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Bur Oak Planting Instructions

By Heidi Almond ; Updated September 21, 2017

Also known as scrub oak, mossycup oak or blue oak, bur oak (Querus macrocarpa) is a slow growing but beautiful oak tree that may be 90 or more feet tall and up to 80 feet wide at maturity. The acorns are an important food source for wildlife. Bur oaks can be found growing wild in the in the Midwest and Plains states, and they are frequently planted in much of North America as a yard or boulevard tree, since they are low maintenance and drought tolerant.

Purchase a bare-root bur oak sapling. Although bare-root trees may look like little more than a stick, they usually transplant better than potted tree saplings. A bur oak sapling should be pliable and its roots should be kept moist. Bur oaks are a popular landscaping tree, and any garden center or nursery that sells trees should stock bur oaks.

Prepare to plant the bare root bur oak as soon as possible after purchase, while the plant is still dormant. Bare root trees are normally planted in the very early spring, as soon as the ground is workable and before the trees leaf out. A little bit of frost in the ground, or even some late snows, will not hurt a dormant bur oak tree.

Find a suitable location for your bur oak. Bur oak trees are very adaptable and can grow in soil that is wet or dry. Bur oaks prefer slightly alkaline soils, but will tolerate acidic or alkaline soils. Bur oaks do best in full or partial sun. Since mature bur oaks can get very wide, choose a location with plenty of space for the tree to spread out.

Dig a hole that is as deep as the root and twice as wide.

Build a small mound in the center of the hole and spread the roots out over the mound.

Backfill the hole with the excavated soil.

Water the bur oak tree thoroughly immediately after planting and continue to water regularly during the first growing season. Once established, bur oaks will require very little care.


Things You Will Need

  • Bur oak sapling
  • Shovel


  • Bur oak trees are hardy in zones three through eight. A natural variety of bur oak, Querus macrocarpa var. olivaeformis, is found in the northern part of its range, and this variety may perform better in cooler climates.

About the Author


Heidi Almond worked in the natural foods industry for more than seven years before becoming a full-time freelancer in 2010. She has been published in "Mother Earth News," "Legacy" magazine and in several local publications in Duluth, Minn. In 2002 Almond graduated cum laude from an environmental liberal arts college with a concentration in writing.