How to Grow an Oak Tree from an Acorn

Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera)

Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera)

  • Choose a sunny spot that has loose, well-drained soil and is fairly free of weeds
  • If planting from acorns, check their viability. Remove the caps and put the acorns in a bucket of water. Damaged or dried-out acorns will float and should be discarded. “Sinkers” can be planted immediately or refrigerated for planting later. First, soak them for 30 seconds in a 1 percent bleach solution to kill any pathogens, and then rinse thoroughly.
  • Acorns to be stored should be dried before being placed in plastic bags. (Perlite included in the bags can help keep them dry and free from mold.)
  • Plant acorns one-half to one inch below the soil surface, preferably after digging a deeper hole that is partially refilled with loose soil before adding the acorn, cap end up.
  • If the acorn has germinated and a root tip is showing, it is best to plant it immediately. (The root will grow quickly even in cold storage.) Don’t damage or break off the root tip.
  • Acorns also can be started in one-gallon pots but prepare to plant the seedlings within a year because the tap root will quickly outgrow the pot.
  • Keep the planting area weed-free, and deep-water at least once a month. Hot weather will necessitate more frequent watering.
  • Protect acorns and seedlings from rodents and other wildlife, domestic animals and human feet with protective cages or “tree shelter” tubes attached to stakes and driven into the ground. As the seedling grows, make sure the top of the cage is open so your oak tree will grow straight

This first appeared in the winter 2018 issue of Flora, a publication of the California Native Plant Society
Sources: University of California Oak Woodland Management; Betty Young; Janet Cobb