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billyboy_gardener

what do i do with my white oak seedlings over the winter!?!

billyboy_gardener
15 years ago

Hi Everyone,

If someone would give me some advice I would really appreciate it!

I collected a bunch of white oak acorns in the fall and allowed them to germinate but placing them in damp sand in a warm room.

Once they germinated, I planted them in tall containers and the seedlings are doing pretty well. The problem is, it's January and I can't plant them out until mid-April. I don't know what to do with them.

Will they survive in a sunny location until April? Do they have to go dormant during the winter before I plant them out.

I don't have a cold garage to store them in and it's too cold outside. My basement is usually around 45 degrees which I believe, is too warm to make them go dormant.

I put a lot of work into them and don't want to lose them. Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you very much.

Bill - Southern NY

Comments (30)

  • spruceman
    15 years ago

    Bill:

    Sorry, but you wasted all the work you put into them. There is no point in trying to grow acorns in the fall when oak trees normally should be going dormant. You should have just planted the acorns outside--on the surface of the ground with a light covering of leaves and just a touch of mulch. Then in the spring they would start growing at the proper time, and all you would need to do is keep them a bit moist--you don't want them and the ground they are beginning to grow into to dry out. Of course, white acorns DO begin to germinate in the fall, with the root sprout coming out of the acorn. But you should just ignore that and treat them like any other nut or acorn that you plant in the fall.

    So, is there any hope now? To be honest, I just don't know. It seems to me it is too late to try to induce dormancy somehow. Normally, any oak tree that does not have a period of dormancy will die--you can't grow white oaks in the tropics. But, since these trees began to grow in the fall, they may be able to skip the winter dormancy this first year. So, admitting I really don't know, I would try to keep these little trees growing, or at least green, through the winter and then plant them out after the weather in your area is warmed up for the summer. Then they may be able to go dormant in the normal way next fall. Good luck.

    Next time you get some acorns, don't try to give they a head start by growing them in the fall--this is not what white oaks are adapted for.

    --Spruce

  • arbordave (SE MI)
    15 years ago

    Bill - They'll be fine. Keep them inside by a sunny window till spring. You can put them outside after the danger of frost is past, but you will probably need to acclimate them to outside conditions gradually. I've grown some Bur x English acorns indoors the last couple of winters myself, and I haven't had much trouble moving them outside (once acclimated) in the late spring or summer.

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  • billyboy_gardener
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    Thank you everyone for the advice and ideas. I'm going to use a mix of these ideas and experiment, I think.

    First of all, the ones that have just germinated and have the emerging radicals, those I think I'll place in a mix of sterile sand and potting soil and put in the fridge. I'll plant them out in the early spring.

    I'll leave a few seedlings by the window and treat them like house plants and see what happens. I'll move them out and acclimate them in the spring. (if they live)

    I'll move some of the seedlings down to my cold basement and then to a sheltered location outside and see what happens. Maybe the leaves will fall and they'll go dormant.

    Thanks again for the ideas. I'm still learning.

    -Bill

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    15 years ago

    sometimes success is your worst enemy ... lol ..

    i like the experiment idea .... something will work

    ken

  • greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a
    15 years ago

    One of my Blue oaks lost its foliage this summer (whether by animal or heat), but then grew a second set of leaves. That tree still has green leaves, although the other Blue oak has long since lost its leaves. It is my opinion that when trees are very young there is a bit more flexibility in their "timing." I've noticed, in the wilds, that certain seedlings that are protected by logs or brush or grasses will often grow/perform differently than the same species a mere ten feet away.

    Good luck!

    Josh

  • arbordave (SE MI)
    15 years ago

    "I'll leave a few seedlings by the window and treat them like house plants and see what happens. I'll move them out and acclimate them in the spring. (if they live)"

    They will definitely live. Really, the only concern is to be careful when you move them outside later this spring (having been grown inside, they won't be acclimated to higher light levels, wind, and weather extremes). So just move them outside gradually. There's no need to expose them to cold at this point (you'll just be slowing down their growth if you do). If you continue to grow them inside this winter they'll be that much larger by the end of the year. Experiment if you want to, but speaking from experience I think you'd be better off keeping them warm and letting them put on growth right now.

  • billyboy_gardener
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    Thanks a lot Dave! I'll leave most of them up in the sunporch; but I am curious about what will happen if I leave a few in the basement.

    What about humidity? I've got a small humidifier in the room and I mist them several times daily. Do you think this will be enough? Should they be fertilized?

