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How to Propagate Willow Oak Trees

The willow oak (Quercus phellos) is a member of the red oak family and is native from the central to southeastern sections of the U.S. It is a popular oak used in landscapes due to its quick growth, hardiness and large size. At maturity, the willow oak can obtain heights of 100 feet, making it a fine shade tree. The tree produces prolific amounts of acorns when it is approximately 20 years old. Propagating a willow oak through seeding the acorn is relatively easy, with or without stratifying first.

Allow the acorns to mature on the tree before collecting them to plant. Acorns mature on willow oaks August through October. The acorns will be brown and will easily fall from the tree when shaken, when they are ripe.

Collect the acorns and decide if you will be planting immediately or stratifying first. If stratifying, place the acorns inside of damp peat moss and place inside a plastic bag. Store the acorns inside of the refrigerator for 30 to 60 days before planting. Remove the nuts and plant as usual.

Soak the acorns in hot water immediately after harvesting, if planting immediately. Allow the acorns to soak in the water for 15 minutes. This will cut down on the possibility of weevils infesting the planted acorn.

Fill a deep planting container with a well draining potting mix that is high in organic material. Make sure the container has drain holes. Willow oaks have long taproots and will require a container that is deep, to germinate properly.

Make a 1-inch indentation into the center of the soil and place the acorn inside of it. Cover with potting mix and pat down with your hand to firm the soil up in the container.

Water the container until it runs out of the bottom drain holes. Keep the soil moist but not flooded, until the acorn germinates. Continue watering the container to keep it moist, not allowing it to completely dry out.

Situate the container outside in an area that receives full sun to partial sun conditions throughout the day.


Propagating a willow oak from cuttings taken from a very young parent tree is possible. The cutting needs treatment with indoleacetic acid before planting. The older the willow oak is, the less likely your cuttings will root.

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