How to plant 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
About the Authors:
How to Plant an Acorn and Grow a Tree
From collecting acorns to transplanting the sapling
Nadia Hassani is a gardening expert with nearly 20 years of experience in landscaping, garden design, and vegetable and fruit gardening. She became a Penn State Master Gardener in 2006 and is a regular contributor to Penn State Master Gardener publications. She gives gardening talks about growing specialty produce for ethnic cuisines, authors two gardening and growing blogs, and created the taxonomy for the plant encyclopedia for Better Homes & Gardens.
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Updated on 05/09/22
Mary Marlowe Leverette
Reviewed by Mary Marlowe Leverette
Mary Marlowe Leverette is one of the industry's most highly-regarded housekeeping and fabric care experts, sharing her knowledge on efficient housekeeping, laundry, and textile conservation. She is also a Master Gardener with over 40 years' experience; writing for over 20 years.
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The Spruce / Jayme Burrows
If you have the space, planting a native oak in your yard is one of the best things you can do for wildlife. Growing an oak from acorns collected nearby lets you know the tree is well adapted to local growing conditions.
Starting an oak from an acorn should be done outdoors, either in a seedbed or pot. Pots give you better control over the growing process making it easier to protect the acorns and young seedlings from critters.
When and How to Collect Acorns
When you are on the lookout for acorns, keep in mind that acorn production varies by oak species and depends on the weather, nutrient availability, and insects feeding on acorns. While most oak species produce an acorn crop every two or three years, white oaks (Quercus alba) produce a an acorn crop only every four to six years.
The acorns of some acorn species—white oak, live oak (Quercus virginiana), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), and bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)—mature in one year, while for other oaks—red oak (Quercus rubra) and pin oak (Quercus palustris)—it takes two years.
Only collect acorns that have fallen from the tree; these acorns are mature. Skip the first ones that drop, as they are often of poor quality. Collect them once the tree drops a lot of acorns and do it promptly because acorns dry out quickly and become inviable. Remember, you're competing with squirrels, deer, and other wildlife; if you wait too long, there might not be many acorns left.
Collect at least twice as many acorns as the number of seedlings you want because not all of them will germinate. Discard acorns that still have the caps attached, that have holes or are otherwise damaged, or show signs of mold or rot.
Plant the acorns right away; if that’s not possible, you can store them for a few days. Spray them with water to prevent them from drying out and place them in a ventilated plastic bag. Store the bag in a cool place and keep the acorns moist but not wet.
Use standard commercial potting mix based on peat moss (it’s sterile and free of pathogens). Although the oaks will eventually be planted in garden soil, potting mix is the safest way to start healthy seedlings.
All acorns should be planted in the fall as soon as possible after collection. White oak and swamp oak will germinate soon after planting. For bur oak, pin oak, and red oak, you won’t see germination until the next spring because these oak species need stratification, which is provided by leaving the pots outdoors during the winter.
Equipment / Tools
- Small trowel
- Soilless potting mix
- Small pots or seedling pots
- Protective hardware cloth or mesh
- Mesh tree guard
The Spruce / Jayme Burrows
Select Viable Acorns
Fill a bowl with cold water and place the acorns in it. Viable acorns will sink or remain at the bottom and damaged or empty ones will float. Discard the floating acorns. Briefly soaking the acorns also helps rehydrate them if you stored them before planting.
The Spruce / Jayme Burrows
Plant the Acorns
To plant the acorns, use pots deep enough for root growth. 2.5 x. 2.5 x 3.5-inch pots are ideal. Fill the pots with potting mix. Place two acorns sideways in each pot, at a depth about three times the width of the acorn, or about one inch. Water them well until water runs out of the drainage holes.
The Spruce / Jayme Burrows
Keep Soil Moist
Keep the soil moist until the onset of winter weather. (During winter, you can leave them be. In the spring, restart watering them.) Keep the seedlings weed-free. Both the acorns and young seedlings need to be protected from pests. After planting the acorns, cover the pots with a screen or hardware cloth. Once the seedlings emerge, lift up the protection as needed to give the seedlings room to grow.
The Spruce / Jayme Burrows
Thin the Seedlings
Regardless of when the acorns germinate—in fall or spring—if both acorns in a pot germinate, cut off the weaker of the two seedlings about one to two weeks after the seedling emerges. Do not pull out the second, unwanted seedling because its root system will be entangled with the roots of the stronger oak.
