The best way to Develop and Look after Willow Oak Bushes

Quercus phellos

What would you create in case you may cross an oak and a willow? The willow oak!

Not actually a hybrid of the 2, it’s an oak by means of and thru, full with acorns. However you may mistake the slender leaves for these of a willow.

Willow oak is a favourite of wildlife, making every kind of birds, in addition to squirrels and different herbivores, extraordinarily glad.

Watching the chipmunks and squirrels gather the nuts for storage must be one in every of my favourite issues to do within the fall.

A horizontal landscape shot of an ornamental willow oak tree in autumn filled with orange colored foliage.

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This isn’t your mom’s oak, although. Properly, until your mom grew one in every of these.

There are numerous cultivars which have an upright, slender progress behavior that makes them excellent for parking strips and much, and planting nearer to houses than you may be capable of put a tree in any other case.

They’re straightforward to develop and extra immune to issues than another species within the Quercus genus, as nicely.

Let’s speak all issues willow oak. Right here’s the lineup of what we’ll talk about on this information:

For those who’d like a rundown of all the professionals and cons of willow oaks, please go to our information (coming quickly!).

Able to get rising? Let’s dive in.

Cultivation and Historical past

The willow oak additionally goes by the names pin, peach, and swamp chestnut oak.

“Quercus” is the Latin phrase for oak and “phellos” is Latin for cork, a reference to the feel of the bark of older specimens.

However don’t confuse it with Q. suber, which has the widespread identify “cork oak.” The latter is native to Europe and is used to supply the cork you already know and love for making boards and sealing wine bottles.

Willow oaks are, as you most likely guessed, a part of the oak household.

This species is within the crimson oak group and grows indigenously throughout the southeastern US and up the japanese seaboard as far north as New Jersey and as far south as northern Florida, and to the west throughout Texas and Oklahoma.

It’s additionally grown throughout the US in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9 as a decorative.

Willow oaks are an vital supply of meals for wildlife. They develop finest in moist places like low-lying areas, close to streams or irrigation ditches, or on the perimeters of swamps or lakes.

When mature, they will attain over 100 toes tall and half as extensive, however most keep about half that dimension. Bigger specimens are uncommon however not unimaginable – one in Tennessee measured 123 toes tall and 100 toes extensive!

This species does finest beneath about 1,500 toes in altitude.

A horizontal shot of the green foliage on a branch of a willow oak against a bright blue sky.

The leaves are easy, slender, alternate, and inexperienced, with a single bristle on the tip. That little bristle is how one can simply decide that it’s part of the crimson oak group.

The leaves sometimes develop about 4 to 5 inches lengthy and an inch extensive. Gentle inexperienced within the spring, they modify to medium inexperienced in the summertime. 

Through the spring, because the leaves are rising, lengthy greenish-yellow, wind-pollinated catkins kind. These crops are monoecious, which means they’ve each feminine and male elements on every tree.

Within the fall, the leaves flip golden yellow or brownish-yellow. Not like these of pin oaks, they don’t persist on the tree till spring, however quickly drop abruptly within the fall, making cleanup simpler.

The acorns, which take two years to mature, are among the smallest within the genus and most fail to develop even to half an inch in size.

Regardless of their diminutive dimension, the willow oak is a vigorous producer, which suggests there are mature acorns out there yearly, with some on every tree maturing in alternate years for a perpetual annual harvest.

Younger specimens have grey bark, which turns darkish gray-brown with age and develops deep furrows.

The younger seedlings can develop quickly, as much as 5 toes in two years. From there, this species has a average progress price, slowing all the way down to a few foot per yr.

Willow Oak Propagation

Whether or not you purchase a younger plant at a nursery otherwise you need to plant an acorn you discovered, there are a number of methods so as to add this plant to your world.

From Seed

As a result of willow oaks readily hybridize within the wild so propagating seed is unreliable, we don’t advocate this technique. However we’ll give you the define of what’s required in case it’s one thing you’re all for.

The seeds needs to be chilly stratified at 33 to 40°F for 3 months earlier than you plant. The simplest approach of doing that is to place them in moistened sphagnum moss within the fridge. Take away the caps from the acorns first, in the event that they’re nonetheless hooked up.

A vertical close up of a green willow oak acorn against a white background.

Within the spring, when the times are constantly above freezing, put together a seedbed with numerous well-rotted compost and plant every acorn.

Sink every seed about two inches deep and place three or 4 in every space to make sure a minimum of one germinates.

