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Best Oak Trees To Plant for Color

September 2, 2021
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The mighty oak.

They don’t call this tree mighty for nothing. The oak is known for being strong and living long. A healthy oak can even withstand strong weather. Its solid wood has been used to make furniture, boats, and even homes.

Not only is the oak tough, but it’s also majestic. Some species have distinctive lobed leaves that stand apart from others.

And then, in the autumn, many oak species play a key role in the fall vista, adding unique color and texture to the scene.

You might want to add this incredible oak tree foliage to your own landscape. Let’s look at some common oak tree varieties that can give you an amazing tree for shade, great texture and interest, and amazing fall color.

Best Oak Trees: Beautiful Foliage & Fall Color

Oaks are some of the oldest trees in the world. They appeared on the planet approximately 65 million years ago. In the urban environment, oaks may live 200-300 years.

Those great big oaks towering above you start from tiny acorns. In fact, one oak tree can produce 10 million acorns in its lifetime.

And oaks are animal friendly, supporting more than 500 butterfly and moth species than any other native tree. These trees also support the insect life that helps feed birds. And oak trees even help other critters like squirrels that use them for shade, shelter, and food. In fact, acorns make up more than 75% of a white-tailed deer’s diet in late fall and early winter.

While there are more than 600 species of oak trees in the world, here are some of our favorites that provide flushes of vibrant fall foliage ranging from golds to reds and bronzes and can be loved all year long.

Red Oak Tree

Looking for the brightest red foliage of all the oaks? The deep red oak tree fall foliage of the red oak could fit the bill, contrasting well with the yellows and oranges on the scene. As a widely adaptable tree, this tree also grows faster than most oaks with glossy green leaves during the summer growing on an open canopy.

  • Growing zones: 3 to 9
  • Sun exposure: Full sun, meaning a minimum of 6 hours of unfiltered sunlight per day
  • Soil needs: Plant in moist, slightly acidic, well-drained soil
  • Height: 50 to 75 feet

White Oak Tree

An exceptional shade tree, the white oak gets its name from the lighter color of its bark. In the spring, the white oak starts with a pinkish color that transitions to a dark green. This oak tree fall foliage is a reddish-brown on leaves that are 4 to 9 inches long with 7 to 9 lobes.

  • Growing zones: 3 to 9
  • Sun exposure: Full sun, meaning a minimum of 6 hours of unfiltered sunlight per day
  • Soil needs: Plant in slightly acidic, well-drained soil
  • Height: 80 feet

Live Oak Tree

While live oaks aren’t always the tallest of the oak trees, their winding and spiraling branches can span a massive diameter beyond that of other oaks, providing a wide swath of shade. These trees, which are the only evergreen vs. deciduous one on the list, are some of the strongest oaks; they were even used in colonial times to make ships for the U.S. Navy. The live oak features 1- to 3-inch long, leathery leaves that are glossy, dark green with lighter undersides through the winter.

  • Growing zones: 8 to 11
  • Sun exposure: Full sun, meaning it prefers a minimum of 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight daily
  • Soil needs: Plant in slightly acidic soil
  • Height: 40 to 80 feet

Pin Oak Tree

The pin oak grows in eastern and central U.S., usually along rivers. What sets this oak apart is its distinctive branching pattern. It’s leaves are large and pointed with sweeping, U-shaped spaces between lobes. This oak tree fall foliage becomes scarlet and bronze as the weather cools.

  • Growing zones: 4 to 8
  • Sun exposure: Full sun, meaning a minimum of 6 hours of unfiltered sunlight per day
  • Soil needs: Plant in slightly acidic soil; tolerates heavy clay and wet soils
  • Height: 60 to 70 feet

Black Oak Tree

The black oak’s common name refers to its nearly black bark with yellow or deep orange inner bark. It’s a stately tree with glossy green summer foliage that turns to red and orange in fall. While they look similar to red oaks, black oaks are slightly smaller than red oaks and can tolerate drier soils.

  • Growing zones: 3 to 9
  • Sun exposure: Full sun, meaning a minimum of 6 hours of unfiltered sunlight per day.
  • Soil needs: Plant in slightly acidic, rich, well-drained soil
  • Height: 50 to 60 feet

Bur Oak Tree

This long-lived tree has unique acorns that are fringed and larger than those from other trees. Growing in a rounded shape, this tough tree tolerates pollution and heat stress while offering dense shade. This oak tree fall foliage varies from muted yellow to yellow-green and yellow-brown.

  • Growing zones: 3 to 8
  • Sun exposure: Full sun, meaning a minimum of 6 hours of unfiltered sunlight per day.
  • Soil needs: Plant in neutral to alkaline soil
  • Height: 60 to 80 feet

LOOKING FOR IDEAS ON OTHER TREES YOU CAN PLANT FOR FABULOUS FALL COLOR? TRY THESE IDEAS.

 

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