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Complete Guide to Plant, Grow, and Care for Red Oak Trees

Red Oak Tree

The Red oak tree is a timber tree belonging to the beech family. They are wooden shrubs and trees with bristle leaves lined with hairy shells and bitter seeds that mature in two growing seasons.

This beautiful tree has one of the most fantastic fall foliage and outlives its growers. It is also effortless to transplant.

The red attached to it is due to the bright red color in the leaf veins on the underside of the leaves. The red oak trees thrive in any environment and soil conditions but have a faster growth rate in slightly acidic soil. The plant is usually grown for ornamental purposes.

Read on to more about this beautiful tree, and how to grow and take care of it.

Botanical Name: Quercus rubra

Common Name: Red Oak

Family: Fagaceae

Plant Type: Deciduous tree

Hardiness Zones: 3 – 8 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Soil Type: Fertile, sandy, dry, well-draining soil

Soil pH: Acidic

Height: 50 to 75 feet

Bloom Time: April to May

Flower Color: Yellowish-green

Native Area: Eastern North America

Red Oak Plant Care

Red Oak Trees are native to North America and may be found in the western states, such as California, to the central states, such as Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota, to the eastern states, such as Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, and all the way to North Carolina along the east coast.

If you plan to plant a red oak, it won’t need much care after it’s established, aside from some minor preventative maintenance and keeping an eye out for the occasional pest or disease.

Overall, it is a low-maintenance tree as long as it is kept healthy and given a good start, and our guide will explain to you everything you need to keep it happy and healthy.

The Red Oak tree produces acorns as its fruit. Although technically a nut, the Red Oak Tree can produce up to 1,000 acorns every month and up to 1,000,000 in its lifespan! Acorns from a Red Oak Tree are a superfood, especially for wildlife.

These acorns serve as food for squirrels and raccoons, as well as blue jays, wild turkeys, whitetail deer, and black bears. Deers are also attracted to buds and twigs during the winters.

This tree provides other benefits, including being a nestling place for mammals. They serve as timber to woodworkers because they are good woods, and are also used to make furniture, agricultural implements, and railway tiles. This timber can also serve as fuel for heating and cooking.

Aesthetically, they provide shade during the hot summer months and look great near sidewalks in big cities due to their attractive appearance.

Interestingly, red oak is said to have medicinal value and can aid in curing diseases such as bronchial infections and heart issues.


You should plant your red oak in a location that receives lots of sunlight. For best results, make sure your plant gets six hours of direct sunlight every day.

Oaks require full sun to partial sun to thrive, and anything less can cause problems in your plant. Even if you plant it next to another tree, it will require some space to allow its canopy to get sunlight.


If you want your oak to be at its healthiest, you should provide it with sandy, well-draining, somewhat fertile, and slightly acidic soil. If you need to modify the pH of your soil, consider testing it before planting with a soil pH tester.

Never cover its roots with more than one inch of soil. All roots require space, but oak roots have very specific requirements in this regard.


You should water your oak once a week for the first few years while it forms its roots and matures.

It will require a lot of water, especially during dry spells. A fair guideline is to use 10 gallons of water per each inch of trunk diameter.

Once your oak is established, you no longer need to water it as nature will take care of it adequately.

Temperature and Humidity

Red oaks are highly resistant to frost and thrive in the cold, wet winters and hot, humid summers of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. They are suitable for USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8.


Your oak should not require any additional fertilizer. In the unlikely event that your oak appears to be lagging, evaluate the soil and look for soil deficiencies.

If any nutrient deficits are discovered, fertilize with the proper NPK formulation and a slow-release fertilizer near the dripline of the tree to make up for the missing component.

Types Of Red Oak Tree

The red oaks are divided into two major types, namely:

Northern Red Oak

The Northern red oak trees (Quercus rubra) have matte green tops while the bottom is pale yellow green catkins and hairy. It turns russet red in autumn and remains firmly until winter. This red oak tree has drought tolerance and grows in a round shape.

The tree can grow to a height of up to 75 feet and a spread of 45 feet at maturity. This tree has leaves that have 7 to 11 waxy lobes. The bark is dark gray to black in color and is smooth at first then becomes very rough with flat-topped ridges.

It also tolerates pollution and well-drained soil. It can grow in acidic, sandy, loamy, and clay soils. The northern red oak has gained popularity with lumbermen and landscapers since the colonial era. The deciduous tree has also been favored for transplantation in Europe.

Northern red oak trees are fast growing (this explains why timber industries use them). It’s in the form of an open canopy, which helps it grow taller. The tree grows to 25 meters when fully grown, with shiny green leaves.

The Northern red oak tree species is tolerant to strong winds. Also, it has a high marketable value and has been in existence for over 400 years. In addition, it grows up to 2 feet each year for about ten years.

To ensure that the branches of northern red oak trees stay healthy, you are to prune them occasionally at infancy. You must do this carefully or seek expert advice to avoid damaging the tree.

Southern Red Oaks

Southern red oak, which is also called Spanish oak (Q. falcata). The Southern red oak trees, on the other hand, have a shiny dark green color on the top and rusty and hairy on the bottom.

