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How to Grow Live Oak Trees From Acorns

By Bridget Kelly ; Updated September 21, 2017

Habitat loss, especially in California, is the greatest threat to native oak species in the U.S. By planting oak trees you will help restore some of what has been lost and protect the species for future generations. When considering a location for your tree, keep in mind that the acorns and foliage of the oak tree are poisonous to cattle and horses, so a grazing pasture is not a suitable site. When choosing acorns to plant, place them in a bucket of water. Those that float to the top should be discarded.

Moisten the sand and place it in a large, zippered-type plastic bag. Bury the acorns in the sand and seal the bag. Place it in the refrigerator and allow it to remain there for at least 30 days. Some of the acorns may begin to crack during this period. Pot those up right away.

Pour equal parts of seed starting mix and sphagnum peat moss into the planting pots. You should have one pot for each acorn you wish to germinate.

Plant the acorns 2 to 4 inches into the soil, with the root-end facing down.

Plant your oak sapling into its permanent location when it reaches a height of 1 foot, which will generally occur in one year. To plant, clear a circle in the soil, 3 feet wide. In the center, dig a hole, 1 foot deep and 1 foot wide. Place the seedling into the hole and mound the soil high around it, so that it appears to be sitting on a small hill.

Protect your young oak tree by driving a small stake into the ground next to it and building a wire tent around it.

Water the seedlings two or three times during their first three summers, using at least three to four gallons of water. Oak trees generally don’t require water at other times of the year, other than what they receive naturally.


Things You Will Need

  • Sand
  • Plastic bag, with a zipper-type closure
  • Planting pots, 2 inches
  • Seed starting mix
  • Sphagnum peat
  • Planting pots, 2 inch, with holes in the bottom for drainage
  • Gardening trowel
  • Small stake
  • Mesh wire

About the Author


Based in the American Southwest, Bridget Kelly has been writing about gardening and real estate since 2005. Her articles have appeared at Trulia.com, SFGate.com, GardenGuides.com, RE/MAX.com, MarketLeader.com, RealEstate.com, USAToday.com and in "Chicago Agent" magazine, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing.