How to Grow Quercus robur Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Common Oak, English Oak

The Common Oak is a deciduous tree that usually reaches about 70 feet (40 m) in height, with long lived species in ideal locations reaching as high as 130 feet (40 m).

Trunk girths of up to 12.2 m (40 feet) have been recorded in the UK, where it is known as the English Oak, or simply as an Oak tree. It is the commonest type of tree found in the United Kingdom.

The Quercus robur plant is a native to Europe and is highly valued for its ability of attracting insects and wildlife to its own ecological ecosystem.

In addition to attracting over 400 distinct species of insects, the English oak also acts as a home to numerous birds, bats, and other small animals.

Jays and Squirrels in particularly like to feast on the acorns that they produce. As the oak has an open canopy many species of plants such as Blue Bells and primroses can grow in the light that is let through, and reaches the floor of the mixed woodlands where oak trees naturally grow.

Indeed, when species such as lichens are included, it is thought that a single oak tree may offer support to over one thousand different species.

The fruit that oaks produce, the acorn, is also a favourite food for pigs, which are often let lose into the wild to feast upon fallen acorns.

Common oak

Oak photograph by Peter O'Connor, anemoneprojectors.

The Oak is known for its great strength. The heartwood that it produces has long been used to create long lasting furniture, timber, buildings, ships, and strong interior support structures.

One of the things that makes it so attractive for furniture makers is the growth ring patterns that look fantastic once polished up.

Due to its beloved nature it is no surprise that a large number of cultivars and hybrids have been developed. Some of these are better suited to gardens than the wild-type.

See the growing and care guide section for further information on cultivars.

Quick Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Quercus robur
  • Common Name (s): Common oak, English oak, Pedunculate oak, European oak
  • Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): 5 to 8 / H6

Plant Details

  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Deciduous tree
  • Plant Height: 33 to 130 feet (10 to 40 m), short trunk, Broad crown
  • Plant Spread: 25 to 70 feet inches (8 to 21 m), Broad
  • Blooms: Mid-spring
  • Flower Details: Long catkins, separate male and female catkins, Green-yellow flowers
  • Leaf Foliages: Sessile, bunched. Deeply lobed. length: 4 inches (10 cm)
  • Fruit Details: Acorns, Green, maturing to brown. Capped. Showy. 0.8 to 1 inch (2 to 2.5 cm), long stalks, Mid-autumn.

Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: Full sunlight
  • Suitable Soil Types: average, will grow in most soils but loam for best results.
  • Suitable Soil pH: Tolerates alkaline and acidic soil pH. Lime tolerant,
  • Soil Soil Moisture: Well drained, medium moisture.
  • Sowing, planting, and Propagation: Sow ripe acorns before animals can get at them (they tend to bite into them to stop them geminating = allowing long storage).
    Sow in a cold frame. Acorn saplings should appear the following spring.
  • Care: low maintenance plant. Medium watering but fairly drought tolerant. Requires little pruning, light pruning to remove decaying, dead, and diseased materials towards the end of winter or at the start of spring if necessary.

Further Information

  • Best used for: Big gardens, creating shade, attracting wildlife.
  • Miscellaneous: Plants typically take 20 to 50 years to gain full height. It will take at least 40 years until oak trees bear acorns.
    Oak trees typically live for about 200 years; some have been reported to be over 1,000 years old. Along with the rose it is considered one of the national emblems of England. It is also largely symbolised in many other European countries.
    Easily confused with sessile oak (which does not have stalked acorns). There used to be a national holiday in the UK to celebrate Royal Oak Day. The song 'Heart of Oak' is the official marching Royal British Navy (dating back to the time that ships were made of oak.

  • Family: Fagaceae.
  • Closely related species and genera: Holm Oak.
  • Cultivars : Cypress oak (Quercus robur 'Fastigiata' ): Large (20 m (66 feet) and narrow (3 m (10 feet), native to central Europe, widely cultivated, Dark green leaves; Weeping oak (Quercus robur 'Pendula'): medium size, up to 15 m (50 feet); Golden oak (Quercus robur 'Concordia'), Smaller species to 10 m (33 feet), gold leaves, developed in Belgium; Quercus robur 'Purpurea', similar size to Golden oak but purple leaves.
  • Further Reading and References used for this Quercus robur growing guide: Woodland trust; Pedunculate oak
  • I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Quercus robur plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Germander, Iris plant, Isatis plant and Sprekelia plants.