This red oak tree species has a deep root system, a short trunk, and two types of leaves. One has three leaves, and the other has five to seven deep leaves. The terminal leaves are further divided.

It is an enormous tree, up to 36 m in height, with more uniform 5-11 leaf leaves. It has a length of 23 cm and is often 23 cm long. The grayish brown to black scaly skin resembles the skin of black cherry.

Other Types Of Red Oak Trees

Below are other types of red oak trees, though most of them are not less-widely known compared to the two mentioned above:

Willock Oak

Willow oak grows naturally in poorly drained areas of the Atlantic and Gulf Plains and the Mississippi Valley region of North America. It is widely planted in the southern United States as a street or shade tree. It has shallow roots and can live for over 100 years.

Southern Live Oak

Southern live oak species are natural in the coastal plains of Cuba, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf, often growing to heights of 15 meters (50 feet) or more on hills and ridges but wrinkled on poor coastal soils.

The trunk is separated near the ground, and several branches can grow horizontally up to 2-3 times the tree’s height. It grows rapidly in well-drained soils and optimal conditions, but not as long as previously thought. The oldest known specimens are 200-300 years old.

Black Oak

Black oak has a blackish outer back that is ridged in irregular blocks. It has an orange-yellow inner back and a source of quercitron and tannin.

The leaves are usually seven on the top, shiny dark green, dull on the bottom, sometimes flaky, and orange in the fall. It turns red or brown. The trees are distributed throughout the eastern United States. They do not tolerate shade and grow on exposed slopes and ridges.

Pin Oak

Pin oaks are found in Eastern and Central US soils and moist highland soils. It has a wide pyramidal crown and hanging lower branches. The oval, shiny green leaves, about 13 cm (5 inches) long, have 5-7 deeply torn leaves, and in the fall, it turns scarlet.

How to Plant a Red Oak Tree

The tree is best planted in Spring or Fall. This season is preferred so that the roots can settle in before the advent of hot weather. It requires a vast space for growth.

Before planting, ensure the planting space is such that the tree won’t interfere with buildings or roads when grown.

Also, ensure the tree is produced in an area with access to direct sunlight. For the red oak tree to thrive, it needs at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. In addition, where the space has depleted soil, dig the soil and place organic matter/droppings in it before planting.

These trees should be planted in a hole that has at least twice the width of the root ball, and then the holes should be filled with a mixture of soil and compost. Water the tree deeply and slowly so that the area around the root sphere is saturated. A layer of bark mulch keeps the roots cold and moist.

When the tree is in its infant stage, ensure to build a fence around it to protect it from animals such as rabbits.

Frequently Asked Questions About Red Oak Trees

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions on the fast-growing red oak tree species:

Are there other types of red oaks?

Yes. There are other types of red oak tree species, and they are willow oak, live oak, black oak, and pin oak. However, the two significant types are southern red oak and northern red oak.

Are there any disadvantages of growing red oak trees?

Yes, they do. One of the cons of red oak is that it shrinks. Another disadvantage is that it is extremely heavy. Thirdly, they can have bad reactions with oil finishes when exposed to wet and cold weather due to their high tannin content.

What is the difference between red oak and white oak?

Although the red oak plant is one of the most widely used hardwoods in the market, it has been argued that white oak is more durable.

The advantages of red oak precede it as it remains one of the go-to options for hardwood for domestic projects. The benefits are that it has an easy finishing and can stain without blotching. It is unique, thus making it possible to customize the appearance of the finished project.

Another advantage is that it strikes the perfect balance between workability and hardness. The disadvantages of the red oak tree may make woodworkers give preference to the white oak in some given situations.

The disadvantages are that it can dent easily as opposed to other varieties. Another disadvantage is that it is unsuitable for projects requiring it to have contact with water. Water penetration can cause it to have an unsightly black mark.

On this point, white oak gains an advantage over red oak because it has obstructed pores. Also, the red oak plant rots faster than white oak.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases in Red Oak Trees

Fortunately, the Red Oak tree usually doesn’t suffer from any serious pest or plant disease problems. However, sometimes it can suffer from powdery mildew and oak wilt.

In a situation where the infant tree is attacked by fungus podosphaera xanthii, thus resulting in powdery mildew, you are to apply fungicide to the tree. In using the fungicide, ensure you do so at least 24 hours before the arrival of rain or before you water the tree. This is to ensure that the fungicide is not rendered weak by water.

In addition, if you notice aphids on the tree, use organic sprays on them such as soap and water, or remove them by hand by spraying water on them. Ensure to do this as soon as possible because Aphids are pests that reproduce quickly and suck out the fluids from plants they feed on.

Another disease that can affect the oak tree is oak wilt. This disease is a type of disease that affects oak trees and makes their leaves lost at the top and eventually die. When it comes to oak wilt, prevention is definitely better than cure!

To prevent oak wilt, you can avoid pruning the oak trees during the growing season. Another Preventive measure is to destroy oak trees that are infested to prevent spreading the disease to non-infected ones.

It is also susceptible to chlorosis which leads to the yellowing of the leaves while the veins remain green. This occurs when the soil isn’t acidic enough.

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