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Wednesday - August 26, 2009

From: Denton, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Distance apart to plant oaks in Denton TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How far apart should I plant Pin Oaks and Shumard Red Oaks in our yard? All around us are native oaks, but our backyard has none. I want to create a "forest" that looks like they are native, but not too close together to compete with each other.

ANSWER:

Was there some particular reason you chose those two oaks? Quercus palustris (pin oak) is not only not native to Denton County, it's not native to Texas, at all, but is more a southeastern tree. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we recommend only plants that are native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. Here are the Growing Conditons for pin oaks from our Native Plant Database:

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet , Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Heavy, poorly drained soils.
Conditions Comments: One of the faster growing oaks. Tolerates wet feet. Intolerant of alkaline soils. Susceptible to iron chlorosis which causes yellow coloration in the leaves through the summer months and can eventually kill the tree. Somewhat tolerant of city conditions.

It is a pretty adaptable tree, but you might consider an alternative native to your part of Texas. Two oak trees that we would suggest for your consideration and that grow in North Central Texas are Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak) and Quercus muehlenbergii (chinkapin oak)

Quercus shumardii (Shumard's oak) is a red oak, one of the categories of oak most threatened by oak wilt. In this excerpt from a recent previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer, we discussed that problem:

"We urge you to consider carefully the species of Quercus (oak) you select. The spectre of oak wilt hangs over Texas, and it has been devastating in many areas. From the Texas Oak Wilt Information Partnership (in which the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a partner), please read this article on the disease. Live oaks and red oaks are most susceptible. These include live oaks Quercus fusiformis (plateau oak) and Quercus virginiana (live oak), as well as red oaks such as Quercus shumardii (Shumard's oak)  and Quercus buckleyi (Buckley oak). "

To get back to your original question. Here is an article on planting oak trees from lovetoknow Garden Oak Tree Planting. They actually mention (or recommend) some of the very oaks we are trying to discourage you from using, but perhaps the writers of that article don't live where there is oak wilt. From that article, we excerpted this passage on the distance apart that oaks should be planted:

"Choose a spot for your oak tree that’s far enough away from the house, power lines, or outbuildings so that as the tree grows, its branches won’t get tangled in anything important and it won’t be in danger of falling onto a building. Remember that oaks can grow very large, so space it away from other trees as well, leaving at least twenty feet or more of space between the oak tree and its nearest neighbor." 

You didn't say how large your yard is, but as big as some of these oaks can get, one of them would be a forest on a small residential property.  And one more warning, (we know you're getting tired of being told what NOT to do), please read this previous answer on why plants would not grow in a grove of oaks in Houston. Depending on how much space you have, you might consider selecting some smaller, less disease-prone trees for your garden.

Since you shouldn't even think about planting or purchasing a tree while it is still so hot and dry in Texas, spend some time waiting for late Fall researching some other tree choices. Go to our Recommended Species section, click on North Central Texas on the map, and select "tree" under Habit, click on the "Narrow Your Search" box at the bottom of the column. You can follow the plant links of trees you are interested in and find out if they are deciduous, how big they get, what color and when they bloom and details on their uses.

By the way, in your part of Texas, we're betting at least some of the oaks around your neighborhood are  Quercus stellata (post oak). Post oak is the most common oak throughout Texas. The typical places to see it are sites with sandy or gravelly soils. Its acorns are an important food source for deer, squirrels, wild turkeys and other wildlife. Larval host for several butterfly species. This plant is common in the central and southern forest regions, where it is a medium-sized tree. This is the ultimate drought resistant tree, but also grows in soggy, flatwoods soils. In dry portions of the western part of its range it is smaller. Its roots are extremely sensitive to disturbance. Susceptible to oak wilt. Not often used in landscape situations. Slow-growing and long-lived. You virtually can't buy it from a nursery, because it is so difficult to transplant. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Quercus palustris

Quercus shumardii

Quercus macrocarpa

Quercus muehlenbergii

 

 

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