    Bill

  • arbordave (SE MI)
    15 years ago

    I don't think you would need to mist them (I've never misted mine), but a little fertilizer is a good idea once they've grown a few leaves.

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    15 years ago

    i would NOT fertilize a indoor plant .. in winter.. during low sunlight ... unless it had been potted for a couple years ...

    if you potted into fresh media .. there is no way the plant has used up whatever was there ....

    you might want to add a fluorescent light in the basement .... they are NOT cave plants .... 12 hours on.. 12 off ... or 18/6

    do you have forced air furnace.. if so.. humidity might help .. if baseboard ... might not... if your windows sweat ... you will be hard pressed to add humidity into your house.. and probably dont need more .... do you have a way of finding out what the humidity is in the house.. or are you simply speculating here????

    trees need very LITTLE water .... all and all ... i would target a relatively dry pot ... water very infrequently ... allowing the pots to nearly go bone dry between watering ... they are trees.. not your typical indoor low light rain forest plant ... which most house plants are, if you think of it ...

    as to the media .... trees in a peat based media.. is NOT the best ... the peat retains much more water than a TREE needs .... when i pot trees... i mix it at least 50% media with 50% mini bark chunks.. water goes in the top .. and directly out the bottom ... you nearly think nothing was retained.. but that little is all a tree needs ... the key way to tell.. is how much heavier the pot is after watering ... if significantly heavier... then you do NOT water again.. until it returns to being light as a feather ...

    also ... if you keep them alive.. do NOT be surprised if they go into dormancy a bit early in late summer or early fall .. they might be out of phase with nature ... and do some weird things ...

    when the weather starts to warm .. they will need to be acclimated to both sun and temp ....

    first out to the garage which gets closed every night.. to acclimate to temp .... maybe even back into the house if the temp freakishly goes sub arctic ... for the first two weeks.. openning the door everyday ...

    then 2 weeks.. moving them closer to the door ...

    then 2 weeks out to the north side of a structure .... each phase increasing the light levels .... PRESUMING THEY HAVE LEAVES .... if not.. just put them out ... after acclimating to temp ...

    you have many variables over the next few months.. re-post if you come to crossroads, where you need insight

    good luck

    ken

  • lpptz5b
    15 years ago

    I should add something,by all means keep somekind of floresent light on trees grown indoors.
    Also I have tried growing oaks in the house in winter then move them out in warm temps thinking they will keep on growing.Not so,what happened is they went dormant in the beginning of July then started growing in late August early Sept.They need time to set a strong bud for the next growing season.I have since given up that experiment,now I just grow them out side and give them a little TLC.It costs less and you come out with good strong seedlings.I also cull the ones that grow poorly in hopes of eliminateing poor genetics.
    Growing them in warmer zones and longer growing seasons,things will be different.

    lp

  • MissSherry
    15 years ago

    I guess it's easier growing oaks from acorns in warmer climes. I either plant them directly in the ground when they're fresh, in fall, or plant them in containers, which I leave out all winter long. If we should have a big freeze, where it goes below 25 degrees, then I usually bring them into my unheated guest room for the night - that rarely ever happens. They've always come up like clockwork in the spring, perfectly acclimated.
    Sherry

  • arbordave (SE MI)
    15 years ago

    Ken is correct that the seedlings may not need much fertilizer (certainly not if the potting media has fertilizer incorporated!), but in my experience a light dose of water-soluble fert seems to promote quicker growth. A fluorescent plant light is a good idea, and will also lead to quicker growth (daylight is in short supply in winter!). But I don't think adding humidity to the air will make that much difference for white oak seedlings. Also, if you have a good well-drained potting media, it's hard to over-water, and keeping them moist will result in better growth. If you wait "until it returns to being light as a feather", that would probably be too dry.

    "do NOT be surprised if they go into dormancy a bit early in late summer or early fall .. they might be out of phase with nature ... and do some weird things" - Mine have never done any "weird things" in late summer or fall, or gone "dormant" at that time. They really haven't behaved any differently than natural oak seedlings - sure, they will slow down top growth, put on girth, set their buds, and sometimes even put out a new flush in late summer/early fall - but natural seedlings and even established oak trees do the same thing.

