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PlantFiles: Willow Oak
Quercus phellos

Family: Fagaceae (fag-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Quercus (KWER-kus) (Info)
Species: phellos (FEL-ohs) (Info)

4 vendors have this plant for sale.

6 members have or want this plant for trade.


over 40 ft. (12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings
Very high moisture needs; suitable for bogs and water gardens

Soil pH requirements:
4.5 or below (very acidic)
4.6 to 5.0 (highly acidic)
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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8 positives
4 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Timberplot On Feb 26, 2015, Timberplot from Blairsville, PA wrote:

A majestic tree when given the room to grow. Exhibits a large, spreading crown when mature. Had planted three Willow Oak on a floodplain terrace with deep, clay loam soils in the late 1980's. They have grown fast with broad crowns compared to their height. Had a 4 foot fissure develop on the main trunk of one tree during a windy, cold spell one winter. The tree closed the wound and healed within two years and now exhibits no visible damage.
The tree has a steel gray bark and the wood is heavy and hard.
The small acorns are attractive to Squirrels, Blue Jays and other wildlife.

Positive coriaceous On Mar 2, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

Called willow oak or southern pin oak.

An excellent shade tree, the best oak for the southeastern US Z7-9. Reaches 60' or more (the record is 123'). Fine-textured, adaptable, transplants readily, a reasonably fast grower (to 2' a year under good conditions). One of the few large shade trees you can garden or grow a lawn under.

May require some skilled pruning when young to develop a good crown.

Dirr says it's hardy to Z5.

Positive Rickwebb On Dec 17, 2013, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

It is a handsome shade tree. Grows about 1.5 ft/yr. There are two big specimens down the street, here in Downingtown in southeast PA, in a large school yard in a good quality clay soil that is barely acid, about 6.9 pH.

Neutral Gardeningman On Jan 6, 2011, Gardeningman from Kingman, KS wrote:

A beautiful oak tree that grows fast; what more could you want? I prefer this one over the sawtooth oak. I agree with another person's rating. The leaves are small enough that you can mulch them with the lawn mower. There should be no need to rake them.
I am trying to decide on whether to plant a willow oak or a tulip poplar tree in my back yard.

Positive killdawabbit On Jan 25, 2010, killdawabbit from Christiana, TN (Zone 6b) wrote:

My favorite of all oaks. Beautiful yellow fall color. I love the leaf-fall but then I'm not crazy about grass. Even though I have more than I want.

Positive redoak77 On Nov 24, 2009, redoak77 from Knoxville, TN wrote:

Probably the most popular street tree in Tennessee. Common in wet areas and lowlands of the TN valley.

Negative cloverlymd On Jul 16, 2009, cloverlymd from Silver Spring, MD wrote:

I hate this tree more than any other I have ever grown. I had a mature specimen cut down because I didn't want to spend all my waking hours for a month raking up its annoying leaves. It drops millions of them, and it takes forever to drop them all, and they are extremely hard to rake up. There are plenty of other nice oaks out there; why plant this one? (I do have to say, though, that the wood is gorgeous.)

Negative Lady_fern On Oct 12, 2008, Lady_fern from Jeffersonville, IN (Zone 6a) wrote:

Drops twigs all the time. A real mess for a yard tree. Yes, it grows fast, provides wonderful shade, and has a lovely shape. Those qualities make it a wonderful tree for the NEIGHBOR'S yard!!

Positive rochha On May 24, 2006, rochha from Owings, MD wrote:

Annapolis Maryland has these planted everywhere, some quite large specimens, at the Treasury Building and a very ancient one in St Annes Cemetary, I guess that one is at least 400 years old, it looks like its top was sheared off at one time cause its not very tall, but its trunk is huge ! They are massive trees when given enough space. Great Shade trees.

Positive branski On Apr 12, 2006, branski from Saint Charles, MO wrote:

Response to RaisedBedBod: Why would you even need to rake the leaves? They are small enough to simply mulch with mower. And what leaves don't like gutters?

Neutral raisedbedbob On Jan 30, 2006, raisedbedbob from Walkerton, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

This oak is bullet proof in my area; however, the leaves are hard to rake up, love gutters and seem to drop for months. I'd reserve this one for the woods only.

Neutral braun06 On May 11, 2005, braun06 from Peoria Heights, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:

In soils that can provide the nutrition necessary this tree does great in. One of the most spectacular plantings I have seen was alongside I-85 in Spartanburg, SC. In upstate South Carolina it seems to be the best disease resisitant fast growth oak as water oak is suseptible to mistletoe. Here in Illinois the willow oak is an endangered species growing only in a few southern counties right along the Ohio River. If one wants to find a good northern hardy source of seed that can grow into zone 5 around illinois there are three very old specimans growing next to fort massac right next to metropolis, illinois along the ohio river. These trees are humongous having been there even in the original days of the forts existance during the revolutionary war days. This tree can grow in zone 5 but it wont get that huge. If one is looking for an oak with a different leaf shape one must try shingle oak instead as it is less sensitive to soil acidity. I planted one three or four summers ago and it is still pretty much the same size with constantly yellow leaves. Different seeds will provide different soil tolerance than others just as with pin oak. A fully green speciman grows in champaign, Illinois at the u of I arboretum but remains a small tree in size and has displayed an unusual habit in comparison of that generally of the species. I do believe winter die back has kept this tree this size and shape.

Positive sunbeam On Sep 13, 2003, sunbeam from Townville, SC wrote:

Grow very quickly-fastest of all the oaks.

Neutral mystic On Sep 14, 2002, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

This tree is a source of lumber and pulp.Attracts wildlife that come to feed on the acorns. It has the smallest acorns of any of the oak trees. Leaves turn to yellow and brown in the fall. Makes a good shade tree.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

New Market, Alabama
Pelham, Alabama
Keystone Heights, Florida
Winter Haven, Florida
Marietta, Georgia (2 reports)
Monroe, Georgia
Rome, Georgia
Roswell, Georgia
Moscow, Idaho
Hanna City, Illinois
Benton, Kentucky
Clermont, Kentucky
Georgetown, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Versailles, Kentucky
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
Vacherie, Louisiana
Annapolis, Maryland (2 reports)
Silver Spring, Maryland
Valley Lee, Maryland
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Ridgeland, Mississippi
Kinston, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Cincinnati, Ohio
Blairsville, Pennsylvania
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Summerville, South Carolina
Townville, South Carolina
Christiana, Tennessee
Dickson, Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee
Richmond, Texas
Richmond, Virginia
Rocky Mount, Virginia
South Boston, Virginia
Spokane, Washington

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