How to Care for Your Oak Tree

Here in New Jersey, we love our oak trees. In fact, many of our most famous historical trees are oaks. Generally, it provides three distinct characteristics that are ideal for most home landscapes: it is relatively easy to care for, is adaptable to most climates, and it offers shade during the hot summer months. But few homeowners realize that trees require care as much as their garden flowers or bushes. This article describes the proper care for oak trees to ensure a long, healthy life.

Here are some helpful hints on how to properly take care of your own oak tree.


As with most landscape trees, it is important to make sure the oak tree receives an adequate amount of water throughout the year. Generally speaking, this means that you should aim for 1-2 inches of water per week. The best time to water your oak tree is early in the morning or late in the evening, when less water will be lost through evaporation and wind.

It is also important to make sure that your oak tree has ample water during the first year after planting. Newly planted trees, especially those in locations with sandy soils, are more sensitive to drying out than mature trees since they have not yet established their root systems. If you know you will be away from your property for an extended period of time during the summer, it is best to have a friend or neighbor water the tree in your absence.


Many people are under the impression that trees need less pruning after they pass maturity. This is not always true. Despite being frequently seen in nature, most native oaks are of modest size under ideal conditions. Careful pruning is essential for managing the size of most oak trees to ensure that they will not grow too large for their allotted space.

Oak trees also require some form of selective branch removal or “thinning” on a regular basis. Thinning allows more light and air into the canopy, assists with limb stability, improves the overall appearance of the tree, and reduces the danger from broken branches.

Insects & Diseases

Oak trees are susceptible to a number of insects and diseases. Unfortunately, many pests choose oak trees as their host, so it is inevitable that you will have some level of insect or disease invasion at some point during the life cycle of your oak tree.

Most oaks are able to survive an occasional infestation with insects, provided the infestation is caught early enough. Many of these insect pests can be easily controlled with products found at local garden center or hardware stores.

A more serious threat to trees are diseases, especially root rot and wood decay fungi that live in soil. These pathogens are often carried in soil or mulch which has been moved during yard cleanups or other activities. The safest way to treat for these diseases is by thoroughly washing the infected soil away from the trunk and replacing it with fresh, dry soil (which will not harbor existing disease).

Trees are just as important as other plants in your landscape and should receive proper care in order to live a long, healthy life.

Signs Your Oak Tree is Sick

There are many signs that may indicate your oak tree is sick or dying. Below are some common symptoms to look for.

-A sudden loss of leaves on one side of the tree

-Leaves that are discolored, not green or brown

-Trees that have multiple dead branches or die back in a certain area

-Swollen trunk base

-Tree bark has become spongy and loose

Signs Your Oak Tree is Infested

Insects that attack oaks may cause a variety of problems, depending on the insect and size of infestation. Common symptoms include:

-Leaves have a skeletonized look to them, many leaves missing or chewed

-Weak tree growth with little or no new foliage emerging from the canopy

-Trees have many dead branches

-There are holes in the tree bark that were not there the previous year

-Visible pests

Oak trees can be treated for both insects and diseases at their first sign of trouble. In fact, the earlier you catch a problem with your oak tree, the easier it will be to remedy. If you have any questions about an insect or disease affecting your oak tree, contact Licensed Tree Expert Mike Virgil of Precision Tree & Landscape for diagnosis and treatment.