live oak in a northern zone

castorcrap(z5 wv & z6 Md)October 9, 2005

Hello, Does anyone know what to do w/ a live oak species in a zone where it cannot perform its natural evergreen characteristic. Im thinking of letting frost will kill off the leaves then putting the pot in my garage for the winter, keeping it a little damp. Is this bad for a tree who normally is evergreen? will it bud back? If I was able to put it in a green house, would that be bad, because maybee it needs to go through a cold spell cycle?

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mrgreengenes(5 Chicago)

I suspect that even if you store a subtropical live oak in your zone 5-6 garage it will most likely be in the compost heap in late spring. Most trees can tolerate slightly colder temperatures if they are sheltered from the wind and other elements but depending on the species you are talking about, could be just too much colder than this would be able to tolerate. If you are considering making a purchase I would advise against it but if you have already made the purchase and are considering what to do next might I suggest an unheated basement that would stay between 45-50 degrees with some floresent shop lights set close to the canopy and a small osillating fan to move air around so it doesn't suffer fungal disease. Good luck -G

    Bookmark   October 9, 2005 at 6:41PM
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castorcrap(z5 wv & z6 Md)

Thankyou, so you recomend not letting frost kill the leaves, and to keep it evergreen instead by bringing it in soon and putting lots of light on it?

    Bookmark   October 10, 2005 at 8:06AM
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There's a member of this forum (Mark Rockwell?) that keeps a Live oak (from Texas?) in VA., I think. I seem to recall him noting that his live oak rootball will freeze solid in his winter cold frame with no ill effect. Havn't seen him here lately so I don't know if he's still around to answer your question.


    Bookmark   October 10, 2005 at 8:30AM
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mrgreengenes(5 Chicago)

If I'm not mistaken Mark is over on BT. It may very well be that he does have a live oak that does tolerate a good solid freeze once in a while but somethings to keep in mind are that there are more than one species of live oak and even variation in cold hardiness between the same species can be found from tree to tree depending on the location of the seed source. Another thing to add is that mark is at least zone 6 probably more like zone 7.

Castorcrap knowing the particular species you have and the area where it was either collected or where the seed source is from is probably the most accurate way of detemining the cold hardiness of your tree and figuring out the best way to care for it. -G

    Bookmark   October 10, 2005 at 9:15AM
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Indeed it is important to know which species you intend to use. If you mean the southeastern species Quercus virginiana or it's more unusual relatives, I agree that defoliation followed by a long dark dormancy will spell its death. You may have better success with one of the semi-evergreen species such as Q. laurifolia. However, either way a cold frame or greenhouse is the ticket in my opinion. Mature trees of southeastern oaks endure temperatures well into the teens, so anything above 20F should be OK as long as the pot doesn't freeze solid. I also would avoid long cold dormancy. These trees don't go fully dormant in the winter they just slow down. PF

    Bookmark   October 10, 2005 at 4:35PM
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I live in Evansville, IN, and have a live oak planted in the ground. It has no problem surviving in this climate, although they may defoliate during extended periods below 32F. As with any deciduous that defoliates, it will re-bud in the spring. It is no way protected from sun, wind or climate, any more than any other tree in the neighborhood, and it does just fine. (0F low has occurred). I also have a few sabal minors (dwarf palmettos, and several windmill and european palms (one is 6ft) that grow well in this climate. Go figure, palms in S. Indiana!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2005 at 9:46AM
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Today I had to have a large tree removed that was struck by lightening and the gap is depressing. I would love to be able to plant a live oak and have never really accepted that it could not survive in zone 6. Your post gave me some hope that if it could make it in Evansville, Indiana, perhaps St Louis is possible. Please tell me more about your live oak - did you plant it yourself or was it there already? If you did plant it, how old is it and where did you get it (local nursery or mail order?) About how tall and wide is it? Do you know what species? I do not care if it drops leaves for the winter as long as it survives! I have looked at willow oak but they do not have the beautiful horizontal habit of the live oak. Any help or info would be much appreciated

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 9:00PM
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To LOL - Frewworld may never see your posting - his was from last Nov., and I'm not sure he's ever come back... see if you can PM or EM him from his profile.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 5:28AM
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rjj1(Norman OK Zone7)

I live in zone 7. The Texas Live Oak can be found naturally occurring about 80 miles southwest of here. In my area it has been planted in the landscape. During a cold winter they will defoliate, but most of the time they keep some if not all of their foliage.

Part of what gives them that look is their environment and great age. I seriously doubt either of us will see that type of growth in our zones. Even Live Oak planted here in the 70's doesn't look like the beautiful specimens you see in the south Texas scrub country.


I'm unsure why Freeworld would call them deciduous. Makes me wonder if he knows what a live oak is.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 12:23PM
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If they drop their leaves in the cold they ARE deciduous - that's what it means.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 3:51PM
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rjj1(Norman OK Zone7)

Dear Lucy

Texas Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) is an evergreen, not a deciduous tree based on the scientific description. The fact that it "might" drop all of it's leaves doesn't change the fact that it's an evergreen.

