The Daily Dirt Blog  Subscribe to The Daily Dirt    
Garden Tutorials Pocket Garden Guides Gardening FAQs Tree Care Library Plant Encyclopedia




Quercus alba
( White Oak )

Spreading, deciduous tree with peeling, gray to brown bark. The obovate, oblong, or elliptic, deeply lobed, green leaves, to 9 inches long, are often tinged with pink when young. Leaves turn purple-red in the fall. Bears single, oblong acorns. An extremely long-lived tree, this is one to plant for your great grandchildren. Unfortunately, this tree is difficult for nurserymen to produce because of slow growth and tempermental transplanting. This beautiful tree is best started when young.
Important Info :

Click To Expand Menus

Cultivar:n/a  
Family:Fagaceae  
Size:Height: 60 ft. to 100 ft.
Width: 60 ft. to 100 ft.  
Plant Category:trees,  
Plant Characteristics:peeling bark, spreading,  
Foliage Characteristics:deciduous,  
Foliage Color:green,  
Flower Characteristics: 
Flower Color: 
Tolerances:deer, drought, heat & humidity, pollution, rabbits, seashore, slope, wind,  
Bloomtime Range:not applicable  
USDA Hardiness Zone:5 to 9  
AHS Heat Zone:4 to 9  
Light Range:Part Sun to Full Sun  
pH Range:4.5 to 6.5  
Soil Range:Some Sand to Mostly Clay  
Water Range:Dry to Moist  

Plant Care

How-tos : Fertilization for Established Plants

Established plants can benefit from fertilization. Take a visual inventory of your landscape. Trees need to be fertilized every few years. Shrubs and other plants in the landscape can be fertilized yearly. A soil test can determine existing nutrient levels in the soil. If one or more nutrients is low, a specific instead of an all-purpose fertilizer may be required. Fertilizers that are high in N, nitrogen, will promote green leafy growth. Excess nitrogen in the soil can cause excessive vegetative growth on plants at the expense of flower bud development. It is best to avoid fertilizing late in the growing season. Applications made at that time can force lush, vegetative growth that will not have a chance to harden off before the onset of cold weather.

Conditions : Full to Partial Sun

Full sunlight is needed for many plants to assume their full potential. Many of these plants will do fine with a little less sunlight, although they may not flower as heavily or their foliage as vibrant. Areas on the southern and western sides of buildings usually are the sunniest. The only exception is when houses or buildings are so close together, shadows are cast from neighboring properties. Full sun usually means 6 or more hours of direct unobstructed sunlight on a sunny day. Partial sun receives less than 6 hours of sun, but more than 3 hours. Plants able to take full sun in some climates may only be able to tolerate part sun in other climates. Know the culture of the plant before you buy and plant it!

Conditions : Full Sun

Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.

Problems : Creating a Water Ring

A water ring, sometimes called a water well, is a mound of compacted soil that is built around the circumference of a planting hole once a plant has been installed. The water ring helps to direct water to the outer edges of a planting hole, encouraging new roots to grow outward, in search of moisture. The height of the mound of soil will vary from a couple of inches for 3 gallon shrubs, to almost a foot for balled and burlapped trees, especially those planted on a slope. Mulch over the ring will help to further conserve moisture and prevent deterioration of the ring itself. Once a plant is established, the water ring may be leveled, but you should continue to mulch beneath the plant.

Conditions : Normal Watering for Outdoor Plants

Normal watering means that soil should be kept evenly moist and watered regularly, as conditions require. Most plants like 1 inch of water a week during the growing season, but take care not to over water. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important for establishment. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.

How-tos : Pruning Trees After Planting

It is critical to prune trees correctly from the beginning to assure proper growth and development. Young trees can be transplanted in a number of forms: bare root, balled & burlap and in containers. The more stress the plant undergoes in the transplant process, the more pruning that is required to compensate.

Deciduous trees like maples (those that loose their leaves in the fall) can be dug up and sold with their bare roots exposed. Because most of the root system is lost in digging, sufficient top growth should be removed to compensate for this loss. This may be done at the nursery before you buy the plant or you may have to prune at the time of planting. Select and head back the best scaffold branches, i.e. those branches which will form the main lateral structure of the future mature tree. Remove all other extraneous side branches. If the tree seedling does not have branches, allow it to grow to the desired height of branching then pinch it back to stimulate the lower buds to form branches.

Ball and burlap trees are dug up with their root systems somewhat intact. This was mostly done for conifers and broadleaf evergreens, but has become common for deciduous trees as well. Since some root mass is lost in the digging stage, a light pruning is generally called for. Head back the plant to compensate for this loss and to promote branching.

Trees that are grown in containers generally do not loose roots in the transplanting phase. Therefore you do not generally have to prune them unless there is some root injury or limb damage in the planting process.

Once you have your trees planted, be patient. Do not remove shoots from the trunk early on as these allow the tree to grow more rapidly and also shade the tender young trunk from sun-scald. Wait a few years to begin training the tree to its ultimate form.