The Spruce / Jayme Burrows
Transplant into Larger Pots
When the seedlings are about five to six inches tall, or when the root system starts to reach the side of the container, transplant the seedlings to two-quart nursery pots with large drain holes. Fill the pots with a mixture of half potting soil and half garden soil and add one teaspoon of slow-release fertilizer to the soil.
The Spruce / Jayme Burrows
Relocate to Permanent Spot
Once the root system is growing out of the drain holes, it’s time to plant the saplings in their permanent location. Dig a hole about three times the diameter of the container and the same depth. Add organic matter if needed to improve drainage. Water the saplings and spread a thick layer of mulch in a two-foot perimeter around the base but leave at least a two-inch space between the mulch and the tree trunk. Tender oak saplings are a favorite food for browsing deer and other wildlife. Make sure to protect the tree with a mesh tree guard for at least three years.
The Spruce / Jayme Burrows
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
How to Identify Oak Trees Using Acorns. Mississippi State University Extension
Managing Harwood Stands for Acorn Production. Mississippi State University Extension
Growing Oak Trees from Seed. Oklahoma State University Extension
How to grow an oak from an acorn and a seedling at home
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- How to grow a tree
- Acorn preparation
- Soil for oak
- Oak transplant
- How to determine if seedlings are ready to move
- Finding a suitable location
- How to properly plant
- 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.
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.
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:
- Place must be open;
- Light-loving oak should be identified in the west-south of the site;
- 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;
- Near the place there should be no communications and paths that can be damaged by roots.
How to plant
Procedure for a successful transplant:
- 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.
- A site with a diameter of 1.5 meters is dug up, achieving uniformity of the soil and loosening it for enrichment with oxygen.
- Dig a hole a few centimeters deeper than the length of the roots, moisten it.
- The seedling is taken out of the pot together with the soil and moved to the prepared hole, sprinkled with earth, compacted.
- Water planting abundantly. Do not be afraid to flood the roots - excess moisture will go deep into the soil.
- 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.
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.
How to germinate an oak acorn at home, how to plant it in open ground in 2022 on GoodGrunt
- Preparing acorns for planting
- Choosing a pot for an acorn is important!
- How to plant an acorn?
- How to care for a seedling?
- Transplant to open ground
Previously, oak groves (oak groves) accounted for almost half of the forests of Europe, but today they are ten times less - about 3%. Therefore, germinating an acorn is a good idea anyway. This is a tree of courage, fire, princely power. The green giant can live for about 1000 years and reach a height of 60 m.
Preparing acorns for planting
To grow oak, you need to select high-quality fruits. Acorns must be free of mold and damage. Make sure the shell is glossy and the hat can be easily removed. The collection of sowing material is carried out from the end of August until mid-autumn, until prolonged rains begin.
Acorns that lie under the tree are suitable for planting. If the fruit hangs on a branch, it means that it has not yet ripened - there is no need to pluck it.
Gather as many acorns as you can, because many of them will not be viable.
Landing preparation includes the following steps:
- Viability test. Some acorns are hollow inside. To select suitable ones, dip them in a bowl of water and select only those that sink to the bottom. Those that pop up can be safely thrown away.
- Stratification. This is a process of simulating winter conditions. For some time, the acorn should be in hibernation. If you plant it without stratification, it can simply rot in the ground. In addition, immediately after harvesting in autumn and winter, it will be difficult for a seedling to grow - there is too little light and it is cold. Therefore, the seed is wrapped in wet gauze (burlap) and kept for 3 months at temperatures below 0. The place should not only be cold, but well ventilated so that the acorn does not rot. You can arrange it on the balcony or in the cellar.
Sprouting an acorn is easy. Enough to provide high humidity. Already at + 5 ° C, it will begin to swell and hatch.
In March, you can safely plant the fruit immediately in open ground. With a high degree of probability, after 1 month, a seedling will appear from the ground, which will subsequently develop into a strong tree. At the same time, acorns that have not been trained and wintered under the snow sprout only in 10 cases out of 100.
The second way is to germinate an oak acorn at home right in a pot. For this you need:
- suitable growing container;
- stratified acorns;
- settled water for irrigation.
Choosing an acorn pot is important!
