Planting a Live Oak Tree

If you have your heart set on a gorgeous spreading shade tree, planting live oak tree might be for you. These lovely trees, with their broad spreading branches, are a classic symbol of Southern beauty and hospitality. Live oaks can have a canopy that is twice as wide as the tree is tall!

The best soil for one of these giants is sandy coastal soil or moist rich soil along a stream bank. Planting live oak trees in your yard means providing the right soil and conditions for optimum growth and health.

The best growing areas for planting live oak tree are zones 7 through 10. Light requirements are full sun to partial shade, and the soil needs to be moist or wet. These trees do best with a slightly acidic soil, ranging in pH from 3.7 to 7.0. While they are useful as shade trees and street trees, you should plan on giving them plenty of room to grow. Live oaks can live for centuries.

What is a Live Oak?

Live oaks are called by their name because they retain their leaves throughout the year in the southern parts of their native range. In the northern parts, live oak trees are deciduous, like other oaks, losing their leaves in the fall. Planting live oak tree in your yard will produce some litter underneath, such as the male flowers in the spring and the acorns in the fall.

When planting live oak tree, you will need to keep in mind that they will need professional pruning from time to time. The large branches can reach the ground or break under the weight of ice. Pruning is best done during the the winter or late summer about every five years. During spring or early summer, pruning can contribute to the spread of oak wilt.

Oak Wilt

Oak wilt is a disease condition that sometimes plagues this otherwise trouble-free tree. Mainly a problem for those planting live oak tree in Texas, oak wilt is a fungus that spreads by animals (such as squirrels) and enters the tree through wounds in the bark. The best course of action is to remove diseased trees. Another occasional problem is the parasitic mistletoe, which can weaken a live oak tree when it grows too freely.

Those planting live oak tree might be bothered to see galls forming on the leaves and stems, but these are generally harmless. Insects are more of a problem if the tree is young or weakened, so take good care of your tree to reduce the likelihood of insect damage.


Like other trees, when planting live oak tree, you need to dig a hole wider than the root ball and a bit shallower. Rough up the sides of the hole, or it will harden and make it difficult for the live oak roots to penetrate out into the surrounding soil.

Gently remove any pot and separate any roots that are circled around. Don't waste a lot of time, though. Gently pile soil into the hole around the roots. The very top of the root ball should not be covered with soil.

When planting live oak tree, make sure you have the tree turned the way you will prefer looking at it. Also make sure it is standing straight up. It should be pruned annually during the first few years. Many live oaks are very fast-growing, so be prepared.