White oak trees are stunning, large, sturdy oak trees with a native range in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. They have a stocky trunk with a wide berth of horizontal limbs. Summer leaves are dark green and fall leaves are red, but slowly turn brown. White oak trees are good acorn producers, but only have a big crop of seeds about every 4 to 10 years, making them a relatively clean tree for your property. White oak trees are also considered fire-resistant, which makes them ideal for reforesting efforts and planting on properties prone to forest fires. These trees are loved for their fiery red fall leaves.
In this article, we’ll be talking about how to grow these beautiful trees and ensure that they live long happy lives.
Growing white oak trees
When planted in their native range, white oak trees are pretty straightforward and easy to care for. To ensure the best results, let’s first dive into the facts about these tall, sturdy trees.
- Latin name: Quercus alba
- Other names: Stave oak
- Native to: The Pacific Northwest
- Invasiveness: Not invasive
- Sun: Full sun / Part shade
- Soil: slightly acidic to neutral, well-drained soil
- Hardiness zone: 3-9
- When to plant: Spring
- Spacing: 12 feet
- Tree height: 80 feet
- Time to maturity: 20 years
- Container friendly: Mixed
- Fertilizer: 13-13-13
- Deer resistant: Somewhat
- Fall color: Red
The white oak (Quercus alba), sometimes called the stave oak, is a type of oak tree native to the Pacific Northwest with a range stretching from British Columbia to Oregon. These trees are tolerant to part shade, but will do best in full sun conditions where the leaves are provided 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. They aren’t picky about soil but prefer slightly acidic, well-draining soil when possible.
White oak trees grow very tall and have branches that spread out horizontally from the trunk of the tree, as a minimum of 12 feet, but preferably 20 feet, should be placed between them if you’re planting more than one. They will reach a full height of 80 feet after about 20 years of growth and will begin producing acorns at about the same time. Saplings can be planted in the spring and acorns can be sown directly into the ground or in a pot during the fall. Saplings may be provided a granular 13-13-13 fertilizer to ensure proper growth and development.
These oak trees are considered to be somewhat deer resistant, have rich green foliage during the summer that turns red and then brown during fall.
White oak trees that have been established require little to no water, but saplings should be provided supplemental water, especially if you have very dry summers. Within the first few years of growth, this water can be tapered off. Keep a close eye on your sapling for signs of dehydration, like wilting or premature leaf loss.
White oak trees are a nice tree for somewhat shaded properties. They’re known to be tolerant of partial shade, but in general, will greatly prefer direct sunlight – at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.
White oak trees are not especially particular about their soil, but in a perfect world, they would grow in slightly acidic to neutral, well-drained soil that can retain a bit of its moisture. Mulching young trees will help with keeping moisture locked in and protecting the tree’s roots.
Mature white oaks don’t need fertilizer, but young trees can be provided a granular 13-13-13 NPK fertilizer to aid in growth and development.
White oak trees are planted in part due to their stunning fall foliage. In the autumn, your tree’s leaves will turn a deep red color with patches of lighter orange. As fall progresses, you may find that these leaves start to turn more of a brown than red color. If red fall leaves are your favorite, this type of tree is perfect for your property!
Other oak varieties with red leaves include:
Planting white oak saplings
White oak saplings are pretty easy to plant. They should go in the ground during spring after the last danger of frost has passed. Dig a hole as deep as the root ball of your sapling and twice as wide. Place your sapling’s root ball in the hole and fill the remaining space with a compost and soil mixture. Once the hole is filled, give your sapling a thorough watering and mulch with a bit of tree bark to protect the roots and retain moisture.
Growing white oak trees in containers
White oak trees don’t exactly love being grown in containers. Their taproots run very deep and the trees grow quite large. It is possible that you could grow a white oak tree in a large pot for a number of years, but it will not reach its full height or live its normal lifespan. It is best to plant your white oak tree directly in the ground when it’s young to give it the opportunity to reach its full potential.
Propagating white oak trees
The best way to propagate a white oak tree is by planting its acorns. Collect fallen acorns that look undamaged during the autumn and plant about an inch deep in a slightly acidic tree starter potting soil. It sounds counterintuitive, but the planted acorn should be left outside all winter to allow it to germinate. White oak tree acorns require a process called stratification, a long-term exposure to cold temperatures, in order to germinate. You can replicate this by placing your acorns in the refrigerator as well, but nature does it best.
In the spring, when your acorn sprouts, you can plant it directly in the ground where you want it to grow.