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How to Care for Live Oak Trees

oak leaf image by Alison Bowden from

Live oak trees are deciduous trees commonly found in the Southern United States, including Florida and Texas. They grow very well in sandy soils but also do fine in rich, moist soils. Live oak trees can live upwards of 200 years, so they have the potential to become massive specimens. If you have live oaks in your landscape, it is essential to care for them properly so they can prosper. Irrigation, feeding and pruning are important and will help the tree grow.

Let rain water give the live oak most of its moisture. They grow well when the weather is dry. Shallow watering can actually cause root rot.

Water a live oak tree deeply if you're worried it's not getting enough water. Focus the water on the critical root zone. This is defined as the area from the edge of the leaves overhead and outward.

Fertilize live oak trees if they are growing poorly and you want to maintain the vigor. Give the tree a light application of a balanced food. It should be made specifically for trees and contain an equal ratio of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium because this ensures strong root and foliage growth. Follow the label instructions for application information.

Avoid heavy fertilization because it will make the live oak grow too rapidly and invite pests and disease. A heavy application of food makes the tree divert its energy from fighting off disease to focusing on growth.

Prune live oak trees in the hot weather, between late June and October. Never remove more than one-third of the canopy at one time. Cut off branches that are crossing or rubbing each other to open the canopy to light and nutrients.

Remove dead or damaged wood as soon as you notice it. Use a chainsaw and cut the unwanted branches off at the spot where they meet the main branch.

Apply a black spray paint to seal wounds made while pruning. This will cut down on the likelihood of oak wilt.


Keep branches from rubbing against structures or roof lines because this can invite disease infestation. Wait at least six months before fertilizing trees that have been severely pruned or suffered root damage.


Do not leave knobs sticking out from the branches and limbs. They will attract pests and disease. Do not plant ivy or exotic plants that need summer water near old, mature live oak trees.

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