again abundantly; do not be afraid to fill in, excess water will go into the soil;
  4. 30 cm from the seedling spread pieces of bark or mulch to protect the soil from drying out and weeds.

If desired, you can grow oak at home in a large container (more than 100 liters) following the same sequence. It will turn out a tree, though not so big and powerful, which will delight you for a long time.

Caring for a young oak tree

At first, any plant feels uncomfortable in a new place, our oak tree is no exception. Other soil, lighting, moisture and temperature conditions - requires careful attention to subsequent care.

To prevent birds, insects and rodents from spoiling a young plant, protect it with a small frequent fence, spray the foliage with pesticides.

Attention! Constant weeding and watering around a young oak will help to withstand the competition on the site and ensure proper nutrition and development.

For five years care should be taken to care, then the plant will get stronger and grow up to 1-2 meters. That's when it will be possible to relax and wait 30-40 years when he starts to bring acorns, though once every 6-8 years.

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