Space-saving and fast-growing oaks - Carolina Country

Space-saving and fast-growing oaks

Grand old oak trees like white oaks and live oaks are treasured legacies from ages past. New generations of homeowners are less frequently planting these beauties, perhaps due to lack of space or a perception that they will grow too slowly. Some oak species are modest in size, however, and others grow rapidly enough to rival the rates of typical shade tree species. A few small species, along with fast-growing ones, are suggested here.


Blue jack oak (Quercus incana). 30' tall x 20' wide. Well-drained, dry soil; very drought-tolerant. Leaves have bluish-gray undersides. Orange/reddish leaves in fall.

Dwarf chinkapin oak (Q. prinoides). 15' tall x 15' wide. Full sun to part shade; can tolerate drought and poor soils. Trunk has multiple branches. Slow growing. Produces acorns at 2–3 years old, 2–3 feet tall. Red to orange foliage in fall.

Georgia oak (Q. georgiana). 15–30' tall x 15–30' wide. This shrubby oak grows best in full sun. It is adaptable to a range of soil types and is tolerant of drought. Lustrous, dark-green leaves turn red to reddish-purple in fall.

Turkey oak (Q. laevis). 30' tall x 15' wide. Full sun in dry, well-drained soil; great for sandy or gravely substrate. Very drought-tolerant. Leaf resembles outline of turkey's foot. Brilliant red foliage in autumn. Growth rate is 1–2 feet per year.

Fast-growing species of oaks include:

Chinkapin oak (Q. muehlenbergii). 40–50' tall x 40–60' wide. Best in full sun in well-drained, organically rich soils. Yellow-orange to orange-brown leaves in fall. Grows up to 3 feet per year.

Northern red oak (Q. rubra). 60' tall x 45' wide. Grows best in full sun in moist, well-drained, loamy soil. Tolerates compacted soil. Red leaves in fall. Grows up to 2 feet per year.

Nuttall or Texas red oak (Q. texana). 40–80' tall x 35–50' wide. Full sun in wet to average soil. Good for streamside planting. New growth is reddish-purple, turning dark green; reddish fall foliage. Grows 2–3 feet per year.

Pin oak (Q. palustris). 60–70' tall x 25–45' wide. Full sun in rich, moist to dry soils. Weeping lower limbs. Dark, glossy leaves turn russet, bronze or red in fall. Grows 2–3 feet per year.

Swamp white oak (Q. bicolor). 60' tall x 40' wide. Rich, moist, cool sites. Produces acorns at a young age. Fall foliage in orange, red or yellow. Grows up to 3 feet per year.Keep in mind that though many of these trees grow rapidly initially, the speed may taper off in later years. Also, size and growth rate may vary according to site conditions. (Homeowners with the space should strongly consider planting large species of oaks to provide shade for future generations, as well as acorns for tomorrow's wildlife.)

Hort Shorts

  • Plant bare-root strawberries in March. When buying, look for roots that are moist and plump. Choose plants with a fresh, earthy smell. Plant in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Strawberries are well suited to pots and raised beds. Avoid planting where tomatoes, pepper, eggplants or potatoes have been grown before. Plant with the crown even with the soil surface. Pinch off new blooms to encourage root development and a more abundant harvest next year.
  • Sometimes it's hard to improve on a classic, like the timeless native eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis). Its rosy-pink flowers, followed by heart-shaped, medium-green leaves, are a harbinger of spring. But 'Forest Pansy', with its deep red-purple leaves maturing to maroon, is a nice twist on the standard, as is 'Hearts of Gold', which bears bright yellow-gold or chartreuse leaves. Grows 20–30' tall x 25–35' wide. Likes sun or dappled shade.

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