The seeds will be planted about two toes aside in case you plan to transplant among the seedlings, or a minimum of 20 toes aside in case you intend to go away them in place.

Cowl the realm with an inch or so of leaf litter. Hold the soil moist however not moist. If a number of seeds germinate in a single spot, pull the smaller seedlings.

From Cuttings

True willow (Salix spp.) cuttings are exceptionally straightforward to root. Oak willow isn’t fairly really easy. Contemplate it a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Earlier than you begin reducing, work in some well-rotted compost within the space the place you need to plant your new willow oak.

Create a gap within the soil a couple of inches deep utilizing a pencil or chopstick. Create one other gap or two a couple of inches away. 

Search for versatile, pencil-sized branches within the spring. Minimize a six- to nine-inch-long piece at a 45-degree angle, proper beneath a leaf node, and take away all however one or two leaves at tip.

Take a number of cuttings for every tree you need to develop.

A vertical product photo of a small jar of Bontone II Rooting Powder hormone.

Bontone II Rooting Powder

Dip the minimize ends in a rooting hormone like Bontone II Rooting Powder, which you’ll decide up at Arbico Organics in a one-and-a-quarter-ounce container.

Place a reducing within the gap you made and agency the soil up round it. Proceed with a number of extra close by. You need to place about three cuttings in every spot, assuming that one will succeed.

Water the soil nicely and agency it up once more if it loosens and causes the reducing to sink or tip.

Hold the soil moist because the reducing develops. There’s no have to do something however maintain the soil moist till you begin to see new progress develop.

If a number of cuttings in the identical space begin rising new leaves, gently pull all however the strongest one, taking care to not disturb the roots of the remaining reducing.

Heap numerous straw or leaf mulch across the reducing to guard it throughout the winter and take away the protecting layer within the spring when new progress begins.

Starting the following yr, you’ll be able to deal with the plant as you’ll every other sapling.


The most effective time to transplant is within the late fall, winter, or early spring, when the willow oaks are dormant. Willow oaks have a fibrous root system that lends itself nicely to transplanting.

First, put together the realm by working in numerous well-rotted compost and digging a gap twice as extensive and the identical depth because the container your plant got here in.

Gently take away the teenager from the container and loosen up the roots. Decrease it down into the opening and fill in round it with a compost and soil combination.

Water nicely and fill in with extra soil if it settles.

You need the plant to be sitting on the similar stage that it was within the rising medium, with simply the foundation flare the place the foundation ball begins above the soil.

Hold the soil moist to assist the tree because it turns into established.

The best way to Develop Willow Oaks

This can be a pretty fast-growing tree, however not so quick that the wooden is weak and readily falls aside within the slightest breeze.

For those who plant yours in fertile, moist soil, it’s going to develop a lot bigger and sooner than it could in any other case, however it could nonetheless be a sturdy, massive specimen in less-than-ideal situations.

A vertical shot of a large willow oak with green foliage growing in a park.

Moisture lovers, saplings will survive as much as three months of saturated soil, so in case you dwell someplace with soggy winters, they may survive the place different crops might fail.

Mature willow oaks may even tolerate as much as three years of soggy, moist roots.

On the opposite finish of the spectrum, willow oaks will thrive in areas with occasional drought-like situations as soon as established.

Word that satisfactory moisture is especially vital for younger crops, however overwatering can sluggish progress.

Intention to maintain the soil moist round younger crops after which solely irrigate established crops during times of drought.

A horizontal photo of a row of willow oaks tree along a sidewalk in a park.
Editorial Credit score:  Marinodenisenko /

Q. phellos requires acidic soil with a pH of 4.5 to five.5 and full solar. It may tolerate clay soil, making it a great possibility when you have heavy earth. It’s additionally tolerant of air pollution.

At about 15 to twenty years after planting, the tree might be mature sufficient to supply acorns, which is far youthful than most oaks.

It’s potential for a late freeze to defoliate the willow oak and kill any flowers.

The tree will recuperate and develop a second set of leaves, but it surely received’t develop a second spherical of catkins. Which means no batch of acorns.

There’s no have to feed your willow oak until a soil check reveals a deficiency. You do an annual soil check, proper?

Rising Suggestions

  • Plant in full solar.
  • Hold the soil moist for bushes below 5 years outdated.
  • Water throughout occasions of drought for older specimens.
  • Fertilize provided that your soil has a deficiency.

Pruning and Upkeep

It’s vital to prune younger willow oaks to encourage a wholesome, sturdy central chief.

