The addition of an oak tree in your yard enhances it in several ways. Not only does it provide additional shade, it also serves as its own little miniature habitat for a variety of creatures, including squirrels and birds. Choosing the right variety for where you live, along with considering its shade properties, will go a long way in enhancing the enjoyment of your shady oak tree.
Types of Oaks
There are many different types of oak trees, but four tend to be the most common. They include the pin oak (Guercus palustris), live oak (Guercus virginia), northern red oak (Guercus rubra) and white oak (Guercus alba). Various subspecies of these trees also exist. Each of these trees can provide adequate shade, but the live oak tends to spread out the widest, though it is not well suited for many areas, which makes choice very important.
Many oaks are quite versatile and there is some crossover in the areas where these trees can grow. Pin oaks and the northern red oak do best in USDA growing zones 4 to 8. Live oaks prefer a slightly warmer environment, growing in zones 7 to 10. White oaks can live easily in zones 5 to 9.
If you are growing a plant from a seedling or sapling, then choosing one that grows fast may be important to you, if you are hoping to use the tree for shade. Among these varieties, the white oak, pin oak and live oak are considered fast-growing. The northern red oak grows at a slightly slower speed. Still, as long as soil conditions are right, these trees grow well.
Oaks generally require moderate watering, prefer a soil that has the ability to retain water, and need a soil that is slightly acidic. It is always good to test your soil with a home kit before planting, or take a sample to an agricultural extension office for testing. Most can do well in full sun to partially shaded settings.
If they are planted in an area that is appropriate and they have good care, oak trees are a long-lived species. Most live well past 100 years, and the white oak can live 500 years or longer. It also is why choosing a proper location is important. Oaks can have shallow root systems that break up sidewalks and driveways, so make sure you give the oak plenty of space.
Although many oak trees are resistant to disease, there are common problems. Oak wilt, for example, is a fungal infection that attacks all types of oak, but red oaks are especially vulnerable and the disease is nearly always lethal to that variety. Other diseases and fungal infections can attack. You may be able to fight the problem with anti-fungal treatments and insecticides, but you should consult an expert to find out what the particular problem is that you are facing before beginning any treatment.