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What Do Oak Trees Need to Live?

By Richard Corrigan
Oak trees grow in a wide range of conditions.
oak image by Marek Kosmal from Fotolia.com

Oak trees are some of the most recognizable trees in the American landscape. Easily identified by their acorns and elongated, multi-lobed leaves, oaks are adaptable enough to grow in a variety of conditions -- provided certain needs are met.

Soil Conditions

Oak trees generally thrive in moist, well-drained soil. Neutral to slightly acidic soil with a pH between about 6.0 and 7.0 is ideal for most oak trees. Deep, fertile soil is best, but it is not always available in a landscape setting. Oaks can generally make do with average soil, but avoid sand or heavy clay.

Water & Sunlight

Most oak trees grow best in full sun or partial shade. Oaks have moderate water needs, and can withstand periods of excessive moisture or moderate drought. Avoid planting them in a spot where the soil is very dry or routinely saturated with water. Locations where water collects after a rain are not ideal for most oak trees.


Oak trees are relatively low-maintenance. Supplemental water is helpful to newly planted trees, but established oaks generally do not need irrigation except in periods of serious drought. Fertilizer is also usually not needed. You can prune your oak tree during summer, removing only dead and broken branches.

Variety Considerations

Certain oak trees are adapted to slightly different conditions than others. Water oak and willow oak, for example, grows better in moist, swampy sites than other oak varieties. Talk to a local expert or consult your state's university extension to help you choose oak trees that are suited to your local conditions.


About the Author


Richard Corrigan has been a full-time professional writer since 2010. His areas of expertise include travel, sports and recreation, gardening, landscaping and the outdoors. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from SUNY Geneseo in 2009.