The choice of growing containers is very important. 99% of pots are not suitable for planting oak. They permanently cripple the root system, which is why the tree grows disabled and cannot withstand gusts of wind.
Oak has a vertical root, and already in the first month under natural conditions it reaches a length of 50–70 cm. It grows straight, deep into the ground. If you plant an acorn in a shallow pot, the root will quickly reach the bottom and spin. When transplanted, it will remain so and will not go deep.
Moreover, you can not grow oak at home for more than 1 year. During this period, the root should grow more than 1 meter. Up to 4-5 years, the roots of the plant occupy 80-90% of the total mass!
In order for the root system to develop correctly, you need to take a very deep and preferably not wide pot to germinate an acorn. You can use a 2 liter mineral water bottle. For convenience, the narrow part (neck) should be cut off with a hot knife or scissors. Also, holes should be made at the bottom and drainage from expanded clay should be added.
Fertile compounds are suitable for planting acorns. You can use store primer or make your own.
The following mixture is well suited for oak:
- 3 parts of garden soil;
- 1 part humus;
- 1 part of leaf ground.
Some gardeners advise taking soil from oak trees growing in parks and forests. But you need to pay attention to the tree was healthy. In general, oaks are picky about the ground. The main thing is that it does not have a lot of clay and sand.
How to plant an acorn?
The recommended time for germination is from the end of January to the beginning of February. After preparing all the necessary materials, the acorn is planted as follows:
- A small hole is dug in the ground, up to 1 cm deep.
- An acorn is laid horizontally on a barrel and sprinkled with soil.
- Watering in progress.
- For germination, a pot of acorns is placed in a warm shaded area.
How to care for a seedling?
Before the appearance of sprouts, the ground with acorns is regularly watered - 1 time in 2-3 days. After the seedling has grown, care changes somewhat:
- Lighting. Oak loves an abundance of light, so they put it on the south window. A very young sprout is slightly shaded so that the leaves do not burn.
- Temperature. For oak growth, room temperature is sufficient, but it is important that there are no drafts.
- Watering. Seedlings are watered frequently, preventing the clod of earth from drying out. It is important that the water does not stagnate, but flows through the holes in the bottom of the pot.
- Hardening. With the appearance of 5 leaves and a stem height of 15 cm, the plant is prepared for transplanting into open ground. He is taken out into the street, first for 20 minutes, then for 30 minutes, and so on. Hardening lasts 2 weeks.
The first shoots after planting acorns in the ground appear after 1–1.5 months. First, the root part actively develops. But the stem grows quite vigorously: by the end of the 3rd month, its height is 10–15 cm.
Young oaks are planted in spring for better adaptation and strengthening of roots in the new soil. Some gardeners transplant seedlings in the same year, others grow trees at home for 2-3 years. The first option is preferable, since a long stay in cramped conditions has a bad effect on the root system.
When transplanting, the first step is to choose a suitable place for the "king of the trees". The crown of an oak can grow up to 50 m in height and more than 20 m in width. The root system must be removed from the water supply and buildings.
Planting seedlings in open ground is done as follows:
- Prepare deep cone-shaped pits. The depth should be such that the root is completely contained.
- Fertilizers (humus) are placed at the bottom of the pit.
- Seedlings are carried along with a clod of earth and dug in such a way that the root collar rises a couple of centimeters.
- The earth is compacted and watered abundantly. Plants need watering in the first 3 years, then the trees independently take moisture from the soil.
- To avoid weeds, the root circle is mulched with sawdust. And so that the tree is not accidentally trampled, protective pegs are installed around it.
- In the first week after planting, the oak trees should be shaded.
- Seedlings are treated with pesticides to prevent pests.
In the first 5 years the tree grows slowly. Intensive growth falls on the period from the 5th to the 20th year of life. Oak begins to bear fruit even later - 30-40 years after planting. Oak loves rich, moist soils, but without waterlogging. It has a high level of heat and drought resistance, for which it is highly valued in landscaping.
Oak prefers to grow "in a fur coat, but with an open head." It is planted along with other trees, but make sure that the top is open to the sun. So the tree develops a straight and slender trunk, cleared of branches, and the crown rushes up.
Growing an oak from an acorn is a tempting idea. The tree will ennoble any site. In addition, the seedling germinates quite easily. At first, he has enough of his own nutrients to grow. But you need to not only pay attention to the future crown and stem, but also take care of the proper development of the root system.