How to Grow Oak Trees From Acorns

Overview

Whether you want to grow an oak forest or perform a science experiment with the kids, growing a "mighty oak" from a tiny acorn is worthwhile. Oak trees are amongst the most important trees for wildlife---providing winter food (mast) for squirrels, deer, many birds and a variety of other animals. The older trees, with their wide spreading branches, make excellent nesting areas for birds, raccoons, flying squirrels and large cavity nesting birds benefit from hollows formed as oaks die and slowly decay.

Step 1

Collect acorns in the early autumn when they have turned brown but are still firm and free of insect holes or rot. Remove caps---they should come away easily if the acorn is ripe.

Step 2

Check a few acorns by removing the outer shell with a knife, and examining the inside to see if the kernel or nut is solid and fresh. Split the kernel in half to check that the inside is also still firm and waxy looking. This will give an indication of the overall quality of the acorns in the area you are picking.

Step 3

Choose a potting soil that is lightweight, with plenty of peat moss or vermiculite rather than a heavy soil mix in order to prevent soil packing around the acorns. Fill a 1 gallon or larger pot to within an inch of the top.

Step 4

Choose a potting soil that is lightweight, with plenty of peat moss or vermiculite rather than a heavy soil mix in order to prevent soil packing around the acorns. Fill a 1 gallon or larger pot to within an inch of the top.

Step 5

Press acorns, about 1 inch apart, into the soil so that they are half buried and half exposed. (This simulates the way acorns are propagated naturally, as they fall into leaf litter.)

Step 6

Water the acorns upon planting, and keep slightly damp but not wet. Too much moisture will cause them to rot instead of germinating.

Step 7

Set the pot outside or in a cool place for several weeks. (Most acorns will germinate within a few weeks, though red oak acorns need a period of cool weather to germinate, and may not emerge until the following spring. If you are only growing red oaks, to avoid rot, place acorns in a dampened bag of sawdust and refrigerate until late winter/early spring before planting in pots.) Do not allow to freeze.

Step 8

Permit seeds to remain in the original pot until they have germinated and are about 2 inches tall.

Step 9

Transplant the seedling oaks into individual 5-gallon pots. Water as needed to keep soil moist, and give weekly feedings with compost tea (made from well-rotted compost steeped in water and diluted for pouring).

Step 10

Set out oak saplings after they have reached about 2 feet in height, and continue regular watering and fertilizing until saplings are well established, and nature can take over their care.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil-less potting medium
  • Large pots (1 gallon, and 5 gallon or larger)
  • Sawdust (optional)
  • Plastic bags (optional)

References

  • LA Parks: Oak Tree Care: How to collect, plant and store acorns

Who Can Help

  • Interesting Facts About Acorns
  • Tree Help: How to Grow a Tree or Shrub From Seed
Keywords: growing oak trees, germinating acorns, acorns to oaks, oak tree seeds

About this Author

Deborah Stephenson is a freelance writer and artist, who brings over 25 years of both professional and life experience to her writings. Stephenson features a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She is an anthropologist & naturalist, and has published a field guide on Michigan's flora & fauna as well as numerous political and environmental articles.