Oak trees are magnificent, spreading trees that have been represented in mythology as a symbol of strength, resilience, and knowledge. They have a reputation for being long-lived trees and have been known to live anywhere between 50 to 150 years or more, reaching maturity within 20 to 30 years. There’s a myth that since oak trees are so long-lived it takes a long time for them to reach maturity. However, you don’t have to have to wait that long for your beautiful oak tree to fill out your yard.
There are other benefits to oak trees too—they are homes and playgrounds for squirrels and smorgasbords for other birds and animals that are attracted to the acorns in the fall. A tall oak with spreading foliage can also keep a home or a yard cool in the height of summer.
These oak varieties we’ve found don’t take quite as long to reach their peak. Here are five fast-growing oak trees to consider for your yard.
This is the fastest-growing oak tree of them all. Also known as red oak, it grows to be about 70 feet high and 40 feet wide. It has the classic spreading shape of oak trees, with high branches pointing up, middle branches reaching out, and lower branches drooping down. You’ll be stunned at the beauty of these leaves in the fall—they’ll turn shades of bright red, orange, and yellow, especially as they mature. They’ll tend to retain more leaves when young but will gradually work up to the fantastic fireworks display as they grow older.
This is one of the more common species of oak trees you’ll find, considering the ease of transplanting it, the fast growth, and its tolerance of pollution. Extremely versatile, the Nuttall oak is distributed in the eastern and central United States and in the south of Ontario, Canada. It has also been introduced to other areas such as Australia, South Africa, and Argentina, where it has thrived.
As the name suggests, this oak tree is native to California. A little shorter than the Nuttall oak at 60 feet tall, it will also grow to be rounder than the Nuttall, at a width of 60 feet instead of 40. Once a California white oak is accustomed to its climate, it doesn’t need as much water as other oak species. Pay special attention to where you plant it, because it may not survive if it gets too much water or if the ground is especially wet on a regular basis. Root rot may set in if it gets watered too frequently as well.
Once the tree is established, it will grow at a rate of 24 inches or more per year. The main difference between this tree and other oaks is that it will stay greener throughout the year. Don’t expect the same fireworks of colors in the fall as with other oaks. This tree will also live for more than 200 years.
Moving farther south, the Mexican white oak is also drought-tolerant like the California white oak. The Mexican variety will grow slightly smaller, about 50 feet high and 35 feet wide. More good news for you: the Mexican white oak is a disease-resistant species, though hybrids may have reduced resistance. Preferring full sun, this oak tree is considered a partial evergreen since it loses few leaves when temperatures get low.
In the spring, you can expect new leaves to sprout as pinkish or reddish sprigs, which will turn dark green and waxy as they mature. The leaves are a little different than a typical oak also in that it may have different leaf shapes, with either smooth or serrated edges. A Mexican white oak will grow up to four feet a year, making this an excellent fast-growing oak tree for your yard. It will also live to be about 100 years old.
On the other end of that spectrum, the water oak was so named because it grows better near a body of water, such as a pond or running stream. This tree likes it wet, and it shows—it can grow much taller than these other varieties: up to 80 feet tall with a spread nearly that wide. Make sure to plan lots of room for this one!
The tradeoff is that this tree may not live as long, closer to just 30 to 50 years. Generally, it’s recommended as a shade tree or residential street tree and has been successful in cities where air pollution, poor drainage, drought, and poor soil are more common. In the autumn, you can expect a bright yellow tree to animate your yard.
This is the oak tree you are picturing in your mind right now. It’s the most common oak tree in the US, so you’re sure to have seen one at some point. A typical northern red oak is taller than it is wide, around 75 feet tall with a 50-foot width. It has the rounded oak leaf shape you’re familiar with and will be a gorgeous autumnal display as the leaves turn brilliant red to a rusty color and then fall. Your northern red oak sapling will grow about two feet a year for ten years or so.
When planning where to plant this tree, make sure that it will get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day—it loves unfiltered sun. Since it’s so ubiquitous, it transplants well into many different soils: acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, or clay. Like some of these other varieties, it has some drought tolerance, but it does prefer normal moisture so be sure to water it every other day or so and to watch it for signs of underwatering in the height of summer.
Of course, if you have any questions about which of these trees might be right for your yard, the experts at Mr. Tree Service are happy to help you out. Contact us today for a chat—we’re always available if you need help with your other trees, from pruning to lot clearing and beyond.