Know Your Florida Oaks Before You Plant One

Tree Care

Before you plant an oak on your property, read our short guide on different oak species and what they have to offer. Consider your property’s soil, sun exposure, and space for limbs and roots to spread as you choose the right trees for your home.

Homeowners, do you know your Florida oaks? If you’re thinking about planting one, read our short guide first.

What Makes an Oak an Oak?

Oak trees can be characterized by their spirally arranged, oval-shaped leaves and acorn fruits. Species are deciduous or evergreen and generally have long lifespans. A single tree can self-pollinate, producing both male and female flowers. Most oak species are durable, provide excellent shade, and are rarely harmed by insects or fungus. (Oaks actually utilize fungal growth to receive nutrients!)

Common Florida Oaks

Over 500 species of oaks grow around the world, including 90 in the United States, and 19 that are native just to Florida. Each species has unique characteristics and offers something different to your property.

Live Oak 

Florida is home to two live oak species. Live oaks are low-maintenance, evergreen species that grow relatively quickly.

Southern Live Oak

The sprawling, picturesque oak that Floridians are most familiar with is the southern live oak. This species grows in both sand and clay and can live for several hundred years. The southern live oak typically grows 60 to 80 feet tall with a spread of 60 to 120 feet and a trunk diameter of up to six feet.

Sand Live Oak

This tree is similar to the southern live oak, but it grows in Florida’s scrub habitat and reaches much smaller heights. Growing only 30 to 50 feet, the sand live oak is a superb option for homeowners who want a live oak but don’t have the property space to support a humongous tree.

Chapman Oak (Scrub Oak)

The Chapman oak, sometimes called the scrub oak, is a small evergreen tree found only in scrub habitats like sandy ridges and coastal dunes. The Chapman oak can make a lovely specimen tree for sandy properties. It will grow between 10 and 30 feet tall and puts on a pretty display of yellow and red leaves in the fall and winter months.

Laurel Oak

The laurel oak is often grown as a shade tree, with a dense and symmetrical oval canopy. The laurel oak is a fast-growing species and will live for 50 to 70 years. Consider this tree if you have space for it: it can grow to be 60 feet tall with a spread of 35 to 45 feet. Plant your laurel oak at least 8 feet from and driveways and sidewalks as the roots fan out and may lift the concrete.

Shumard Oak

The stately Shumard oak reaches 80 feet tall and spreads 40 to 50 feet wide. This tree showcases gorgeous dark green foliage for most of the year, red and orange colors in the fall, and attractive branch patterns during the winter. While the Shumard oak thrives in rich, moist soil, it is stress-tolerant and grows well in a variety of conditions, including clay, dry areas, and high pH soil.

Choose the Right Oak for Your Property

The beauty of the oak genus is that even among the species native to Florida, homeowners have plenty of options of trees to cultivate. An average half-acre lot can support two to four large mature oaks, while multiple live oaks and a few smaller species will nicely fill out a one-acre property. Consider your soil type, sunlight situation, and space for limbs and roots to spread as you choose the right trees to add beauty and character (and shade!) to your property.

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