I was given a bag of bur oak seeds that were collected from my region (northeast USA, zone 5) last May (it's been a while). I found them stashed in a wooden drawer in a cool room, in their original brown paper bag - where I left them many months ago. Some feel partially hallowed out, some have holes, but some are pretty solid (below is a photo of one that looks and feels good on the left, and the opposite on the right).

bur oak seeds - good looking and feeling one on the left; bad one on the right

How do I get these started? It's been stored for a while but I want to at least give them a go. I've heard moisture is a big part of getting them started; that I can test the seed quality by seeding if they sink or float; and can rehydrate them after storage by leaving them submerged for 24hrs. So, I'm thinking to put them all in a cup of water, remove the floaters, then tomorrow plant them just barely into the soil of pots of moist soil that are ~6" deep. I can keep that under a light, could even put it on a slightly heated tray to encourage root growth. I figure from there I'll grow them indoors for a while before transplanting to larger outdoor pots, for eventual transplanting to a permanent site.

Does that plan need any adjustments? I'm under the impression I don't need to do any special stratification to get these seeds started, aside from re-hydrating them as needed.

  • 2
    General hint: ditch everything with a hole, this is a sign of an insect, the seed will be eaten by a larva.
    – Stephie
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 7:19
  • 2
    I don't know about Bur Oak specifically (not a common tree in the UK) but I would be wary of planting any large tree species in a pot. Often, the root system grows much bigger than what you see above ground, for the first two or three years. It may try (and fail, if it's in a small a pot) to grow one or two feet of tap-root before you see any leaves at all. This is a good survival strategy - finding a good water supply before there's anything too valuable above ground for the local wildlife to stomp on, or eat!. It's a tree, not a house plant - plant it outside, directly in ground!
    – alephzero
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 11:12
  • Good point about it growing straight outside @alephzero. I figured nursing it indoors first would be good but probably better to keep it hardy outdoors right from the start. Now to figure out if any of these seeds are still viable! .
    – cr0
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 17:21
  • @Stephie the seed on the right is a dud for sure, indicated by the insect hole as you said as well as by a hollowed out feel to the seed
    – cr0
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


Acorns don't need to be drowned before planting. If you want them to grow a big tree or two, put them directly outside.

  • Choose a place to start them:

You should put them directly in open ground in a moist but sunny place of your yard, with plenty of humus. If you have grass everywhere, pick a (hidden) place and turn over the ground - its ok if you bury the grass deep enough (about 1 foot). I would choose a 5 x 50 inches zone for each 10 acorn you have. It's better if you start them directly where you want them in the end - so you may need several zones.

  • Gather humus for them:

Find a place with old rotten leaves and collect the black stuff that is beneath. Remove any seed or living weeds that you may see in there. Mix the humus with the top of the ground you turned over.

  • Bury them shallowly:

Between 1 and 2 inches.

  • Keep track of the place you put them

If you don't want to loose track where you put them, I would advise you to lay a plank aside the place you turned over: It will avoid the zone to dry off too quickly, and make it easier to remove unwanted weeds.

  • Little care

    • Water scarcely, but deeply: it will encourage the roots to get deep.
    • remove unwanted weeds from time to time to avoid the little ones to be chocked out be easy growers.
    • depending on wildlife in your area, you may need to protect the zone(s) you turned off and planted (e.g. with wire netting, used fences parts, etc.)
  • when you say 'turn off the ground' do you mean turn over the ground? as in, cut the patch of grass, pull it up off the ground, then put it back down upside down? essentially shallow tilling to expose some soil for the seeds to go in
    – cr0
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 14:03
  • and then, how deep do you put the seed?
    – cr0
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 14:03
  • 1
    @cr0; Sorry for my English... Edited; the seed mustn't be too deep: 1 inch deep should be enough, 3 inches too much.
    – J. Chomel
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 14:08

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