Raising Your Northern Red Oak

Raising Your Red Oak

About this Tree

 This tree is a Red Oak (Quercus rubra).  This native tree has leaves with bristle-tipped lobes. 

 Dirr characterizes it as “a valuable fast-growing oak…has been used as a common urban and street tree; excellent tree when properly grown.”  Leaves are lustrous dark green in summer changing to russet-red to bright red in fall.”  (Adapted from Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Dirr, fifth edition.)

 A Suitable Site

             Planting locations should be selected with the tree’s ultimate dimensions and needs in mind.  The Red Oak grows rapidly, reaching 60 to 75 ft in height. In old age, it is often round-topped and symmetrical.  It transplants readily and prefers sandy loam soils which are well-drained.  It withstands the polluted air of cities and strongly prefers full sun.

Observations from Audubon Park:

 There are about 20 mature N. Red oaks in the park, at a variety of ages, and we continue to plant them.  Some are in decline or have been crowded badly, but the ones that are in good health are excellent shade and street trees.  They take a year to establish and then grow relatively quickly.  It is important to avoid the practice of lion-tailed pruning on these trees, which weakens and distorts the limbs into excessive length.   This is a tree that should be planted with a generous distance from other trees, and that needs full sun to develop a good shape. Many of the trees that are in decline have been restricted in canopy space.

 You can see nice N. Red Oaks at 3101 and 3103 Chickadee, and newly planted Red Oaks, at 1217 Falcon and 1125 Audubon Parkway on the Teal Side. This tree was doing very well, and was just run over by a car, both bending it to the ground, and damaging the lower trunk.  We will see if and how if recovers.

We are trying bareroot seedlings this year, donated by a Forest Board Member.