    Bottom line is, they're easier to grow in the winter than you think. But admittedly it takes a little extra effort :)

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    15 years ago

    THE ONE TIME I TRIED ROBUR OAK acorns .. FROM A VARIEGATED TREE ... oops ...

    i simply buried a 3 gallon pot .... filled with native soil ... and being squirrel like in thought... buried the acorns about an inch deep ... next spring.. i had a bunch of seedlings [all green] ... and 5 years later.. they are still in the exact same pot .. kinda lost focus on that project.. lol ...

    if i had gone further.. i would have waited until the following fall .. and at dormancy.. lifted the pot.. removed them .... and planted the oaks in a row ..

    squirrels do NOT visit that side of the 5 acres.. so i did not need to protect the unhatched acorns.. but if need be i would have covered them with some chicken wire to avoid the vermin digging them up ...

    good luck

    ken

  • billyboy_gardener
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    Thanks again for all the info everyone!

    I moved the seedlings to the basement on my workbench under flourescent lighting. It's kind of cold down there, (45ish pretty consistently) but that's the only place I have for them now. I'll leave a few in the window upstairs, even though there's not really enough sunlight and see what happens.

    Next year, I'll just plant them out in the fall and protect them.

    Thanks again,
    Bill

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    15 years ago

    they are trees.. oak trees to beat ... 45 is near perfect.. and even better if they fall into dormancy ...

    at 45 degrees.. they may NOT need to be watered for the rest of the winter ... most oaks do not like wet feet ... but i would defer if i was told otherwise ...

    how many lights.. how close... i would do a 4 light bank or two doubles... approx'ly 2 to 3 inches from the top leaves ... any further.. and you may as well not waste the electric ...

    ken

  • aristata
    15 years ago

    I'm in the midst of an experiment growing another generation of oak seedlings. This time it's Quercus rubra (Northern Red Oak).

    Nurseries that sell oaks generally cut their taproots so they won't spiral. Fortunately, they can grow new ones in short time, but I wanted to allow taproots to remain intact by planting acorns in 3" dia. x 18" deep cardboard tubes with plastic caps on the bottom. Here's my results so far:

    1) I collected a bucket of soil from beneath a stand of Oregon White Oaks for the soil's mycorrhizae and mixed it 50-50 with regular potting soil.

    2) I collected acorns lying on our first snow, took them home and soaked them in water for 24 hours.

    3) I placed them in a ziplock bag with some moist soil and cold stratified them at 34 degrees in the refrigerator for a month.

    4) I them placed them in a pot and covered them with about an inch of soil and placed the pot inside the house where the ambient temperature was about 68 degrees. I checked them every couple of days for the emergence of a radicle. They grow out fast!

    5) With a 1" root coming out, I planted each in their own deep pot, covered with an inch of soil and in waited for stem emergence. Took only several days at most.

    6) I grew them indoors during the winter and into the Spring. By early Summer, the leaves had been on long enough for the little 6" tall trees to think fall was coming, so they began to get a beautiful red in the leaves, albeit slowly, due to the warmer temperatures.

    7) I put the pots outside in mid September to allow them to acclimate. In early October, I planted 3 of the 7 in the ground with onset of Fall as the last remaining leaves dropped.

    8) Once I removed the 3 (I planted) from their pots, I studied the root mass to find that it held the soil log together very well and that the tap root went nearly to the bottom. Just fine roots were present at the bottom, but it told me that the depth was adequate for 1-year's root growth.

    So with the taproot in place, they'll establish quickly and be more resistent to drought as they would naturally.

    As for the other 4 trees, they have been left outside to endure the winter with the pots exposed to temperatures that have dropped into the minus single digits (Zone 6). I want to see how resilient the roots of Quercus rubra are under these conditions and will post my findings in the late Spring.

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    15 years ago

    no reply on my comment about being SQUIRREL LIKE IN THOUGHT ... jeez ... lol

    my 5 year old came up to me with an acorn [from a drawer] today ... in -6 degree weather today.. swear to god.. and asked if he could plant it. ..

    i said go for it.. but trees dont really grow in the house all that well ... he said .. ohh.. yeah .. i guess not ..

    and i thought of you...

    listen.. cool off the temps.. add some light.. AND DONT OVER THINK IT ALL ... they are trees.. god made them basically carefree.. dont turn them into some foo foo plant that needs a lot of care or thought..

    be the squirrel ..

    ken

  • treeguy123
    15 years ago

    Fall of 2007 I gathered and easily germinated 3 red oak seedlings between moist cottonballs in ziplock bags that I had put in the refrigerator. The roots germinated around December 11th when I checked on them, so I took them out and potted them and kept them inside over winter. They looked good for a while, but then they got damping-off fungus and started dieing, when the danger of freeze passed in the spring the new growth on all of them died, but I placed them outside anyways hoping they might regrow, and some weeks later I was very happily surprised because all of them sent up a new sprouts and leaves. In late summer I planted them. And they are still alive to this day, and are just over 1 year old.

