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planting a oak

Posted by tj-oak (My Page) on
Thu, May 7, 09 at 8:42

I have a Live Oak in a 15 gal. pot, It was grown from a seed from last season. It's about 8'' tall. Someone told me to cut the bottom out of the pot and plant the pot in the grownd, also to deep water it right next to the pot. He said that would make the roots have to grow out the bottom of the pot and it would be for sure that your roots would be on a good stsrt. What do you guy think????

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: planting a oak

Roots probably circling the pot already and keeping in can won't straighten out the roots. If this were me I'd be as gentle as possible and try to transplant & think good thoughts while you do it and hope for the best.


RE: planting a oak

That's a decent size pot for that size seedling, so the tree is unlikely to be potbound. When you remove the tree from the pot to plant it, check the bottom of the rootball to ensure the taproot hasn't curled up at the bottom of the container. If it has, cut it just above the bend.

The person that gave you advise about leaving it in the pot was unfamiliar with the topic. I would not seek further advise from them regarding plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: Planting a Tree or Shrub

RE: planting a oak

Yikes, I was going to suggest that we get the address and all go over and give him 20 whacks.

RE: planting a oak

  • Posted by brandon7 6b (like 7b now) TN (My Page) on
    Thu, May 7, 09 at 15:06

Better to put him in a straight jacket and tighten it up until his circulation stopped. That way he'd have an idea of what the poor oak would feel like.

RE: planting a oak

wait a minute..

an 8 inch tree in 15 gals ...

or an 8 foot???

where are you??? depending on zone.. it might be too late to do the bare root thing ... you might be better off holding the tree until proper fall planting ...

is it fully dormant or leafed out..

what is your soil ...

what is the media in the pot? potting soil or earth?

give us some real facts to work with.. and we can give you an answer ...

as to the advice you got ... lunacy .... thank god you had enough sense to come ask


RE: planting a oak

so the tree is unlikely to be potbound.

This is true, but circling roots are to be avoided. And IMHO cutting root tips then putting them into soil teeming with critters and pathogens is to be avoided as well. YMMV.

But I do like the straitjacket idear...


RE: planting a oak

Grown from a seed from spring 2008? If so, this tree must still be a whip. Even so it is not a good idea to remove it from the pot after it has already broken dormancy.

Even if you unpotted it there is a good chance that you will have trouble determining which root is actually the tap root, since it is better not to dislodge the potting soil from the roots while the tree has already broken dormancy.

Are you wanting to plant this tree in an area of the county that gets cold enough for the tree to go dormant in the winter? I know that live oaks usually retain their leaves even through the winter months.

In my area the broadleaf evergreens are best planted during the December months when they go dormant, even though they still retain their leaves.

If you are located in a USDA zone 8 then your live oak might go dormant, even though it's leaves should remain on the tree, for a short time during January of 2010. I am not certain of that though, and certainly do not think it would go dormant at all if it is located in USDA temperate zones 9 and above.

For those reasons, I would suggest planting it as soon as possible into a bed that drains as well as the potting soil where it is now growing while still potted. Only use planting methods which will not disturb the rootball.

This year old whip's root system probably is not very well developed as of yet, and it seems reasonable that if you plant it in a bed that is as well draining, and consisting of the type of soil which will not prevent the roots from spreading, then the tree should still be young enough to develop a good root growth pattern and mature to become a well established and healthy tree.

Do though, first check the tree's upper most roots growing out the whip's trunk. These roots should not show any signs of circling around the trunk or root ball, if they do, don't plant this tree. It would be far better and much less trouble to find a young field grown B&B live oak, and plant it in the dormant season, if possible.

RE: planting a oak

  • Posted by brandon7 6b (like 7b now) TN (My Page) on
    Thu, May 7, 09 at 16:57

If planting out now, leaving the rootball intact is probably best even if it's in potting soil. Yeah, yeah, not ideal, but pretty standard practice and gives the tree a better chance for survival when planted this late in the season. I think it will be just fine.

Removing the tree (rootball intact) from the pot should not be any problem at all. Leaving it in the pot throughout the growing season and letting it get that's a problem.

Cutting the taproot...not a great idea IF not required, but if the taproot (which should be obvious to ID in this case, BTW, if it's already reached the bottom of the pot) has been deflected (bent against the bottom of the pot), it should be pruned. The soil pathogens are something the tree will deal with anyway (roots are constantly getting nibbled, etc). Leaving the taproot j-rooted would not be wise.

