How to Start Oak Trees From Seeds


Many of us have memories of a massive oak tree with a tire swing either in our own yards or one in the neighborhood. Oak trees reach average heights of 60 to 80 feet, providing shade and beauty to any yard. Oak trees are fairly easy to start from seed. Selection of proper acorns and preparation of the growing container are vital to start oak trees from seed successfully.

Step 1

Locate an acorn-producing oak tree and obtain permission to gather the acorns in the early fall months. Avoid collecting the first set of dropped acorns, advises the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension. They are less viable than later-dropped acorns.

Step 2

Examine the acorns collected and discard any with worms, bugs, cracks or disease. Place the quality acorns in a seal-able plastic bag and put inside the refrigerator for three to five days.

Step 3

Remove the plastic bag from the refrigerator. Half-fill a standard-sized glass drinking cup with warm tap water. Wait 10 minutes. Remove and discard all acorns that float to the top of the glass.

Step 4

Pour the water and remaining acorns into a strainer. Drain the acorns. Skip the next two steps if planting acorns from white oaks.

Step 5

Fill a small bowl with a potting medium of equal parts peat and sand. Moisten the potting medium. Place the acorns in the potting medium deeply enough to completely cover.

Step 6

Return the acorns back to the refrigerator for 30 to 90 days. Check weekly and water as needed to maintain a moist potting medium. When the acorns produce a small sprout, they are ready to plant.

Step 7

Fill a 10-gallon bucket with 2/3 full of organically enriched potting soil. Fill the remaining third with a mixture of equal parts sand and peat. Mix all the soil ingredients together.

Step 8

Open or create a drainage hole on the bottom of a 12-inch square potting container. Most new potting containers have a small piece of removable plastic for the drainage hole. Square pots prevent roots circling and entangling, advises the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension.

Step 9

Place a 1-inch layer of small pebbles in the bottom of the container to provide additional drainage. Fill the remainder of the pot with the soil mixture prepared in the previous step.

Step 10

Insert your thumb into soil in the potting container. Make three holes that are 3 inches deep. Place one sprouted acorn into each hole. Completely cover with 1/4 inch of soil.

Step 11

Water the container until water flows out of the drainage hole. Place container in a sunny window or 6 inches below a plant grow light. Provide six to eight hours of full sun daily.

Step 12

Remove the two weakest seedlings from the container after they reach a few inches in height. Viable seedlings can be planted in a separate container. Only one seedling is recommended per container to prevent root entanglement, according to the Oklahoma University Cooperative Extension.

Step 13

Provide routine care. After one year, transplant oak seedlings outdoors.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid watering leaves or branches to reduce mold or mildew problems. Avoid over-watering and leaving potting soil continuously moist or wet.

Things You'll Need

  • Collected acorns
  • Plastic bag
  • Drinking glass
  • Water
  • Strainer
  • Bowl
  • Peat
  • Sand
  • 10-gallon bucket
  • Organically enriched potting soil
  • 12-inch square potting container
  • Small pebbles


  • Oklahoma Cooperative Extension: Growing Oak Tree from Seed
Keywords: oak trees, grow oak trees, start oak trees

About this Author

Lisha Smith writes for several blogs and has freelanced for six years. She has a Bachelor of Arts from UNC-Greensboro in psychology. Smith has self-published several books. Her areas of experience include gardening, cooking, home improvement, pets and mental health.