Baby Oak Tree

Glenview, IL

Hi -
my son obtained a baby Oak tree in the fall of 2005. We planted it in a big green tree container, to hold thru winter. It did bud and leaves fell in the fall. We did not plant as of yet. It still looks loke a tall thick twig! It's probably about 3foot. Should we keep it in the container until it gets bigger? We have a site picked out for the planting or is it safe to plant in early spring. Also, how big and deep should we dig the hole? Any suggestions on Planting Baby trees is much appreciated.
Thanks, Judy and Jacob

Belfield, ND(Zone 4a)

I think I would go ahead and plant it. Oak trees grow extremely slow, so you could have it in the pot for a long time. It might as well be putting down roots in it's permanent place. I would put a stick or pole or something in beside it to anchor it until it's strong enough and rooted in well enough to take the winds and weather. If deer are a problem, some type of protection to keep them from eating it would also be a good idea.

As far as digging the hole, it's recommended to dig it twice as deep as needed and twice the diameter of the pot it's in, then ammend the soild with compost and put part of the soil back into the hole until it's the right depth for planting the tree. Plant it the same depth that it is in the pot. Then fill in around the rootball.

I think the main thing to make sure of, is that you plant it at the same depth that it is now when it's in the pot.

This is how I plant my trees. Someone else might have a better suggestion.


Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I echo what joan said above!
the pole is a great idea- I have mowed off so many lil trees after i planted them!!!

Glenview, IL

Joan and notmartha,
Thank you for this advise. Jacob and I will have a planting party as soon as we can in spring.
Geeze never thought about the dear eating it!! The mulch-should it be like leaves? We have a nice pile of going on so maybe that. We do aprreciate your help!

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Hi Judy!

I love planting trees with kids!

Oak trees are tap rooted so it's best to get it out of the pot as soon as possible. I don't think the hole should be any deeper than the root in the pot, but a nice wide hole will be appreciated by the little guy (the tree, not Jacob). You might have to straighten it out if it's curled up. You want it to go straight down if you can, but don't force it. It will find its way down, but if it is coiled, you need to sort of uncoil it and imagine it as a 60 foot tall tree.... will the root wrap around itself? Be careful because it will be brittle.

Choose a cloudy day for this operation -- it will be chilly and hopefully some rain will be in the forecast. That will be the best thing for it.

If you know what kind of oak it is you could determine if any soil ammendment is necessary. My thought is that if it's a Pin Oak, it will need a more acid soil than Illinois has. Be extremely careful not to plant a Pin Oak, or possibly any Oak, near cement. We have one here that was planted in 1960 +/- directly over an underground cement culvert and it is in bad shape. Sidewalks are another problem from the lime leaching. (I'm in Indiana). Other oaks will be fine. You mulch them with oak leaves :) (Any leaves are fine, so is shredded hardwood bark mulch.)

Now would be an excellent time to teach your son some "Oak Trivia" To know the difference between a white oak and a red oak by looking at the leaves. If you aren't sure, do a google search and notice leaves one is rounded on the edges and one is pointed.) Have you heard the expression about the acorn not falling far from the tree? Did you know an Oak Tree needs to be at least 25 years old to have acorns? Acorns are produced in the fall. An Acorn has less than a 1/10,000th of a chance to become a tree?

Have fun with this project! Oaks live a long time (about 200 years!) and your son could easily take his grandchildren to see the tree he planted with his mom. Maybe you'd better take a picture so they believe him. :)


Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi tree planter, all the advice you have already is real good, all I would add is that within the planting hole, you could add a lenght of hose pipe with one end sticking out of the ground, this makes it so much easier when you need to water for the first year or so, that way, you can get the water where it is needed most, down at the roots, or cut the bottom off a plastic container, neck end into the planting hole, wide (bottom end up) out if ground and this will also do the same jobe as the hose pipe, you can also buy deer proof tree shields, they are see though, so let light onto the trunk and branches,you will still require to stake the tree, experts now think that these tree guards help the tree stablise quicker as the young branches don't get snapped off with wind damage, or deer, you remove them when you feel the tree is able to stand the odd deer rubbing against the trunk, or they cant reach to nibble the tender ends on the branches and these are the things that the deer or other animals just love. I hope your little acorn grows tall and strong and gives as much pleasure as the child ready to plant it, nurture them both.
Good luck.