How-tos : Staking Trees

Staking is done differently depending on the size and flexibility of the tree, and the windiness of the planting site. Generally only trees that are planted in windy, exposed locations need to be staked. For most trees, a low stake is preferred, to let the tree move naturally. For windy areas or flexible trees, use a high stake. For trees more than 12 feet tall, use two low stakes on opposite sides of the tree or several guy ropes. The ties used need to accommodate growth and not cause bark damage with friction. Buckle-and-spacer ties can be found at garden centers, they are expandable and have a protective spacer. Ties without spacers should be formed into a figure eight to create padding. Latest studies have shown that when staking a tree, provide enough leeway so that the tree can move back and forth in the wind. Stronger roots will develop this way. If the tree can not move back and forth, these important roots will not develop and the tree might fall over during a storm, once stakes are removed. When planting a tree, stake at the time of planting if staking is a necessity.

How-tos : Planting a Tree

Dig out an area for the tree that is about 3 or 4 times the diameter of the container or rootball and the same depth as the container or rootball. Use a pitchfork or shovel to scarify the sides of the hole.

If container-grown, lay the tree on its side and remove the container. Loosen the roots around the edges without breaking up the root ball too much. Position tree in center of hole so that the best side faces forward. You are ready to begin filling in with soil.

If planting a balled and burlaped tree, position it in hole so that the best side faces forward. Untie or remove nails from burlap at top of ball and pull burlap back, so it does not stick out of hole when soil is replaced. Synthetic burlap should be removed as it will not decompose like natural burlap. Larger trees often come in wire baskets. Plant as you would a b&b plant, but cut as much of the wire away as possible without actually removing the basket. Chances are, you would do more damage to the rootball by removing the basket. Simply cut away wires to leave several large openings for roots.

Fill both holes with soil the same way. Never amend with less than half original soil. Recent studies show that if your soil is loose enough, you are better off adding little or no soil amendments.

Create a water ring around the outer edge of the hole. Not only will this conseve water, but will direct moisture to perimeter roots, encouraging outer growth. Once tree is established, water ring may be leveled. Studies show that mulched trees grow faster than those unmulched, so add a 3"" layer of pinestraw, compost, or pulverized bark over backfilled area. Remove any damaged limbs.

Pest : Aphids

Aphids are small, soft-bodied, slow-moving insects that suck fluids from plants. Aphids come in many colors, ranging from green to brown to black, and they may have wings. They attack a wide range of plant species causing stunting, deformed leaves and buds. They can transmit harmful plant viruses with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Aphids, generally, are merely a nuisance, since it takes many of them to cause serious plant damage. However aphids do produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface growth called sooty mold.

Aphids can increase quickly in numbers and each female can produce up to 250 live nymphs in the course of a month without mating. Aphids often appear when the environment changes - spring & fall. They're often massed at the tips of branches feeding on succulent tissue. Aphids are attracted to the color yellow and will often hitchhike on yellow clothing.

Prevention and Control: Keep weeds to an absolute minimum, especially around desirable plants. On edibles, wash off infected area of plant. Lady bugs and lacewings will feed on aphids in the garden. There are various products - organic and inorganic - that can be used to control aphids. Seek the recommendation of a professional and follow all label procedures to a tee.

Fungi : Powdery Mildew

Powdery Mildew is usually found on plants that do not have enough air circulation or adequate light. Problems are worse where nights are cool and days are warm and humid. The powdery white or gray fungus is usually found on the upper surface of leaves or fruit. Leaves will often turn yellow or brown, curl up, and drop off. New foliage emerges crinkled and distorted. Fruit will be dwarfed and often drops early.

Prevention and Control: Plant resistant varieties and space plants properly so they receive adequate light and air circulation. Always water from below, keeping water off the foliage. This is paramount for roses. Go easy on the nitrogen fertilizer. Apply fungicides according to label directions before problem becomes severe and follow directions exactly, not missing any required treatments. Sanitation is a must - clean up and remove all leaves, flowers, or debris in the fall and destroy.

Pest : Caterpillars

Caterpillars are the immature form of moths and butterflies. They are voracious feeders attacking a wide variety of plants. They can be highly destructive and are characterized as leaf feeders, stem borers, leaf rollers, cutworms and tent-formers.

Prevention and Control: keep weeds down, scout individual plants and remove caterpillars, apply labeled insecticides such as soaps and oils, take advantage of natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden and use Bacillus thuringiensis (biological warfare) for some caterpillar species.

Fungi : Leaf Spots

Leaf spots are caused by fungi or bacteria. Brown or black spots and patches may be either ragged or circular, with a water soaked or yellow-edged appearance. Insects, rain, dirty garden tools, or even people can help its spread.

Prevention and Control: Remove infected leaves when the plant is dry. Leaves that collect around the base of the plant should be raked up and disposed of. Avoid overhead irrigation if possible; water should be directed at soil level. For fungal leaf spots, use a recommended fungicide according to label directions.



Pest : Leaf Miners

Leaf Miner is actually a term that applies to various larvae (of moths, beetles, and flies) that tunnel between upper and lower leaf surfaces, leaving a distinctive, squiggly pattern. A female adult can lay several hundred eggs inside the leaf which hatch and give rise to miners. Leaf miners attack ornamentals and vegetables.