I agree that the tree should not be planted with circling roots. A little root manipulation can solve a small amount of this even now without problem. But, if much is required, buying another tree and planting as Katrina describes would be the way to go.

RE: planting a oak

We used to do quite a bit of reveg work with native oak in CA and the best thing to do is plant acorns. Pots, as Brandon sez, are problematic with taproots and as mentioned above & detailed by katrina, transplanting oaks is problematic on a good day.

Give 'er a whirl and don't invest too much emotion in the thing and if you really want some oaks, find a tree you like with good fall color nearby and take those acorns, or one with fine form, or one larger than most...


RE: planting a oak

Live Oaks do well with having those (short-lived) tap roots chopped early. Their natural root system is devoid of tap roots, relying on a very dense, shallow, wide spread fibrous system. They actually transplant very well from the field and are also grown by the jillions in containers of varying sizes.

Trust me, Live oaks are the most over-used tree for new development in the South. Well, along with Bradfords and Crapemyrtles.

Dorie (formerly from Live Oak territory)

RE: planting a oak

"live Oaks do well with having those (short-lived) tap roots.."


I have been surprised when I unpotted some 10 and larger gallon potted sized Shumard and Scarlet oaks while they were dormant, to see how difficult it was to tell which root was their tap root. While growing in the pot, these trees' tap roots seemed to take on the same look as all the other roots. The only way I could tell which one was the tap root was by first locating where a tap root should have grown out of the trunk. Then following that root through the root ball.

The only oaks that I have not had this much difficulty to identify the tap root were the tree saplings that I dug from the ground during the first spring season as they had sprouted from an acorn. It took only for me to dig a shovel depth that was about double the height of the sapling to remove the sapling with out damaging its tap root. In that case the tap roots looked clearly as one would expect a tap root to appear. this is even so when the tap root had grown out of an acorn that rested on its side, where the tap root subsequently did a nearly 45 degree angle turn to begin its penetration into the soil. Even in those situations the young sapling had adjusted and developed the proper beginnings toward it having a good root structure.

Those young saplings are the only oak's that survived for me when I dug and transplanted them after they had broken dormancy. Most whip size and even larger potted tree sizes though ended up dieing for me whenever I tried to transplant them after they had broken dormancy.

About 4 years ago, I did get three 15 and 20 gallon sized potted oaks that had begun to change their leaf color in the fall to survive. At the time of planting, these trees were about 1 to 1/2 inch caliper and about 9-10 feet tall. When unpotting these trees, I was amazed to see how the root ball appeared as if all three of these trees had adaped their root balls into the form of tree which usually does not develop a long tap root. Still I did not consider to be not late enough in the growing season for me feel certain I should bare root these trees and lay out the tree's roots in a manner which would reveal which root the tree, once planted, would develop into its tap root.

After determing the tree's root flare were spreading properly and I untangled any roots I saw that had begun to circle the pot, I simply planted them without further disturbance of their root balls. After planting I never gave them supplimental water, but did plant them on a small rise at the lowest point in the gently sloping lot and did have two, not very deep, swells installed in a manner to direct the lot's surface rain-runoff to slowly run off the lot in a path that was very near just north and for a bit less runoff to flow South of these trees, yet not too far from them, either.

I am not certain if an oak tree that has changed it's leaf color can be considered a tree, which has gone dormant, but I must have planted these trees when they were far enough in the process toward going dormant, and maybe found success because I also had planted them when the enviromental exposures on them created a more condusive environment for them to survive well as initally they had to put more of their efforts into developing a good root system instead of like in the Spring when the trees would have been more about producing leaves, which would have transpired more of the moisture than the tree's, not yet well established, root system could supply.

These 3 oak trees established well enough that, after 4 years later, they are still very healthy and have grown several feet taller, developed even better branching structure, and have more than doubled, maybe even, tripled in trunk caliper.

Of course the oaks I planted were not Live oaks, and your live Oak tree quite reasonably could respond completely different.

RE: planting a oak

Another thing, tj....trying to make the root system of your Live Oak seedling grow DOWN is not getting it off to a good start (as per your original post). The roots will thrive where there is plenty of oxygen, moisture, micro-organisms. All of that activity occurs very close to the surface.

Again, Live Oaks transplant very nicely from containers, all year 'round.

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