Which means you need a single, principal trunk that goes all the best way up the middle of the tree, reasonably than a number of trunks as the cover expands.

While you first plant your willow oak, trim off any competing trunks so you may have one robust, principal trunk. Minimize the competing trunks off on the base utilizing a pair of pruners or a noticed.

From there, it’s a matter of upkeep. When the tree is younger, you’ll be able to take away any crossing or rubbing branches to create form and open the cover.

Because it will get older, it’s going to most likely be too massive so that you can do that, however be happy to interrupt out a tree noticed in case you see an issue or seek the advice of an expert arborist.

In any other case, take away any damaged, diseased, broken, or lifeless branches as you see them.

Willow Oak Cultivars and Hybrids to Choose

Relying on the place you reside, you may solely be capable of discover the species. However there’s nothing unsuitable with that – the species is unimaginable!

A square product photo of a willow oak tree in a natural setting.

Willow Oak

If you would like one of many commonplace willow oaks, go to Quick Rising Bushes for a four- to five-, five- to six-, or six- to seven-foot dwell specimen.

For those who’re all for among the cultivars which were developed in recent times, listed below are some wonderful choices:

Excessive Tower

Q. phellos ‘Qpsta’ can stretch as much as 65 toes tall and 45 extensive. The foliage is darker inexperienced than the species. 

It has gained a repute as the best landscaping tree close to roadways and buildings as a result of it develops a robust central chief naturally, and the branches develop up reasonably than out, leaving roads and walkways clear for visitors.

The leaves flip vibrant yellow within the fall. The one draw back is that it’s barely much less hardy than the species, appropriate for Zones 6 to 9.


‘Greenenvy,’ also referred to as Kingpin®, was bred by grower Sam Rogers at Daring Spring Nursery in Hawkinsville, Georgia.

Its foliage is dramatically darker than the species and the expansion is extra upright, with a distinguished central chief.


‘Pillow’ or pink-willow oak (Q. x schociana) is a hybrid cross between Q. palustris and Q. phellos.

A horizontal photo of the yellow and orange fall colored leaves of a willow oak tree.

It was present in a German nursery the place it was cultivated by Hofgartner Schoch and named by botanist George Dieck in 1887, in honor of its breeder.

It grows to about 50 toes tall with a spherical crown and far showier, vibrant crimson fall foliage than the willow species. New leaves in spring emerge with a touch of pink.


Quick-growing, with a robust central chief and an upright progress behavior, Upperton® (Q. phellos ‘RT3’) is ideal for parking heaps, areas subsequent to buildings, and areas alongside roadways.

It was cultivated by Georgia grower Ray Tate after he took a reducing of a promising specimen with prolific, uniform branching that was situated in a car parking zone island.

When mature it grows 60 toes tall and 40 toes extensive and is hardy in Zones 6 to 9.


‘Wynstar’ or ‘QPMTF’ has rusty orange leaves within the fall, making the mature 80-foot tree a dramatic point of interest.

It has a extra uniform and upright progress behavior than the species.

Managing Pests and Illness

Deer will feed on younger crops, however as soon as the willow oaks develop massive sufficient, these critters will ignore them.

To learn to defend your crops till they’re sufficiently old to be secure, try our information to managing deer.

Willow oaks are extraordinarily vulnerable to acid rain with a pH beneath 3.2. You probably have younger bushes, defend them throughout storms and soak the soil afterwards to flush it.

Hogs are extraordinarily keen on the fallen acorns, however they received’t usually hassle a mature specimen.


Basically, pests received’t dramatically injure a mature tree. They’re extra of a nuisance that may trigger unsightliness. However younger bushes can typically be killed.

Fortuitously, pests are uncommon on willow oaks. Simply in case you occur to come across a problem, listed below are those to observe for:


Borers are normally solely troublesome on pressured, younger, or sickly bushes.

Purple oak borers (Enaphalodes rufulus), residing beech borers (Goes pulverulentus), and carpenterworm borers (Prionoxystus robiniae) may infest Q. phellos, in addition to another species, relying on the place you reside. They’re widespread in japanese North America.

Most species lay eggs within the bark of bushes within the fall the place they overwinter, rising as larvae within the spring.

As soon as they mature the grownup beetles chew their approach out of the trunk, forsaking noticeable holes, and the life cycle continues.

The holes are smaller than these left behind by woodpeckers. Talking of, woodpeckers are the perfect management of borers, so thank them in case you see any round!

