Quercus palustris

pin oak

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Outstanding Qualities

Pin oaks are very tough, easy-to-grow trees that demand little except enough space to spread. Best suited to the larger garden, as this oak will eventually become quite sizable. In youth, it grows quickly with a strong central leader. Its upper branches reach upwards, the middle branches are fairly horizontal and the lower branches arch downwards. If those lower branches are removed, the next set lower to fill their place, so pin oak doesn't make a good street tree nor should it be planted near pathways or parking areas. From a distance, pin oak's silhouette is pleasing, both in winter, when its smooth, grey-brown bark is revealed, and in summer with its deeply cut, pointed, dark green leaves. Eventually it develops a more rounded crown, but this may take many decades. Unlike many other plants, pin oak tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, meaning that it will thrive where many other trees perish. It produces small, squat acorns and its autumn leaves change to bright red then bronze-brown. The fall color appears to last a long time because the leaf-color change is so gradual.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: spreading tree

Foliage Type: semi-evergreen

Plant Height: 20 ft. 0 in. (6.10 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 15 ft. 0 in. (4.57 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 70 ft. 0 in. (21.34 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 40 ft. 0 in. (12.19 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 8

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun

Water Requirements: drought tolerant once established

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: variegated, silver, gold, red

Great Color Partners: dark green, chartreuse, blue

Culture Notes
This oak prefers an open area with full sun and plenty of room to grow. Plant it in a location with well-drained soil, although it will tolerate sandy sites and clay if the drainage is adequate. Once established it is drought tolerant, although in prolonged dry weather it appreciates an occasional watering. Little pruning is needed other than removing dead, broken or poorly formed limbs.
Geek Notes
This native of central to eastern United States is probably the most widely planted America oak species in the landscape.