How to Grow English Oak

English Oak Tree (Quercus robur)

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The English oak (Quercus robur) is a stately tree best known for being part of the forests and landscapes of England. It is a large species that is more commonly found in public settings like parks, though it can certainly be grown in larger home gardens if you have space. This oak tree species may live for hundreds of years. There are also columnar varieties available so you can have the look of English oak in a much narrower space.

Oak trees are classified into different groups within the genus. Quercus robur is considered to be part of the white oaks. This slow-growing oak is also considered to be the type species, making it the best example of the oak tree genus. It is best to plant an acorn between mid-fall and early spring; the acorn will germinate in four to six weeks. An English oak grows at approximately one foot a year.

Botanical Name Quercus robur 
Common Names English oak, pedunculate oak
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 40–60 ft. tall, 40–60 ft. wide 
Sun Exposure Full 
Soil Type Loamy, moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral to acidic, alkaline 
Bloom Time  Spring 
Flower Color  Green
Hardiness Zones 5–8 (USDA) 
Native Area Africa, Asia, Europe 
Toxicity Toxic to people and animals

English Oak Care

As with other oak tree species, it is not easy to transplant the English oak since they form a long taproot. The best option is to start an acorn at your planting site. Varieties are propagated through grafting to ensure that their distinguishing characteristics stay true.

The English oak does not grow very fast and usually will not need much, if any, pruning as it will naturally create a pleasing shape over the years. Proper maintenance should include the removal of any parts of the tree that have become dead, damaged, or diseased to help the tree stay healthy.

The mature size for most trees will be 40–60 feet tall and wide, though in the wild it can be over 100 feet tall. In its early years, it has a pyramidal shape. Over time it will form into a round shape. The leaves may turn brown in the autumn and may not fall off until winter.

Light

The English oak grows best in full light, though it can tolerate some shade.

Soil

Quercus robur is able to tolerate a range of soil pHs from acidic to alkaline. For optimal growth, find a location with soil that stays moist but still provides good drainage.

Water

English oak trees prefer occasional irrigation. They can, however, tolerate relatively mild drought.

Temperature and Humidity

This tree is not temperature or humidity sensitive, though it is best suited for zones 5 to 8. The tree can grow in sheltered spots in zone 4, though freezes can be damaging or even deadly.

Is English Oak Toxic?

Most species of oak are toxic to humans and animals (including horses, cattle, and dogs) due to the harmful tannins that can be found on bark, leaves, and especially acorns. White oak trees contain lower levels of this chemical than red or black oak trees, but you should still exercise caution around them and keep your pets away from acorns. Your pet would likely need to eat a large number of leaves or acorns (relative to the animal's size) to be affected to a degree that would be harmful. The risk of oak poisoning in humans is low. We even see acorns in food, but they have been processed in a way that removes the tannins.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Symptoms of poisoning in horses include loss of appetite, foaming at the mouth, constipation leading to diarrhea, elevated temperature, frequent urination, and more. The first symptom of poisoning in cattle is blood-tinged diarrhea. Symptoms of poisoning in dogs include drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and abdominal pain. In humans, an upset stomach is the main symptom.

English Oak Varieties

You will need an extra-large yard if you wish to grow one of these oaks. They also are used in public gardens and parks.

  • Fastigiata and Skyrocket are columnar varieties that spread up to 15 feet wide, making it possible for more people to plant Quercus robur in their landscapes.
  • Pendula has branches that create a weeping form.
  • Filicifolia and Dissecta bear leaves with a lacy look as the lobes are deeply divided into many narrow sections.
  • As the name suggests, Variegata features leaves variegated with a cream color.
  • The Atropurpurea and Purpurea varieties boast stunning purple leaves.
  • Concordia offers golden-hued foliage.

Common Diseases

This oak tree species is noted to be resistant to sudden oak death at this time. The biggest problem English oak faces is the unattractive presence of powdery mildew. Anthracnose can also be an issue in wet conditions, causing leaf drop. Regular fertilization will help to combat canker diseases. Some possible diseases that do not need to be treated include shoestring root rot, leaf blister, and leaf spots.