Best Oak Tree Varieties for Backyard Shade!

Oak Tree

Long-lived, mighty, wildlife-friendly, iconic, and lasting legacies – the incredible Oak tree is the cornerstone of the tree world! Found growing around the world, these large fortresses cast incredible shade and have a high impact on the landscape because many can be seen far and wide, rising above the others.

A single tree is a valuable asset to your home’s value and has an immense impact on your yard!

But these incredible trees are most known for casting their lush shade on your home and garden!

All About Oak Trees

There are both deciduous and evergreen Oak trees, found in a wide range of growing conditions from riparian to arid, hot and cold hardiness zones, and in large to small sizes for all needs! Both native and modern cultivars alike have the same hardiness, resilience, and beauty!

Blazing Red Oak tree in Eastern Missouri

Oaks are usually trees but a few can be shrubs or very shrubby in form. Belonging to the genus Quercus and members of the Beech family, Fagaceae. With over 500 species, there are a lot of Oaks that thrive in a wide range of climates and conditions.

Oak trees are classified in general into White Oaks and Red Oaks:

  • Red Oak Family
    Reds typically have pointed lobes (similar to classic Holly leaves). Acorns can take two years to mature before they drop. Includes Willow, Black, Water, Southern Live, Blackjack, Shingle, and Pin Oaks.

  • White Oak Family

Young Swamp White Oak tree

White Oak type trees have rounded lobes to their leaves. Their acorns mature each year and can sprout almost right away! Common White Oaks include Swamp, Chestnut Oak, Post, White Oak, Chinkapin, and Bur.

Used for furniture, building materials, ships, and firewood, a single mature tree has a wide variety of uses even after they’re no longer growing in the landscape.

Oak trees have male flowers and female flowers on different parts of the branch. Often yellow or greenish, these monoecious blooms look different from each other as well. Male flowers are long catkins, while female flowers are tucked into the notches of the leaves (called the leaf axis).

Oaks are keystone species, meaning they support a ton of native beneficial insects, pollinators, birds, and wildlife! The acorns, also called oak nuts, are produced in the autumn. These nuts are beloved by a wide variety of wildlife and can even be eaten by humans after processing. Birds and wildlife nest and take shelter in their limbs, and stand steadfast throughout the worst of storms. Some Oaks begin to produce acorns at age 10, and others do not produce until they are 50 years old. Heavy acorn production may occur only about four out of every 10 years, called ‘mast’ years.

Check out the Tips Tree Planting line of native Oak trees for your landscape and support local fauna!

Notable Oak Trees

Live Oak Tree

The Major Oak of Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire England is a local legend! This 1,000-year-old tree is rumored as being magical and the secret meeting spot of Robin Hood and his men would meet at this tree.

The Pechanga Great Oak tree is a Coastal Live Oak near Temecula, California. Estimated to be the world’s oldest Living Oak and might be at least 2,000 years old.

Big and Small Oaks For All Landscapes!

Nature Hills has a remarkable selection of fantastic Oak trees available for you to choose from! So how do you choose the right one for you?

Oak Tree Selection

  1. Find your growing zone and then find an Oak Tree that works for your area
  2. Ensure you have a full sun location with a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight
  3. Find a location that won’t get soggy after rain because most Oaks need well-drained soil
  4. Site Oaks where their roots will not interfere with driveways, sidewalks, foundations, etc.
  5. Room for branches and roots at their mature height and won’t interfere with power lines

Now that you’ve narrowed down which Oak Tree works best for you, check out these fantastic varieties that will thrive in a wide range of unique conditions we typically find in the landscape while still casting luscious shade!

Cold Hardy Oak Tree Varieties

English Oak Tree

Many varieties hold their leaves over the winter to protect next year’s buds from the chill!

  • White Oak Tree – Native with russet fall color
  • Black Oak Tree – Native with yellow fall color, 80 feet tall and 50 feet wide at maturity
  • Urban Pinacle® Bur Oak – Cultivar with red fall color 55 feet tall and just 25 feet wide

Biggest Oak Trees Available

Southern Live Oak Tree

If you got the room, these massive and far-reaching Oak trees will envelop your entire landscape in cooling shady relief!

  • Southern Live Oak – Broad-leaved Evergreen 90 feet wide for four seasons of shade
  • Sawtooth Oak – Native Oak with toothy leaves 60 feet wide
  • Bur Oak – 100 feet spread of cooling relief
  • White Oak – The best wildlife-friendly tree, grows up to 90 feet tall and wide at maturity
  • English Oak – Magnificent all-round Oak tree

Best Oaks For Wet/Moist Ground

Pin Oak Tree

Got a soggy spot or are planting near a body of water, check out these great varieties.

