While not as common as red maples, oak trees are native throughout the entire United States. A type of hardwood, oaks (genus Quercus) are characterized by their fruit, known as an acorn, which they produce during spring for the purpose of reproducing.
Whether your landscape currently has oaks, or if you’re planning to add them in the near future, you’ll need to care for these trees to ensure they are healthy and protected from disease.
#1) Assess Drainage
All oak trees need water, but too much could harm or even kill them. Sudden oak death, for example, is a fungal disease that can kill an otherwise healthy oak tree in as little as two or three weeks. It generally occurs in overwatered oak trees that are saturated with excess moisture.
To protect your oak trees from this fungal disease, make sure the ground is properly graded so that rainwater will drain away from the trunks.
#2) Cover Roots With Soil
If you see any of an oak tree’s roots exposed, cover it with soil. Exposed roots, while seemingly harmless, can stress an oak tree.
An exposed root may become physically damaged, thereby restricting the amount of water and nutrients absorbed by the tree. Assuming the exposed root is just a few inches above ground, however, you should be able to cover it with fresh soil.
#3) Space 5 to 6 Feet Apart
Use caution not to grow multiple oak trees too closely together. A good rule of thumb is to space oak trees about 5 to 6 feet apart. With a minimum of 5 feet of clearance, your oaks will have adequate space to grow and thrive.
#4) Prune Branches
You can keep your oak trees looking clean and tidy by pruning the branches on a regular basis. At least once a year, use gardening shears to prune overgrowth branches or branches with visible signs of disease or discoloration.
#5) Fertilize Young Oak Trees
If you have young oak trees in your landscape – oaks less than 2 years of age – consider fertilizing them to stimulate growth. When mature, oak trees will absorb enough nutrients from the natural soil.
But during the first few years of an oak tree’s life, it may need a helping hand with some high-NPK fertilizer.
#6) Watch for Pests
Finally, keep an eye out for pests. Like most other hardwoods, oak trees are vulnerable to a variety of common pests, some of which include wood-boring beetles, termites and rodents. If you allow these pests to go unchecked, they could harm or even kill your oak trees.
The Woodsman Company offers tree planting, tree pruning and shrub trimming, tree removal and stump grinding as well as a tree wellness program.
If we can help with any of your tree care needs give us a call at 512-846-2535 or 512-940-0799 or
Debbie Holland says
Does that mean root flares in love oaks should be covered with soil?
Ken Partain says
Hi Debbie. That’s a great question. The answer is No, you should leave 12-14 inches, or more depending on the size of the tree, of the root flare exposed so that the tree can breathe properly. For more information check out this article from Howard Garrett, The Dirt Doctor.
Taylor Bishop says
Thanks for this advice for taking care of oak trees. I’m glad that you mentioned it’s important to prune the branches regularly so the oak trees are clean and tidy. I’m interested to learn if different types of trees need to be pruned in certain ways.