Prevention and Control: Keep weeds down and scout individual plants for tell-tale squiggles. Pick and destroy these leaves and take advantage of natural enemies such as parasitic wasps. Know the Growing Degree Days (GDD)* for your area to target insecticide sprays when most beneficial for controlling the specific leafminer. Seek a professional recommendation and follow all label procedures to a tee. *GDD numbers should be available from your local Cooperative Extension office.

Diseases : Anthracnose

Anthracnose is the result of a plant infection, caused by a fungus, and may cause severe defoliation, especially in trees, but rarely results in death. Sunken patches on stems, fruit, leaves, or twigs, appear grayish brown, may appear watery, and have pinkish-tan spore masses that appear slime-like. On vegetables, spots may enlarge as fruit matures.

Prevention and Control: Try not to over water. If your climate is naturally rainy, grow resistant varieties. In the vegetable garden, stake and trellis plants to provide good air circulation so that plants may dry. Increase sunlight to plants by trimming limbs. Prune, remove, or destroy infected plants and remove all leaf debris. Select a fungicide that is labeled for anthracnose and the plant you are treating. Follow the label strictly.

Pest : Scale Insects

Scales are insects, related to mealybugs, that can be a problem on a wide variety of plants - indoor and outdoor. Young scales crawl until they find a good feeding site. The adult females then lose their legs and remain on a spot protected by its hard shell layer. They appear as bumps, often on the lower sides of leaves. They have piercing mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Scales can weaken a plant leading to yellow foliage and leaf drop. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.

Prevention and Control: Once established they are hard to control. Isolate infested plants away from those that are not infested. Cosnult your local garden center professional or Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal recommendation regarding their control. Encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden.

Diseases : Blight

Blights are cause by fungi or bacteria that kill plant tissue. Symptoms often show up as the rapid spotting or wilting of foliage. There are many different blights, specific to various plants, each requiring a varied method of control.

Conditions : Deer Tolerant

There are no plants that are 100% deer resistant, but many that are deer tolerant. There are plants that deer prefer over others. You will find that what deer will or will not eat varies in different parts of the country. A lot of it has to do with how hungry they are. Most deer will sample everything at least once, decide if they like it or not and return if favorable. A fence is the good deer barrier. You may go for a really tall one (7 to 8 feet), or try 2 parallel fences, (4 to 5 feet apart). Use a wire mesh fence rather than board, since deer are capable of wiggling through a 12 inch space.

Conditions : Rabbit Tolerant

As cute as they are, rabbits can really damage a vegetable garden. Young, tender lettuce plants seem to be their favorite. If a free-roaming dog is not a possiblility for you, consider installing raised vegetable beds and covering tender shoots with netting. If you have ample room, you can opt to plant enough for you and the bunnies. Scents don't always repel animals, as they get used to them and are often washed off in the rain.

Conditions : Slope Tolerant

Slope tolerant plants are those that have a fibrous root system and are often plants that prefer good soil drainage. These plants assist in erosion control by stabilizing/holding the soil on slopes intact.

Conditions : Wind Tolerant

Plants that are wind tolerant usually have flexible, strong branches that are not brittle. Wind tolerant plants often have thick or waxy leaves that control moisture loss from whipping winds. Native plants are often the best adapted to not only wind, but also soil and other climatic conditions.

Conditions : Fall Color

Fall color is the result of trees or shrubs changing colors according to complex chemical formulas present in their leaves. Depending on how much iron, magnesium, phosphorus, or sodium is in the plant, and the acidity of the chemicals in the leaves, leaves might turn amber, gold, red, orange or just fade from green to brown. Scarlet oaks, red maples and sumacs, for instance, have a slightly acidic sap, which causes the leaves to turn bright red. The leaves of some varieties of ash, growing in areas where limestone is present, will turn a regal purplish-blue.

Although many people believe that cooler temperatures are responsible for the color change, the weather has nothing to do with it at all. As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, a chemical clock inside the trees starts up, releasing a hormone which restricts the flow of sap to each leaf. As fall progresses, the sap flow slows and chlorophyll, the chemical that gives the leaves their green color in the spring and summer, disappears. The residual sap becomes more concentrated as it dries, creating the colors of fall.

Glossary : Deciduous

Deciduous refers to those plants that lose their leaves or needles at the end of the growing season.

Glossary : Tree

Tree: a woody perennial with a crown of branches that begin atop a single stem or trunk. The exception to this rule is multi-trunk trees, which some may argue are really very large shrubs.

Glossary : pH

pH, means the potential of Hydrogen, is the measure of alkalinity or acidity. In horticulture, pH refers to the pH of soil. The scale measures from 0, most acid, to 14, most alkaline. Seven is neutral. Most plants prefer a range between 5.5 and about 6.7, an acid range, but there are plenty of other plants that like soil more alkaline, or above 7. A pH of 7 is where the plant can most easily absorb the most nutrients in the soil. Some plants prefer more or less of certain nutrients, and therefore do better at a certain pH.

Glossary : Large Tree

A tree is considered large when it is over 30 feet tall.

B&B
bark
deciduous
bark
form
bark
close up
form