Thursday, October 4, 2012

Grow Your Own Oak Trees from Acorns

It's been a pretty good year here in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California for acorn-producing oak trees. Acorns falling from the oaks are more numerous than in recent years. This fall is a great opportunity for gardeners with room for big trees to grab a bucket and start gathering acorns, and start planting. Yes, You Can Grow That!

A word of warning: gather acorns only from oaks that are growing in your general vicinity; those are the ones most likely to succeed in your local climate and soil.

Acorns can be collected from the ground or harvested from oak trees, by shaking a branch with a pole. Generally, the healthiest acorns are those that are picked from trees.

Take the caps off the acorns and put the acorns in a bucket of water overnight. Keep only those that sink to the bottom. The floaters are probably damaged by insects or squirrels. 

At this point you can either plant the acorns directly into their permanent garden home, into one gallon or larger containers in a planting mix or store them for up to six months in a cool, dry place, wrapped in a bag with peat moss. A refrigerator is ideal.
Planting acorns directly into the yard now is best. Oaks quickly develop long tap roots; if allowed to remain too long in a container, the roots will quickly grow out the bottom of the pot. At transplanting time, these seedlings may die off if the roots are cut off. If you're starting oaks in containers, transplant them as soon as you see the first fully developed set of leaves.

All oaks like full sun; choose a planting area that also has good drainage. If planting acorns in the ground, loosen a wide area a few inches deep. Then plant the acorn either with the tip pointed down or sideways, about an inch deep. 

If planted now, normal fall and winter rains may be all the water that acorn seedling needs to get off to a good start. Water the new tree deeply but sparingly during the dry season, perhaps once every two weeks.

For more information about growing oaks from acorns, check out this University of California webpage, "How to Grow California Oaks"


  1. This is great! My 8 year old son Zera and I just last week started an acorn in a pot. He really wanted to watch one grow and so he collected a bunch of them in a little paper bag that I had in my truck while I was loading some firewood. A few days later he looked in the bag and saw one of them sprouting a little root so we took it and put it into a pot. Now we are watching that little root sprout get a little bigger each day.

  2. Simpler method:

    1. Place pile on acorns on lawn or patio

    2. Scrub jays take them away and bury them

    3. Oak tree grows

    Oh, you mean you'd like to decide where the oak tree will be?

  3. I never thought it would be possible to grow your own oak tree which is kind of lame because how would they grow in a a forrest. I imagine that it will take a few years for it to be a "tree" but how great it will be to see it unfold. Thanks for imprinting this idea in my head!

  4. Question actually...when is it too late? I just got my acorns from from two different oaks, I'm thinking they're different cus one is kinda long and oval and the other is short and round, anyway, I live in Reno and wanna get as many oaks growing here in Lockwood as I can. And hopefully change the name to Oakwood, ha ha, nah just kidding. But I am serious about growing the oaks. Thanks!

  5. It's too late when the acorns float in a bucket of water. They're dead, Jim. Plant only the ones that sink.