You don't change it to a deciduous tree merely because some choose to grow it outside it's normal environment. An evergreen is an evergreen no matter where it's grown.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 4:20PM
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actually, most books describe live oak a species that is highly adaptable and behaves like a deciduous tree in the northern limit of it's range. I'm thinking of trying some as a street tree here in Amarillo.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 12:11PM
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To LiveOakLover....3 yrs later....Still have the live oak growing in evansville, it's probably 17-20ft tall and 4 inch diameter trunk, tall. It didn't lose much of it's leaves this past winter and just started branching horizontal this year. I picked up the tree in Panama City, FL at Home Depot for $10....probably 4ft at the time.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 9:39PM
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I've got a 15ft Sandjack Oak aka. Sand Live Oak, which is a taller straighter variety of Coast Live oak. It is doing fine in Louisville, Kentucky and stays completely green until early March when the green leaves suddenly all will fall off within a few days as if the tree is dead. Then by the early to mid april it rapidly will leaf back out again with little pink leaves at first. I also have two 25ft Chapman Oaks, which are also evergreen southern oaks with wider leaves and grow very fast. I've been surprised how well they have all survived on my property and my neighbors constantly ask what kind of trees they are. It rarely drops below zero here in metro Louisville or stays below freezing for more than a couple days at a time. But once a few years ago it got several degrees below zero and my evergreen oaks only lost about 10% of their leaves. But,if the high stays below 30 degrees for more than 5 days in a row EVERYTHING that is evergreen loses lots of leaves, even some dieback occurs. So its the duration of the cold that matters more than the actual low temps on brief cold snaps.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 3:09AM
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Just an update on my live oak. All is well after an extended cold winter. It did dEfoliate this winter, except for a few leaves, but it's mid-July and it has all it's leaves back. So far this season it's probably added 5ft in height and 2ft in width. Palms made it through no problem, and my windmill is nearing 15ft. Needles and dwarf palmettos along with loquats made it through without any issues. Pindo palm lost 75% of its leaves but is sprout new ones. Planted a Russian pomegranate this spring. My cd hardy orange had no issues and has added 2ft so far.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 11:47PM
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VAsouthern(8a VA)

Southern Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) grow naturally in the South from southeastern Virginia, south to Florida, and west to Texas. Southeastern Virginia used to be zone 7b, but is now zone 8a, and our live oaks keep their leaves all year round. Frosts and freezes shouldn't kill the leaves unless the temperatures are severely cold. This winter, our lowest night time temperature was 18 degrees, and they're all doing great as usual.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 8:41PM
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A new update, live oak is now 25ft talk with an 8" diameter trunk...planted a Russian Pomegranate a year ago and it beared it's first fruit this year. Also planted kiwis a few years ago and they are our of control. All palms are living happily and my big windmill is now 16 ft tall. Global warming or not you can have a heart southern landscape in the mid west. Have a 3 year old bitter lemon, but it's never had fruit. Does anyone know if they are self fertile?

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 6:39PM
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I often wondered if Quercus virginiana would survive my rather mild winters here in The Bronx, NYC. Generally speaking Jan.-Feb. are the worst months for cold weather, and temps. have been known to dip down into the low teens...however, mostly the temps. are in the 30s and low 40s for the majority of the Winter months, with nights 10 degrees colder.

This thread started a long time ago, and most of the discussion revolves around IN-GROUND trees....not bonsai, Live Oak. My predictions....without any experiences growing this tree....the "Live Oak" (bonsai) will die unless very well protected. Maybe a cool greenhouse will do. If I could grow "Live Oak" without problems....then I would try...but I hate failure.

Please speculations are only concerning BONSAI "Live Oak". In 7-b NYC climates, it may very well be possible to keep certain strains of Q. virginiana alive. Strange though...I have never ever seen one growing in any Botanical Gardens, private estates, or growing anywhere in this area. Maybe that's a clue.

Do you think I could grow Olive trees successfully, up in NYC?


    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 6:34AM
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che_perry(7, Coastal Va)

I have personally seen live oaks at the national arboretum in DC. In addition a number of the live oaks in the VA Beach area are estimated to be in the 500+ year old range. Without doubt they have experienced some incredibly cold weather in their lifetimes.... The RECORDED all time low is -11 for VA Beach atypical yes but there are many trees which have survived that or lower in the area. It is conceivable that with a given number of diverse seedlings some will push the current boundaries.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 10:48PM
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Bronxfigs-I have several olive bonsai that I grew outside while in albany N.Y. but wintered them inside as house plants. After several years without olives I studied up on them and found that olives need a cold spell above freezing to prepare to flower. Now I am in Iowa and I am wintering them over in a cold attic in a south window with added artificial light. Still no flowers last year but this year I have shortened the light hours to match normal winter hours.As house plants they always lost 2/3 of their leaves by spring but in the attic they keep most of their leaves.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 12:19AM
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joeinmo 6b-7a


Very interesting that your live oak can withstand the cold in Evansville.

Do you have any pics of it?

Is it a Quercus Virginiana? - During a hard cold spell in Dallas Texas about 10 years ago they died off or were damaged by thousands, only the Quercus Fusiformis variety live oaks survived unscathed. Both are evergreen, but the Fusiformis leaves are smaller.

I live in SW Missouri about 5 hours from the Texas border and even here were we have a fairly mild climate in the Ozarks it's marginal. I have 3 and they all do fine and don't defoliate in the winter. I have Fusiformis variety

Post a photo if you can

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 7:21PM
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