Oaks are among the hardiest of hardwood trees and over time can become large shade trees. These trees are popular for their size, long life and beautiful fall colors, but be prepared to wait many years for this grandeur if planting a seedling. Oaks can live and grow for hundreds of years. Attention to soil conditions, diseases and other factors can lead to long-living, beautiful trees.
Among the most common oaks are white, red and pin oaks. These types are deciduous, meaning leaves change color and fall from branches in autumn. The leaves of oaks distinguish between the types.
White, pin and red oaks all exhibit lobed leaves that branch off in a half-dozen or more appendages.
White oaks possess rounded lobes on leaves that are green in spring and summer and change to bright red come fall. Because of their large size when fully grown, white oaks are a popular shade tree.
Red and pin oaks have leaves with pointed lobes and follow similar seasonal color patterns to the white oak. Branches tend to droop lower on pin oaks than on red oaks, making the pin a bad choice for growing near streets and sidewalks because of possible obstructions. The red oak tends to be sturdier and more tolerant of city pollutants.
Live oaks are the odd men out in the oak family. These trees produce evergreen leaves that are broad without lobes. The foliage is bright green, and the trees are known for abundant shade and do well in cold climates.
Pick a spot not too crowded where the tree will have room to branch out. Measure the distance from the soil surface to the bottom of the container or soil ball containing the tree, then dig a hole a little shallower than that distance. Make sure the hole is about three times as wide as the pot or tree ball. After placing the tree in the hole, fill the depression in with loosely packed soil, leaving a mound near the base of the plant.
Newly planted trees will need good soakings every four days or so in warmer months for the first year for best results.
Anthracnose is a common disease among oaks through which fungi cause defoliation. The best way to fight this disease is to prevent it in the first place. For smaller oaks, spray with fungicide in the spring to prevent unwanted growth.
If trees become infected, immediately rake up any affected leaves for disposal. Prune and burn any dead twigs and branches. Then treat with fungicide.
The hardness of oak makes it a popular lumber for construction and furniture production. Its rich tones make for attractive tables, shelves, moldings and trim.
As a member of the hardwood family, oak also can be used in the smoking and grilling of food. Natural oak-based lump charcoal is a favorite among grilling purists.