More often than not an infestation is not any massive deal, and you may simply let nature take its course. However on younger or already sick bushes, there most likely isn’t a lot you are able to do however take away the specimen.

Chemical therapies aren’t actually efficient for the reason that bugs disguise contained in the tree for almost all of their life cycle. The most effective you are able to do is assist your tree with acceptable watering, pruning, and feeding, if wanted.


Oak leafhoppers (Platycotis vittata) are available many alternative colour mixtures however all have a “horn” protruding out the entrance.

For those who view them from head on, they’ve a triangular look.

A horizontal photo of young treehopper nymphs on a limb of a tree.

These bugs have sucking mouthparts that they inject into the tree to suck out the sap.

Though they’re funky and possibly slightly scary to have a look at, they received’t significantly injury your tree, so don’t fear about treating them.

They will unfold ailments however none that threaten willow oaks.

Oak Skeletonizers

Bucculatrix ainsliella, the oak skeletonizer, will get its identify as a result of the larvae of those moths feed on the underside of the leaves.

They go away behind simply the veins and these clear little “home windows” of the leaf stay, like a skeleton. These leaves finally dry up and drop.

On a longtime willow oak, you don’t have to do something. But when greater than half of the tree is defoliated, or if the tree is younger or pressured already, you will want to deal with it.

Bacillus thurengiensis v. kurstaki (Btk) is extremely efficient in opposition to the larvae.

A vertical product photo of a container of Bonide Thuricide against a white background.

Bonide Thuricide

Choose up a twig that accommodates this useful micro organism, like Bonide’s Thuricide.

It’s out there at Arbico Organics in quart- and gallon-sized ready-to-spray choices, or eight- and 16-ounce focus.

Spray the tree in late spring and once more in late summer season, in case there are two generations.


Oak bushes will be vulnerable to ailments, however willow oaks much less so. They aren’t magic, although.

They will nonetheless contract ailments, however the an infection most likely received’t kill your tree.


Anthracnose is a standard illness in oaks, although it’s a bit much less widespread on this species. It’s brought on by the fungus Apiognomonia errabunda, which thrives in moist situations.

At first, it causes small, water-soaked lesions that seem on the leaf margins or subsequent to the leaf veins. These lesions regularly change into grey and papery.

As new leaves emerge, they are going to be distorted or might drop off the department earlier than they will mature. You’ll normally see signs on the decrease branches first.

Remedy is difficult. Since willow oaks are solely mildly affected, it’s best to keep away from chemical therapies and go for supporting your plant as a substitute so it thrives regardless of the an infection.

The spores can unfold far and extensive, which suggests even in case you do do away with anthracnose in your willow oak, it could come proper again if a neighbor’s tree is contaminated.

The pathogens may also lie dormant inside a tree till favorable situations return.

Hold your tree wholesome with acceptable irrigation and take away all fallen materials from across the tree to restrict out there choices for the fungus to overwinter on.

Trim off any closely symptomatic branches. Prune the cover of the tree to open it up, which is able to let in additional mild with a buildup of much less moisture, and thus create fewer locations for the fungus to thrive on the decrease a part of the tree.


Brought on by the fungus Polyporus hispidus, quickly forming cankers develop that may develop as much as six inches yearly.

The identical fungus may also produce massive mushrooms hooked up to the trunk, and these are typically used medicinally. However once they trigger cankers, they will kill a tree.

The fungus tends to contaminate heartwood, inflicting it to rot and switch black. It may additionally trigger rot within the cambium or sapwood. Development above the canker dies.

Chemical substances are usually not efficient in treating this illness. Minimize off symptomatic branches and monitor the tree for extra signs. Bushes with cankers on a majority of the branches needs to be culled.

Chestnut Blight

I do know, with a reputation like chestnut blight, you’d suppose that this may solely be an issue for chestnut bushes. Nope. It may infect willow oaks, too.

A vertical close up photo of chestnut blight on a branch of a willow oak.

It’s brought on by the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica, the identical pathogen that killed virtually the entire native chestnut bushes throughout North America in simply 50 years.

That’s 4 billion bushes misplaced in just some a long time.

Oaks are a number of the pathogen, but it surely received’t kill them. It would, nonetheless, trigger the bark to show orange and sunken cankers to kind.

Unfold by wind and rain, it’s laborious to manage, clearly, because it decimated so many bushes. However Dr. Wayne Weidlich, a botanist at Michigan State College, seen within the late ‘70s that the roots of some chestnut bushes had been uncovered by the development of a logging highway.

