Planting a Live Oak

nolawedFebruary 24, 2007

Hi... I'm new to the forum, and I hope you welcome newcomers with questions...

My husband and I have bought a house in New Orleans with a very large, very empty yard. We want to plant a live oak, as the house we're renting has a large one that I will miss. Does anyone know of a nursery in New Orleans that would carry saplings that are already on their way? (We'd like to plant one that already has a little height.)

Also, any suggestions for fast-growing shade trees that might give us a canopy while we wait for the oak to grow?

Thanks for your time.

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natal(Louisiana 8b)

There's a company in Mississippi (I think) that sells live oaks of considerable size. I've seen their ads in Country Roads magazine and wish I could remember their name. Hopefully someone here knows who I'm talking about.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2007 at 6:33PM
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Thanks. I went to a local nursery today where they showed me a very sick oak and told me they'd get me, uh, a "better one." Sigh! I am looking to buy one that is alreday sizeable, so any tips are appreciated.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2007 at 5:47PM
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Live oaks grow fast. Buy a plant with good form rather than a "big" tree and then water it every week that it doesn't rain. Keep a circle of fresh mulch way out around it so the tree has no grass competition at all and the soil stays cool. With water and some fertilizer it will grow three to four feet every year after the first year. The first year it might not grow at all. Make sure you buy a tree without "weak crotches".

The bigger the tree the more likely it will have root issues from being in a container so long. Your big tree might tip over come hurricane season that much easier, even years later. Also a tree grown in nursery conditions (crowded) will not be as pleasingly shaped as one started small in an open sunny location where it will spread from the start.

What makes the live oak so special is it's low branching, spreading habit. A plant grown in crowded nursery conditions will be top heavy, and again... more likely to tip over next Katrina.

If you plant "fast growing" trees all around the oak, they will affect the shape of the oak just as if it were grown in a crowded nursery.

Follow these tips and in ten years you will have a very nice tree that people will think is thirty years old.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 12:56AM
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Wow, thanks! Can you explain how I can identify a live oak with good "form," and how to identify "weak crotches"?

I'm grateful for your advice... Because I'm leaving a beauty behind, I'd been considering buying one that already had some height to it, but I definitely don't want to buy one that may have probems. We do, in fact, have a large yard that gets plenty of direct sunlight, so I'll take your advice and start small. Also, we'll plant any fast-growing shade trees far from the oak (we're lucky to have a very large yar, especially by New Orleans standards).

Thanks for your reply!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 12:53PM
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You're welcome. A "weak crotch" is a branch that leaves the trunk at an acute sharp angle. An ideal branch leaves the trunk close to being parallel with the ground and THEN starts to gently climb rather than climbing sharply immediately alongside the trunk. Weak crotches can split during a storm leaving a huge wound. A branch that very gently climbs away from the trunk from the get go is fine and not considered a weak crotch.

A tree with IDEAL form looks like a miniature adult tree: It is as wide or wider than it is tall and has a low center of gravity. Very hard to find.

More often than not you will need to "top" your young tree. This is a no-no with most species of shade trees, but a live oak is not an ordinary shade tree. A good looking live oak has NO CENTRAL LEADER. It starts to spread with at first two or three, then quickly to four or five, roughly equal branches each heading away in their own direction. Your job over the next few years of pruning is to keep any one branch from dominating the others. At the same time you don't want a score of branches heading out in their own directions. The branches of the tree are then competing with each other too much. Each branch should have it's own territory.

Find any branches that rub (or cross) or that will rub in the future, and remove at least one of those branches. Try to picture what each little branch will look like in the future when they're as thick as your leg and how they'll interact with their neighboring branch then.

I'm sorry, but it's something of an art.

Spend some time walking under and studying an adult tree that you like. Then apply those lessons to your little tree.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 11:02PM
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Nolawed... I found this post a moment ago which may give you heart:

RE: what's the most expensive plant you ever bought?

Posted by sowngrow 8TX on Thu, Jan 8, 04 at 12:57

I hate to admit this but $400 for a Burr Oak tree. The tree itself was $300 and I was charged $100 for it to be planted and this wasn't a really large caliper tree. Probably about 3" at the time. I've since bought similiar sized Burr Oaks and Red Oaks from a different nursery, paying $300-$350 to have them delivered and planted. We desperately needed shade in our yard. The $68 Red Oak I bought at H. Depot has nearly caught up in size to the original $400 Burr Oak.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 12:37AM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Nolawed, I picked up a copy of Country Roads and found the ad I mentioned above. Here's the info if you're still interested.

