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Growing Oaks

Red oaks need to go through a cold period before sprouting, which is called cold moist stratification,

whereas white oaks do not.

Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

Acorns mature over two growing seasons. Seed dispersal is from end of August until early October, with a mast year every 1-3 years also referred to as bumper crop. They can be distinguished by their sharp, pointed lobes in their leaves with bristly tips.


Getting Started

Choosing the right tree from which to collect your seeds 

will have a huge impact on how resilient our landscape will be in 100 years. 

It is best to observe the biggest, oldest, healthiest and most beautiful trees in your neighbourhood over the seasons and figure out a strategy on how you could collect their seeds when it is the right time. E.g. establish a relationship with the owner of the property.


If you already know where your future trees will be placed, find a tree that has similar growing conditions regarding soil structure, moisture content, wind and sun exposure.

  To be able to collect ripe and healthy acorns, you need to keep a close eye on your tree starting fall. We are racing with squirrels, chipmunks, and bluejays who are experts. Watching them can help us to get the timing right.

When you collect your seeds make sure to write the location, the tree, and the date on the batch. Always add this information anywhere the seeds go. That way, you can trace the origin of the sapling up to the permanent site. This information is important to match the right trees to the growing conditions of your site. 


Any potting soil works well,
the finer the better.
Potting soil with mycorrhizal fungi can make it easier for the plants to uptake nutrients.


All containers must have enough holes to drain excess water. Most important is the hight of a container to allow for a healthy root development. 2l milk cartons, 2l plastic beverage bottles, any potting containers and raised beds can be used. Those keep the moisture level for a long period of time.
Biodegradable and cloth pots have benefits, environmental impact and better root development but dry out faster.


All saplings benefit from enough sunlight.

How to Grow Oaks from Acorns: List

Seed Collection

Collect seeds as soon as you hear them start to drop. Squirrels find the good ones quickly.
It's best to collect them in plastic bags because they lose viability, meaning their ability to sprout, very fast when they dry out. Once home plant or cold store them immediately.

Oaks are a powerful contributors to functioning, healthy ecosystems. Therefore a lot of the acorns will have been eaten by weevil larvae which will develop into a beetle. To separate the viable acorns 

  • fill a container with water,

  • add the acorns.

  • Acorns that sink to the bottom are likely to be viable.

  • Return floating acorns to nature.

  • Perform this float test and soak them for 24 hours before stratifying or planting.

How to Grow Oaks from Acorns: About

Stratification For Indoor Planting

How to Grow Oaks from Acorns: Text

Cold-moist stratify acorns for 3 to 4 months: 

  • moisten 2 paper towels,

  • wring them out,

  • place them in a freezer bag.

  • Place acorns beside each other in between the layers of the paper towels.

  • Close tightly.

  • Lay bag with acorns flat in the fridge, not freezer.

  • Check on them every week or two to make sure:

    • Paper towels are still moist. If not, moisten again and wring them out.

    • No fungus is developing. If so, wipe off the fungus and keep them in a separate bag. Keep the paper towels less wet.

    • Roots are not turning black, if so plant immediately. 

    • Once the root is about an inch long or by mid of February, even if the acorn hasn't sprouted yet, plant them indoors.

  • Instead of paper towels you can also use a moistened sand-soil mix to store your acorns in the fridge.

Indoor Planting From Late January Until March