These roots had cankers, which doesn’t normally occur; cankers develop on the above-ground elements. This led Weidlich to hypothesize that the soil itself prevents the cankers from growing.

So, together with MSU researchers and Dr. William MacDonald from West Virginia College, he experimented with utilizing the soil to treatment cankers, and it labored.

For those who see cankers in your tree, seize some native soil that hasn’t been handled with pesticides or herbicides and put it in a bucket. Add some water to make a muddy slop.

Place this mud on a bit of plastic, like a rubbish bag that has been minimize open, and press the mud in opposition to the canker.

Tie the plastic in place with rope or tape. Depart it in place for a couple of months and add water if essential to maintain the mud moist. The mud must utterly cowl your complete canker.

After a couple of months, you’ll be able to take away the plastic and the canker could have change into sealed by the tree so it’s now not an open wound.

Shoestring Rot

Shoestring rot, also referred to as Armillaria root rot, is a illness brought on by Armillaria mellea fungi that infects the roots of bushes, but it surely doesn’t keep there.

Because it progresses, it strikes into the cambium of the tree and kills that. Ultimately, your complete tree fails.

As with many ailments that have an effect on the roots, you received’t know something is unsuitable till the signs begin to seem above floor. On this case, it’s the leaves that inform the story.

They are going to be pale and smaller than standard, and they’re going to drop prematurely.

There isn’t any efficient remedy. In case your specimen is confirmed to have this illness, you’ll be able to assist it with correct watering and care, but it surely’s normally finest to simply take away it.

Finest Makes use of for Willow Oaks

For those who’re searching for a shade tree, cease – you’ve discovered the proper one!

That is additionally a great possibility for parking heaps, alongside streets, and buffer strips due to its upright behavior and since it isn’t notably messy.

Select one of many very upright cultivars that we described above if you would like a tree for one in every of these areas.

A horizontal landscape photo of a tire swing suspended from a large willow oak tree. A swath of red blooms are in the background behind the tire swing.
Editorial Credit score: Nolichuckyjake /

It’s not such a great wager when you have horses, nonetheless. The bushes comprise tannins and gallotannins which will be poisonous if consumed in massive portions.

On the opposite finish of the spectrum, animals like squirrels, mice, and birds reminiscent of nuthatches, jays, woodpeckers, titmice, and turkeys depend on willow oaks for meals.

The willow oak can be valued for its pulp. And it could be used to revive bottomlands and disturbed areas in its native areas.

Develop it with American persimmons (Diospyros virginiana), different oaks, spruce pines (Pinus glabra), dogwoods (Cornus spp.), and hawthorns (Crataegus spp.).

For those who decide to make use of the acorns, wait till they fall to the bottom and verify to see if a cap detaches simply. If it doesn’t, this implies the acorn didn’t mature totally.

Fast Reference Rising Information

Plant Kind: Deciduous shade tree Foliage Colour: Inexperienced
Native to: Japanese North America Upkeep: Low
Hardiness (USDA Zone): 5-9 Tolerance: Freezing temperatures, some drought
Season: Spring, summer season, fall Soil Kind: Barely sandy to barely clayey soil
Publicity: Full solar Soil pH: 4.5-5.5
Time to Maturity: 15-20 years Soil Drainage: Properly-draining
Planting Depth: 2 inches (seeds), roots just below soil (transplanting) Attracts: Birds, butterflies, hogs, moths, squirrels
Spacing: 20 toes Companion Planting: Dogwoods, hawthorns, oaks, persimmons, spruce pines
Top: As much as 100 toes Makes use of: Buffer strips, shade, parking strips, parking heaps
Unfold: 40 toes Household: Fagaceae
Water Wants: Average Genus: Quercus
Widespread Pests and Illness: Borers, leafhoppers, oak skeletonizers; Anthracnose, canker, chestnut blight, shoestring rot Species: Phellos

You Will Love Willow Oaks

Once I image the proper afternoon, it entails laying below a giant outdated tree throughout the summer season with a great e-book.

A willow oak undoubtedly suits the invoice because the idyllic shade tree. However it additionally works in locations as assorted as parking strips and wildlands in want of restoration. And if you plant one, the native wildlife will thanks.

How do you propose to develop yours? Share your massive plans within the feedback part beneath.

There’s heaps extra enjoyable within the Quercus genus available. If this information helped you’re feeling assured rising this species, you may need to learn these different oak tree guides subsequent:

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