North-West England, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

I got my son an English Oak for his first birthday and he's now five. It's still in a pot so hasn't grown lots but it's still thriving. We will plant it out eventually once we find a suitable piece of land for it - our garden just isn't big enough. All the advice above is great though and I'll remember it all for when we find just the right spot.

Greentown, IN(Zone 5a)

Hi, Seedtosser1. I would echo Illoquin in saying that it would be interesting to find out what kind of oak tree you have. Of course, if it doesn't have leaves yet this season, that might be difficult. While the majority of oak trees are very slow growers, there is at least one exception to that rule. About four weeks ago, I planted a Chinkapin Oak seedling that my mom gave to me. Not only has it come out of dormancy, but it already has at least six inches of new growth on the top! It may not be a record setter, but for an oak tree, it's growing in leaps and bounds. So take heart and be encouraged, it might not take as long to grow as you might think! I am a novice, but I would say, get it in the ground and watch it grow! I think trees grow better out of their pots. Have fun!

Glenview, IL

Hello to all,
Suzy-thanks so much for the trivia, my son will be excited to hear, and will hopefully be able to share with his other buddies who also got tree's.
WeeNel-Great idea on the watering plan-we will be sure to use the system.
Easter Lily-Thanks for your support too, It has hasn't grown a whole lot. But watching it bud and bloom so far I am thinking it is the red oak.
An update for all,
Well we have decided not to plant the baby oak until fall. Also, with learning that the roots will grow long we have decided to move it's location as right now it is too close to the sewer line, We are actually now thinking to take the tree to Wisconsin. The reason is we are planning to retire there (not for a long time but..) when we sell this house it is a tear down. In Wi we can watch it grow. It is so much fun watching my son take care of his tree. Tonight I will take a photo of him and his tree.
Thanks you all-

Gloucester, MA

Yeah, the roots will try to get to the water in the sewer. Good idea. Good luck on your tree. and God Bless. : )

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi Judy and Jacob, good idea to hold on to the tree if you plan to move and it is of sentimental value for you all, if the tree has to be in the pot for a real long time (years) then just care for it as you would if it were in the garden but be aware that the pot soil will dry out faster, also every couple of years, give it a top dressing of fresh soil and leaf mould mixed in, to do this, just remove the top 6 inch of soil and add the fresh mix, this will rejuvinate the old soil that looses neutrients quicker as the roots growing in the pot will use up all the soil, this way, the tree will stay healthier, always knock it out from the pot, say every second year to check that the roots dont grow around in circles within the pot as trees like to either spread their roots or send them down into the soil, remember, when we buy trees from a nursery, they have normally been in pots for years till they reach sale condition/size, but they do check the roots every few years, good luck, hope all goes well for your little acorn, in UK we always say, little acorns make mighty oaks, hope this is the case for you guy's.

Seffner, FL

do the roots come out frist i have one groing and it looks licke the roots came out frist

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

Yes, usually the roots will grow for months before any leaves are visible.

Houston, TX

This answered my question. My dad gave me a twig off of his oak tree in his backyard, and I have it in a pot right now, it's only about 6-8" tall right now. It stayed dorment for a long time, (it was only about 2" high) a few months, then we got a lot of rain within a couple of weeks and it really shot up! Now, like I said, it's about 6-8" tall right now. I'm about to plant it into the ground. We are going to put it in our backyard so one day when my kids are grown we have a piece of my dad's history at our home! I love that idea! We are all going to plant it together (me, my husband and our 3 kids) and I'm so excited about it. Thanks to all these answers in here I know now is the time to plant it.

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