En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Thursday - April 27, 2006

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Fertilizer and application for live oak trees
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

What do I use to feed live oak trees? How do I apply the fertilzer?

ANSWER:

A standard fertilizer should be fine. One landscaper I interviewed advised an 8-2-4 compost-based fertilizer, meaning 8% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus, and 4% potassium. Others weren't so specific as to proportions, saying only "standard" or "regular."

All my informants said that if the tree is a naturally occurring specimen that has survived on its own without human intervention and still looks good, nothing may be needed. However, if the tree is now surrounded by new construction that may have damaged its roots, a fertilizer with significant phosphorus for root growth will help it adjust. Significant phosphorus will also be needed if your tree is a newly planted purchase that you want to encourage to spread its roots beyond its root ball.

All said that surface applications are best. Spread the fertilizer from near, but not on, the trunk, to a foot past the extent of the leaves.

A couple of friends of mine have maintained beautiful live oaks for two decades with little more than compost applied two or three inches thick from near the base of the tree to just past the dripline.

A deep, slow, soaking watering just after you fertilize will insure that the nutrients get to the roots. Doing it just before a good rain is even better.

Whatever you use should be applied once or twice a year. The most important time to fertilize is in early spring, just before new foliage appears, to help fuel the new growth. Though considered evergreen, live oaks (Quercus fusiformis, Quercus virginiana, or hybrids between the two) actually lose all their leaves in early to mid-spring, but the new growth appears about the same time that the old leaves drop, so most trees never look bare.

A second application in early summer can help fortify the tree during the harsh Central Texas heat.
 

More Trees Questions

Evergreen for inland San Diego, California
November 28, 2009 - I'm looking for an evergreen tree for my inland San Diego residence, 30 foot max height, growth speed is not important. I had decided on the carrotwood until I found your site and discovered the prob...
view the full question and answer

Privacy Trees for Pleasanton, CA
April 30, 2014 - I was looking for some fast growing trees for my backyard that backs up to Valley Ave in Pleasanton, Ca. The city just cut down 4 Redwoods behind me and there is so much noise from the traffic now Ca...
view the full question and answer

Young oak damaged by falling tree from San Diego TX
June 27, 2012 - My neighbor's Palo Blanco tree was struck by lightning and fell over our fence and on to a young oak tree in our yard. We waited a few days to see if the neighbor would offer help, but he never did,...
view the full question and answer

Seed germination for sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
December 15, 2007 - How can I germinate sugar maple?(step by step, please) I have some seeds but can't make them grow directly outside, so could you recommend a method which takes place inside?! I've heard something ab...
view the full question and answer

Small to medium specimen native tree for Texas Hill Country
August 20, 2004 - Can you recommend a small to med. 'specimen' tree to plant near our patio? Full sun, drought tolerant, interesting during different seasons. Thought about Blanco Crabapple, Rusty Blackhaw, Smoke Tr...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center