Large live oaks for sale
15' to 30' high
6" - 9" trunk diameter

Treppendahl Farms, Inc.
1364 Treppendahl Road
Woodville, MS 39669
Contact David Treppendahl

    Bookmark   March 5, 2007 at 11:09AM
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Thanks, all. It does, indeed, sound like an art form to plant and maintain a live oak. Can anyone recommend a local nursery where I might find a helpful so-and-so to work on a search for a healthy candidate for our new yard?

I was looking at the larger trees, and willing to pay a bit for one, but I do want to plant a real gem, and not a tree that spent its infancy crowded by other oaks. If anyone can recommend a nursery that sells more mature trees that AREN'T crowded, they Yay.

Thanks for all of your help and advice, all. This is, well, FUN!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2007 at 12:29PM
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gulfportgardener(MS 9)

An art form to planting and maintaining live oaks? I think you can make anything as complicated as you want, but consider this...have you ever seen a live oak that wasn't gorgeous? I haven't. They are plentiful and you can bet no-one gave much thought to "maintaining" 99% of em! I have noticed that a lot of sizeable live oaks that were planted to replenish the untold number we lost in the storm tend to blow over in strong winds unless braced well, so that is one thing to consider. I purchased two small trees last year and did nothing more than water then during last year's drought.They have not grown much this first year(which I think is normal)and I only plan on giving them enough attention this year to keep them alive. I would be willing to bet in 10 years they will be as gorgeous as any other.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 10:49PM
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I have seen many, many ugly live oaks. Oaks with crossing branches and oaks that have been damaged by storms...possibly because they were not properly pruned.

In FIVE years you are all welcome to view MY oaks and see for your self how gorgeous young live oaks can be. (They grow faster when pruned correctly ;-)

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 11:57PM
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Thank you everyone....your questions, answers and information was just what I was looking for....a place to purchase a live oak for our anniversay tomorrow. We just moved to NOLA from NJ, 4 months after Katrina and we have finally moved into our new home and we would love to plant a live oak and native crepe mrytles and the large variety of Magnolias that I see all around the garden district. Any sources for these beauties? Thanks so much....we are New New Orleanians and we love this city!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 11:18PM
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I do agree that trees planted young grow faster and become better established than trees planted at a larger size.

I'm also considering planting a live oak, but I have a bit of a challenge: there are power lines hanging over the edge of my front yard and the yard is not quite big enough to accomodate a large live oak without growing into the power lines and growing over the house. If I plant it quite close to the house, but not so close as to undermine the slab foundation, the power lines won't interfere with the tree's canopy. I wonder if I could guide the tree's growth so it will grow over the roof of the house. Is this doable and safe?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 12:12AM
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Jm Breland...I think you had better prepare to pay a professional every three years, or so, to shape your tree. Keep a live oak away from your foundation as the roots of an old tree are massive. Take a look at Oak Alley Plantation's oaks' roots and you'll know to keep yours clear of your foundation.

Here in Ocean Springs, some oaks are carefully shaped around the power lines and not just hacked on. Others in town are butchered. I'm not sure why some trees are cared for while others are not. Maybe you have to pay professional pruners to present the power company with a fate' accompli... by doing the trimming around the lines long before their butchers get to your tree.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 9:35PM
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We just built a new home and worked with a landscaper (talke about expensive.) He planted a live oak, and we paid extra for a more mature one, that had a little size to it. When I mentioned that I didn't want it too close to the sidewalks or foundation, he laughed and said "you won't have to worry about it in your lifetime." (My husband and I are both 57.) Kind of cruel remark, but funny, and probably right!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 10:01AM
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Vancleaveterry, it is now five years later and I would really like to see pics of your beautiful live oak trees. We want to plant an evergreen tree in our front yard to replace the one we had to cut down about 4 years ago. We would like a pine tree but may just go with a live oak.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 11:17PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

wodka, your story reminds me of my neighbor across the street. He just replaced his roof with a new 10-year roof. He was well-aware that he could have purchased one with a longer life!


    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 9:23PM
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I hope that the live oak has been a success in the needed opinion of each of my musical friends opinions. I need someone to tell me how to reach.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 2:28AM
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I am confused by my last post. There were some live oak fans that have posted on the forum that had showed interest in the Live oak. It's late I'm sleepy.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 5:16AM
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Anyone of the people who planted their live oaks a few posts ago have any updates to add? Ignore ,my stupid posts.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 12:51AM
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Vancleaveterry, It is now 7 yrs later, Post a pic of your Live oak tree. I am sorry for my other posts, I was drunk, quite frankly. But seriously, Vancleaveterry, or anyone with a beautiful Live oak, post some pics. I love Live oak trees, but am in zone 6 Pa. The closest I can get is hybrid Compton's oak.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 3:25AM
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Poaky - you cracked me up. I've been guilty of the same so I feel ya. I too would like to see these live oaks.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2014 at 4:39PM
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Has anyone got any pics of their Live oaks to show off?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2015 at 10:38PM
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