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large oak tree in a field
Perhaps one of the most famous trees, the oak becomes a stately tree, often of considerable size and age. If you have the space, an oak tree can bring grandeur, autumn colour and summer shade to your private paradise.


What you need to know about an oak tree

Name: oak, Quercus species and varieties

Height: 20m+ with age

Foliage: deciduous.

Climate: cold temperate and warm temperate.

Soil: prefers deep, well-drained soil.

Position: full sun.

Flowering and fruiting: insignificant flowers on a pendulous stem called a catkin, followed by acorns in autumn.

Feeding: feeding is generally not required.

Watering: young plants require reliable watering as they establish. Older plants will need supplemental watering only in very dry periods.

Appearance and characteristics of an oak tree

There are a number of oak trees that are commonly grown in our gardens. These include the pin oak and scarlet oak, which have a conical outline and fabulous red colour in autumn; and the English oak, which is broad spreading and has yellow leaves in autumn.

These oaks are deciduous, losing their leaves in autumn or winter. The leaves are lobed, with the English oak having the classic rounded lobes that most people are familiar with. The pin and scarlet oak leaves have lobes that end in soft points.

Acorns on tree with oak leaves

Uses for an oak tree

The English oak is used mostly as a shade-giving tree, as it does develop quite a wide branch spread. The pin oak and scarlet oak are grown for their fabulous autumn colour, which presents various shades of red. These trees are also sometimes grown as street trees.

If you have the space, multiple oaks can be planted to create an avenue down a driveway.

How to plant and grow an oak tree

It is best to plant out oak trees in the middle of winter, when they are dormant. Prepare a nice wide hole with plenty of added organic matter. Make sure that when it is planted, the top of the potting mix is level or very slightly higher than the finished soil level. Water in well using a seaweed solution.

If you are in a wind-prone area or you have purchased a larger-sized tree, it is a good idea to stake it. Hammer two stakes into the solid ground beyond the hole either side of the tree trunk. Using soft tie that has a little bit of flex, tie the tree to each stake so that the tie is just tight. This allows the tree to move without becoming loose in the ground.

Caring tips

You will need to water young plants regularly to get them established, but after that, watering will not be required except in very dry circumstances. Once oak trees have grown for about a year you can remove the stakes. Apart from this, and a regular check over for pests and diseases, an oak won’t require much care once established. 

How to prune an oak tree

If you need clearance around and under your oak tree you can prune off the lower branches as the tree matures. Do this just a little way out from the trunk—say, 12 millimetres—and only take off one or two per year until the final clearance height is reached.

Diseases and pests that affect oak trees

Some oaks are attacked by a fungus disease called powdery mildew, which appears as a white powder on the leaves. On a young oak tree you might want to use a garden insecticide to control this, to help promote a strong and healthy young tree. Older trees can cope with a bit of the fungus and usually don’t need treatment.

Occasionally, certain species of oak are attacked by a pest known as oak blotch miner, but this rarely does enough damage to warrant control.

How to propagate an oak tree

Growing oak trees from seed

Oaks are propagated by growing from seed, known as an acorn.

  1. Collect these oval seeds from the tree in autumn or as they begin to fall.
  2. Sow the seeds in a large pot of potting mix, so the seed lays on its side and is just covered by the mix. It is important to use a large pot, because once the acorns germinate they will want to put down a long taproot, and a larger pot will make sure this develops long and straight.
  3. Keep the seed and seedlings moist.
  4. Grow seedlings for at least six months before potting up or planting out.

If you like this then try

Japanese maple: famous for fabulous autumn colours, this comes in a range of sizes, shapes and colours.

Silver birch: showy deciduous tree with a white trunk and bright yellow autumn foliage.

Conifer: an ornamental tree with distinctive needle-like foliage. 

Start planting today

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.