  • Pin Oak – Best in acidic soil that’s very moist or occasionally wet
  • Overcup Oak
  • Bur Oak – Can handle wet/alkaline conditions
  • Swamp White Oak
  • Water Oak Tree – A southern native that also likes moist soil
  • Nuttal and Texana Nuttall Oak
  • Audubon® Native Swamp Chestnut Oak Tree – distinct gray scaly bark

Best Oak Trees For Hot and Arid Conditions

Bur Oak Full

Heat, humidity, drought, and Oaks go hand in hand for these hardy specimens.

  • Southern Live Oak – Classic evergreen southern bell that spreads wide and grows tall!
  • Bur Oak – Drought tolerant once established
  • Chinquapin Oak – Also urban environment tolerant!
  • Audubon® Native Southern Red Oak
  • Water Oak Tree – Southern native likes moist soil but zone 10 heat & coastal salt spray

Smallest Oaks and Street Trees With Narrow Profiles

Texana Nuttall Oak

Big Oak shade and attitude in a tidy smaller footprint!

  • Audubon® Dwarf Chestnut Oak – Grows 6-8 feet tall, up to 12 feet wide, and handles clay

  • Texana Nuttall Oak – Fast-growing to under 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide

  • Streetspire® Oak – Narrow growing

  • Urban Pinacle® Bur Oak – Tall and slender profile

  • Crimson Spire™ Oak – Just 12-15 feet wide with red fall color!

  • Green Pillar® Pin Oak – Columnar Oak tree

  • Skinny Genes® Oak – Reaching 45 feet tall but spreading just 8-10 feet wide!

  • Regal Prince® Oak – Super skinny columnar Oak

Shumard Oak Tree

Fastest Growing Oak Trees

Get shade faster without the wait.

  • Shumard Oak – Handles clay soil and great fall color
  • Northern Red Oak
  • Nuttall Oak – Pyramidal-shaped native
  • Pin Oak
  • Heritage Oak Tree

Most Unique Oak Trees

Willow Oak Tree Full

Get an Oak that sets itself apart from the rest!

  • Willow Oak – Finely-textured small leaves unlike other Oaks
  • Chinkapin Oak – Wavy scalloped leaf margins!
  • Shingle Oak – Rounded oval-shaped leaves without lobes
  • Pacific Brilliance™ Pin Oak – Produces fewer acorns than other Oaks
  • Overcup Oak – Unique acorns with enlarged acorn caps that cover most of the nut
  • Pin, Red, and White Oaks – Can handle saline conditions
  • Audubon® Native Blackjack Oak – Two-tone leaves and great for fire-scaping!
  • Audubon® Native Shingle Oak – Unique bark texture!
  • Audubon® Native Cherrybark Oak – Reddish glossy bark like a Cherry tree

Oak Tree Care

Oak Tree Care Infographic

While most Oak trees prefer full sun, a few can handle partial shade/afternoon shade, especially while they are young. Often, however, even these trees outgrow and outlast any competition and eventually earn their spot in the full sunlight. Southern Live, Swamp White and White Oaks, Overcup and Water Oaks can handle these lower light conditions. Unfortunately, no Oak can tolerate full shade.

Give your new tree an enriched site with well-drained soil (unless it is one of the moist/wet soil tolerant trees listed above) and supply it with regular moisture until established. Even moist soil-loving Oaks need good drainage and cannot stand soggy conditions while they get their roots established. If you find yourself in a soggy environment, add 18-24 inches of soil over the native soil to create a berm and plant your new tree into that mound to give it a good start above the water table.

All Oaks prefer a 3-4 inch thick layer of arborist mulch chips covering their entire root system to help hold in moisture and keep their roots cool.

Prune Oaks while they are dormant in the winter or very early spring. Evergreen Oaks like the Southern Live Oak should be pruned during the winter as well. Correct the branch structure while your tree is young for the best results.

Fertilize in spring with a formula for trees or good general slow-release formula. Follow application rates on the label.

Great Shade and Mighty Oaks For You!

Fantastic windbreaks and shelterbelts, privacy, and of course – luscious shade! The mighty Oak tree is a large-scale but versatile and easy-to-grow addition to your landscape. Sure to stick around for years to come!

Plant a lasting and shady legacy for yourself and future generations by making room for one of these incredible specimens with the help of Nature Hills Nursery!

Happy Planting!