Growing Acorns into Oaks

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Lea Sloan
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Growing Acorns into Oaks

Post by Lea Sloan » Wed Jan 07, 2015 9:20 am

And I do not mean metaphorically. Hi! I'm Lea Sloan, VP of Communications at American Forests, here on my first post. (I have been observing shyly from the wings). But my question is not related to my job, it is related to a personal growing-trees mission. My first attempt, trying to get cuttings to root (from willow oak, tulip poplar, bald cypress, river birch & American elm) failed when it appeared I had overly misted the cuttings. (Signs of white mold/mildew). That was mid-summer into fall. I plan to retry this... but QUESTION: does anyone know if it is a BAD idea to try to contain the cuttings in a mini-biosphere? Such as an aquarium or plastic container version of such? So, in other words, airtight? Keeps the moisture in and allows for light -- as long as I don't over-mist?

i am now about to plant acorns (from red, white, northern pin and willow oak) that i collected in early November (in DC area) and have been keeping in refrigerator in slightly moist peat mix. QUESTION: Do I need to use grow-lights in getting these to sprout? Or at least, once they sprout? I am reading that optimal growth results from at least 12 hours of daylight...



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Re: Growing Acorns into Oaks

Post by Lucas » Wed Jan 07, 2015 12:49 pm

We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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Re: Growing Acorns into Oaks

Post by DougBidlack » Wed Jan 07, 2015 4:01 pm


there is no need to use grow lights either before or after your acorns sprout. I prefer to plant my acorns outdoors and let them acclimate to local conditions. They must be protected from voles, squirrels, etc. I like to just use 1/4" hardware cloth over acorns that are in peat pots and dug into my garden. I only have Q. alba like this now because they were sprouting like crazy in November. All my other species are still in the fridge but I imagine I'll be putting my Q. bicolor and Q. macrocarpa and perhaps some of the other white oak acorns in pots beginning some time in February or maybe March. Then they'll join the Q. alba acorns out in the garden. I'll probably put a light fabric cover over hoops up once the acorns start sending shoots above soil level and beyond the protection of the hardware cloth (I'll remove the hardware cloth at this time too). I always remove the peat pot when I plant my baby oaks in their permanent homes because I don't want there to be even a slight hinderance to their root growth.

I'm planning on posting more info on some of the oaks that I've been growing including recent use of tree tubes. Should be within a couple weeks.


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Re: Growing Acorns into Oaks

Post by Rand » Wed Jan 07, 2015 7:03 pm

They must be protected from voles, squirrels, etc.
I planted some acorns on the edge of a flower garden with no protection and they were fine..until one hungry night in march when a raccoon/opossum moseyed by and dug up and ate every one in a single night. Ugh...better luck next year...with chicken wire:
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Larry Tucei
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Re: Growing Acorns into Oaks

Post by Larry Tucei » Thu Jan 08, 2015 9:38 am

Hi Lea- Welcome it's great to have you on the BBS. I like many others have been growing trees for years. I made two 2' x 4' boxes 8" deep and then made a screened top to match. I put mixed up some topsoil, peat humus, cow manure into the boxes. I then slightly press the acorns or seeds on the soil surface in rows spaced about 3" apart. Next I cover them with leaves put the top on and forget about them till spring. The Squirrels and insects cannot get to them while they are Dormant. When spring arrives they develop a tap root then shoot a young tree up. I usually grow them in the box for a month or two and then an extension on the top if needed, they grow fast. I then remove them when they are 6-8" tall and put them in Pots. I have had good success and have some still in Pots in my yard 4-5 foot tall from previous years. I have grown White Oak, Red Oak, Walnut, Burr Oak just to name a few and many more species. Hope this helps you and good luck on your growing adventure. Keep us posted on your results. I would love to grow some of the Champion Trees for their genetics are the best of the best. It was a pleasure meeting you at Durango and I look forward to the next time I see you. Larry

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Ranger Dan
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Growing oaks from cuttings

Post by Ranger Dan » Thu Jan 08, 2015 10:07 am


Don't use a closed container to root cuttings! A prospective biosphere will likely quickly become a "fungisphere", and the cuttings will be consumed. Air circulation is vital. While I was a greenhouse grower, and during my training as a horticulturist, I had some experience with propagation from cuttings and observed some techniques in nurseries where this is done on a large scale. The details of several techniques are too lengthy to cover here, and would best be studied in a college-level text book on the subject of plant propagation. I took a brief look online, and it seems that there is little helpful information there. Important details such as good air circulation are likely to be missing, and you could end up wasting another year. Techniques for difficult-to-root species such as oaks are sometimes species-specific and have been honed by nurserymen and horticulturists over many years of trial-and-error, research, and technological advances. Like many pursuits, this is one that is best learned hands-on, and is in some respects somewhat of an art form. You may be able to get your best advice from a commercial propagator, but finding one who is willing to offer time and trade secrets would be challenging. I think your pursuit of this knowledge would best be directed in the area of Horticulture and refine your research specific to trees, rather than the other way around. The American Horticultural Society should be helpful in linking you to someone who knows the details specific for propagating oaks from cuttings.

I hope this is helpful and I hope you'll be successful.

Lea Sloan
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Re: Growing Acorns into Oaks

Post by Lea Sloan » Thu Jan 08, 2015 1:34 pm

Wow - I should have asked these questions a long time ago. Great advice! I have a couple of raised-bed gardens (like you describe, Larry). I think that should be a good starting place for my acorns. And also re: the fungi-sphere. No wonder! Many, many thanks.

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Re: Growing Acorns into Oaks

Post by DwainSchroeder » Fri Jan 09, 2015 11:13 pm

I agree with all of the advice on planting acorns. They can be stored over winter and planted in spring, but I've had good success in planting them in the fall, adding some leaf litter over the top to mimic a woods environment; and then definitely providing protection from squirrels, mice, etc

I find it interesting that acorns from the white oak family sprout in the fall and set a root in Sept/Oct. The red oak family acorns lay dormant until spring. My understanding is that white oak acorns are rather sweet and tasty to wildlife while the red oak acorns are somewhat bitter. The theory is that the white oak acorns sprout early as a means of survival because the quicker they sprout the less appealing they are as a food source. Red oak acorns have a better chance of laying around until spring and then they sprout. It makes sense....

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