I've recently dug up some small oaks from a friend's woods (they were on the outer edge in mostly shade). I'm confident I did some unintentional root damage while digging them up (at least the largest of the three).

I've put them in pots because the place where I'm going to eventually plant them doesn't have easy access to water.

Location: Ohio, US

Date: Early August

Current Temp: ~75-90 degrees F in day, 70-75 at night.

How much water do I give them?

Do I keep them soaked? Do I only water them every few days? Once a week?

How much light do I give them?

Should I keep them shaded, and slowly work them into the sun over a few weeks? Or put them out in the sun immediately?

Is there anything else I should be doing...?

...to attempt to keep them alive for now until I can plant them at a later time?

oak trees in pots

1 Answer 1


Give them a good soaking of water, wait for the top 2 or 3 inches of soil in the pots to dry out, and repeat. Depending on the temperature, humidity, and the soil in the pots each cycle may take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Frequent small amounts of water will encourage the roots to grow up to the surface, which you don't want. Keeping them constantly soaked is bad because the roots need air as well as water.

Since they have been growing outdoors for a few years (judging from the size) they don't need a lot of protection from the weather, and will be better without over-protection. You might consider shading the pots (but not the trees) from direct sunlight, because that will over-heat the soil and dry it out faster compared with planting in the ground. Sinking the pots into the ground in a temporary location is one way to do that.

Sunlight intensity will be reducing anyway as August moves into September.

Don't panic if they start to lose their leaves. They are deciduous trees, and the extra stress of moving them may start the normal process of going dormant for winter a bit earlier than normal. Just cut down on watering, because with no leaves they won't be consuming as much.

The best time to move them to their permanent location is after leaf fall but before the first winter frosts set in - probably the end of October in your location. They don't need any special protection over winter while they are dormant. They might look "dead," but don't fuss over them, just wait till they come back into leaf in spring!

  • Great info, THANK YOU! So no concern in moving them into direct sunlight?
    – Dave
    Commented Aug 9, 2020 at 18:54
  • 1
    Well, I'm a bit further north than you (in the UK) but unless your weather forecast is cloudless skies all day every day I wouldn't feel too concerned. The two tallest ones look a bit "leggy" as if they were trying to get more light anyway.
    – alephzero
    Commented Aug 9, 2020 at 23:19

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