Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) grows well across most of the continental United States from the Canadian border to Texas. It survives in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 3 to 8 and tolerates a wide range of moisture conditions and heat. The mature tree reaches 80 feet tall in the upper Midwest and eastern U.S. and 50 feet tall in hotter climates. It grows quickly, provides deep shade, and lives as long as 150 years. Bur oaks are deciduous and mature trees that produce large acorns with fringed cups.
Select a site with full sun that is large enough to accommodate the tree's height and spread of 50 to 80 feet. Bur oaks have a long taproot, so located the transplant site away from sewer or gas lines. Do not locate near power lines to avoid unattractive pruning by utility companies. Bur oaks prefer deep soil that is slightly alkaline, although they grow in slightly acidic and neutral pH soils. Volunteer or native bur oaks choose moist soils and are often found growing near riverbeds and low areas along with other hardwoods.
Because of its large size at maturity, a bur oak will be a major feature in most home landscapes. Select a site on the west side of a house to take advantage of the bur oak's shade during the hot summer months, especially in the South. The bur oak's acorns are popular with wildlife including squirrels. Plant the tree far enough from the house to discourage squirrels from attempting to store nuts in your attic.
Plant seedling bur oaks in northern parts of the United States in the spring and in the fall in warmer climates. If growing bur oaks from acorns, plant as soon as the acorn is harvested in the fall.
Carry the tree by its container, not its trunk. Dig a hole to the depth of the soil in the plant's container and 3 times as wide. Position the tree in the center of the hole and backfill with soil until the hole is half-full. Tamp down the soil to remove air pockets and add water. Fill the hole and firm, again. Place fabric or plastic protection around the base of the tree to a height of about 18 inches to protect the trunk from damage.
Place a 3-inch soil berm about 2 feet away from the trunk to retain moisture if the tree is planted in a dry environment. Clear space around the base of the tree as wide as the tree's leaf spread. Plant this area with non-competitive groundcovers so that the bur oak's feeding roots are not engaged in a losing battle with turf grass for nutrients and water. If planting multiple bur oak trees, space them 15 to 18 feet within the row and separate rows by 20 to 24 feet.