A year and a half ago, during the last stages of autum, my five year old niece and I were going for a walk in our neighborhood. She began collecting acorns that had fallen on the ground and asked what they were. I explained and she instantly became excited about the possibility of growing a tree from this small seed. We went online and got general advice on stratification and began the process. I explained to her that we may be disappointed; that not all seeds will grow. Nevertheless, and to our surprise, several of the seeds had sprouted during the stratification process.

That spring (last spring), we planted the sprouted seeds in a pot with potting soil. The seedings did well all summer long. During the winter, we moved the pot onto the patio to keep it sheltered from the cold. Unfortunately, only one of the seedlings survived the winter. This seedling is now bigger and has more leaves than it did last year and is a little over nine inches in height. With careful optimism, I realize that this wonderful little oak has the potential to live to be hundreds of years old. We are planning on buying a home two years from now and don’t want to leave this mighty little oak behind.

We would like to keep it in its current pot and plant it in our new yard in a few years. I am looking for advice on how to keep it healthy and happy until the move and then how to transplant it into the ground at that time. The pot we are using is a thick plastic pot with drainage holes in the bottom. The diameter is approximately 11” and is about 9” deep. I understand that plastic pots are not ideal and plan to transplant the oak to a terra-cotta pot in the fall. The pot is in partial sunlight (about 4-5 hours a day) and the soil is kept moist. Any advice would be very much appreciated.

3 Answers 3


I have an oak in a big plastic container with drainage holes, nothing wrong with plastic. My plant is grown from a seed as well (germinated 2011). I want to make a bonsai out of it, but should first grow in thickness for that. To keep your plant healthy in a pot, try to refresh the soil every other year. Or repot when the pot is becoming too small (every year, or every other year). Repotting is best done in spring, just before the leaves come out and most night frost is over. You can prune off some branches if it becomes to big for the pot as well. Once you put it in full ground it will start really growing big. Again wait for springtime for the transplant into the ground. Good luck with the tree.


You might want to check out this article by an Ohio professional. Yes, he is growing to sell but it seems as if he addresses a lot of your problems.

CONTAINER PRODUCTION OF OAKS A SUCCESSFUL REALITY Bill Hendricks Klyn Nurseries Inc. 3322 South Ridge Rd. Perry, Ohio 44081

The production of Oaks in the field can pose several problems, most of which begin with the liner. For many species the problem in the past has been availability. With others it has been an insufficient root system or coarse rooted liners that fail to break uniformly if at all. Oaks are notoriously bad transplanters with frequent high losses due to slow root regeneration.

Conventional field whip production practices take up to 5 years to produce. In the first year, seeds are sown in fall or spring and harvested at 1 or 2 years of age. These seedlings are then lined out in field rows for 1 or 2 more years and then cut back to 2” in height in spring to produce a vigorous young shoot resulting in 5’ to 8’ whips, thus taking 3 to 5 years to produce a 1 year whip. The resulting plant generally has a coarse root system with little to no fibrous roots which at best recover slowly and in too many cases not at all. For example root regeneration in Red Oak via new root initiation occurs almost exclusively in spring and can take 40 days under standard greenhouse conditions. Consequently, field grown coarse rooted species are difficult to transplant because they have virtually no intact root tips when harvested.

To meet these challenges we have adapted the ‘Ohio Production System’ for the production of oaks as well as other species of shade and flowering trees, adapting the system with some changes to fit our nursery. Our primary objective was to produce a cost effective container grown liner with an improved root system that would be more vigorous when transplanted to the field.

The oaks we grow originate in 2 ways. The secondary source is from purchased 1yr seedlings preferably of known provenance of species we cannot collect ourselves. The first and most important source is the acorns we harvest or have harvested for us from known sources. This gives us the best control on the finished tree because we know something about the parent tree or at least the area from which they come. Records are kept on sources of seed or seedlings to observe how they perform. After collecting, we place the seed in a plastic bag with moth balls for 3 days to rid the acorns of any larvae. We then remove them from the bags and put them in trays of damp sand for germination. Members of the White Oak group germinate within days. Members of the Red Oak complex are chilled until January or February and then warmed sufficiently to induce germination. Germinating acorns are removed from the sand when the radical is 1/2” to 1” long and placed in the corner of 2 7/8” x 5” Anderson Bands which have an open bottom. The acorn is only lightly pressed into the media with the radical pointed downward into the corner of the pot to act as a Grow Straight for the root. The bands are placed in flats which are held above bottom heated benches by an inverted flat to air prune the tap roots. Supplemental lighting is added at night to promote additional growth.

In mid to late May the seedlings are removed from the greenhouse to a 70% shaded polyhouse for acclimatization. This is an important step to avoid shocking the plants severely. After 2 weeks the plants can be removed from the shade and transplanted to 2 gallon containers treated with Spin Out. Research at Ohio State University has shown that plants growing in copper treated pots have improved root morphology and distribution in the container. As a result, plants are able to use water and nutrients more efficiently. The media is a 60% pinebark based mix with 18-6-12 8 to 9 month Osmocote or 24-5-12 6 month Polyon fertilizer incorporated in the mix. The plants are staked and grown under overhead irrigation in our container area for the balance of the growing season. At the end of the growing season heights of oaks will vary greatly depending on species, generally ranging from 2 to 5 feet. Container size is a limiting factor in production. When plant root systems reach the capacity before the end of the growing season the plants stop growing.

In October the trees are graded and the best seedlings preferably 30” or taller are taken to the field on wide spaced rows for caliper shade tree production 1 year after falling from the tree as an acorn. Trees that do not make grade are stored in unheated polyhouses and grown for a second season before moving to the field.

We have found that these trees will quickly reach salable size with almost perfect stands and in the same period of time with a more fibrous root system than a field grown whip at reduced cost and without the transplant losses. We have proven from a nursery viewpoint that from little acorns mighty oak trees grow.


Adam you are a wonderful wonderful uncle. Oh my. Oak trees are big monster trees. Unless you know how to make a Bonsai out of it your precious tree will NOT make it in a pot. It would need serious root pruning and constant attention. Great for a Bonsai class with a master...bonsai is the ultimate in gardening, the most artificial of our artificial gardens.

I am just assuming lots of things here, but you should learn to acclimate that baby oak to the out of doors and then plant it properly. You say you will have that opportunity in a few years?

What size pot do you have this plant in now? Need to see a picture. What soil are you using? It should and must be potting soil if you want to keep it in a pot for a few years.

Never plant a baby plant or seed in a big pot of soil. Starting in a small pot with potting soil ONLY from seed starting trays of 1X2" cells the next size should only be 3 or 4" once the roots show out of the bottom holes. When the roots show or have encompassed the soil in the pot it needs up potting again to a 1 gallon pot. No larger. From there it should make a nice little tree to acclimate (talk about that later) and then plant in your yard.

You might need to purchase artificial lighting to help your tree continue to produce food for itself and be healthy during its life in the pot waiting to be planted out of doors.

Your main problem that I can figure from your question was that you left your avocado out of doors for the winter in a pot. The most vulnerable part of a plant are the roots. They do FINE in the garden planted in garden soil. In a pot their roots are vulnerable to the cold and that will surely kill a plant. Glad you had one that made it.

You and your niece are in a very important process. Such a cool dude you are! For her to see YOU learning as well as teaching her will enhance the rest of her ability learning for life. Seeing her uncle as a real human that doesn't know everything and knows how to ask for help is vital. This might seem a small thing to you but the memories and learning will last both of you forever.

Even if this project fails...and it could no matter what one knows, the lessons learned are forever. She won't be one to hide inside the home while maintenance guys play in her yard. Kudos.

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