    Note: White Oaks in the wild send a root into the ground under a moist leaf layer in the fall then when warm spring conditions come they sent up stem and leaves.
    Red Oak acorns in the wild however sit dormant under moist leaf litter during the fall and winter and send both a root down and a leaf stem up in the spring.

    Do things that can prevent damping-off.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Damping-Off

  • HU-148472602
    4 years ago

    Hello: i have year old white oak seedlings raised in greenhouse. They have been outside in their pots for 2 weeks now. Temps vary from 8-18 in southern Ontario. Can i plant them outside? If so should i wait till leaves are red and fallen?

  • mackenzie mitchell
    2 years ago

    Hi, have around 100 english oaks (white) in a similar situation in south ontario, thought i was being smart by letting them sprout in december now they all set some bud and the leaves are getting crispy around the edge. Maybe not enough sun. Thinking about putting them out in the winter to get them reset for spring maybe, how do you know when the buds are fully developed? Curious how it turns out. Glad i found this thread

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    2 years ago

    hey mac ...


    start your pwn post.. include where you are.. big city name..


    where are the trees???.. in the house ... post a pic of them ... how are they potted ... whats the media.. how do you water.. what supplemental light if any ...


    give us more info to work with ...


    ken

  • MissLeeNY
    last year

    Help !! I have 3 baby white oaks in a large pot outside . Im 50 miles north of Manhattan and we get real winter here : -10 with the wind chill at times . I dont have the room for them indoors ; im pretty weak with post covid so i dont think I'll be digging to China , or anywhere else . Right now they are in a little foyer/porch area of my house , fully enclosed with 3 big windows . Can they make it ? Should i worry ? Do i water them ? And when ? I want these trees to have every chance , please advise me . Im sure i can work out something come spring time but right now its all about them surviving winter in this pot . Thanks everybody . 🙂🙂 Rena in NY

  • Toronado3800 Zone 6 St Louis
    last year

    Being in a pot probably looses the tree a hardiness zone or two.


    If I had borderline Japanes Maples or something this might not work but with others I can keep them in pots in sheltered areas burried under leaf littler.

  • beesneeds
    last year

    If it's in a fully enclosed porch, that helps. If it's warmer in there during the day, that helps. But it can also help if you get yourself some bubble wrap and wrap the pot a few times. It's kind of the easiest and fastest ways to get a little extra insulation on a pot in the porch if you can't do more serious stuff. If the pot is small enough to fit in a cooler, that works well too- think of the styrofoam caps folks sometimes use on rose bushes to overwinter. If you get box food delivery service that has insulation in the box, that insulation works well too.

    Yes, you should water. But not a lot. You don't want the dirt to go bone dry, but you don't want it wet either. The plants are dormant and so don't really need water themselves, but the dirt still should be a bit moist. And pots seem to want to stay damp longer when it's cold out so you might not need to water much at all depending.

  • Kyle Lynn
    3 months ago

    Wish I read this last fall. I planted an acorn in Oregon. plan on bringing it in for winter freezes.


    I know this thread was 14 years ago, but if billyboy gardner is still listening, how did it work? Do you have 14 year Oaks?


  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    3 months ago

    what kind of oak. and why in the world cant it stay outside???


    in 200 years.. will it still be in that pot.. and kept indoors???


    it is not a houseplant... get it outside for winter..


    ken

  • Kyle Lynn
    3 months ago

    Hi Ken,

    Earlier in this thread, the idea was acorns germinate in the spring and a young plant like this would likely die outside at freezing temperatures.

    It’s an Oregon White Oak and most certainly not staying in the pot for 200 years. It will go into the ground in the spring.

  • BillMN-z-2-3-4
    3 months ago

    Oh, I'll bet if you put it in a protected corner by the house and surrounded the pot with 2 ft. high chicken wire, and filled it up with leaves, that little guy would survive winter (depending on what part of Oregon you're in). ;-)

  • cecily 7A
    3 months ago

    Do you have an attached unheated garage where it could spend January & February?


    The spring dance (setting pots out during the day then bringing them in at night) gets old. If you don't have an unheated garage, I'd follow Bill's advice. And collect a few more acorns for insurance.