How to Plant Oak Trees


Oak trees are beautiful, sturdy specimen trees. A mature oak is home to wild animals and birds, and it provides shade and windbreak. Native oak trees are long-lived but slow growing, so when you plant a small tree, plan on two decades before you will be able to sit under its shady boughs. A good time to plant oak trees is early spring so they will have the entire growing season to become established.

Plant Oak Trees

Step 1

Choose a planting site suitable for a mature oak tree. Select a site with no underground utilities or drainage tiles. Be sure there are no overhead lines or obstructions. Allow at least 30 to 40 feet of clearance from a house or building. A mature oak can be 60 feet tall and 30 feet wide. Oak roots spread wide as well as deep.

Step 2

Prepare the site by digging a planting hole about twice as big as the root ball of your oak tree. Break up heavy clay soil, especially deep clay, so it will be easier for the oak tree's roots to push through. Place the soil you remove from the hole on the tarp, which you have laid out next to the hole. This keeps the lawn clean and makes it easy to refill the hole when you plant the tree.

Step 3

Mix compost into the bottom layer of soil in the hole to encourage new roots to grow deep. Mix compost into the soil on the tarp so it is ready to use to fill around the tree.

Step 4

Unwrap or unpot the young oak tree. If it is wrapped in burlap, set it next to the hole and untie the burlap. If your tree is in a container, tap the sides to loosen it, tip the tree and slide the container off the root ball. Carefully roll the tree, including the root ball, into the planting hole. Adjust the soil level in the bottom of the planting hole so the tree is at the same depth it was previously growing. Open out any roots that were compacted in the pot so they can easily spread and grow.

Step 5

Fill in the planting hole around the tree roots about halfway, and then water the tree. When the water has soaked into the ground, finish filling the hole with soil, and water again. This method ensures that the deepest roots of your oak tree will have the water they need to grow quickly.

Step 6

Use 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch around your oak tree. Clean straw, wood chips or shredded leaves are good mulch materials. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk of the tree, and spread it in a circle about 3 feet in diameter.

Step 7

Give your oak tree plenty of water for the first few months until it is well established. Oak trees respond to a deep watering twice a week. Slow watering with drip irrigation or a soaker ball or soaker hose is the most efficient method.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Young oak tree
  • Tarp (optional)
  • Compost
  • Mulch


  • Plant an Oak

Who Can Help

  • How to Plant Oaks
Keywords: how to plant oak trees, planting oak trees, plant an oak tree

About this Author

Fern Fischer is a freelance writer with more than 35 years' experience. Her work has been published in various print and online publications. She specializes in organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles. Fischer also writes about quilting and sewing, and she professionally restores antique quilts to preserve these historical pieces of women's art.