16 Types of Oak Trees That Can Grow in Florida
If you are thinking of planting an oak tree in Florida, you may be surprised to learn that there are many different types of oaks that can survive quite well in the sunshine state. But picking the right type of oak is important when planning out your home landscaping or garden space. In this article, we look at several different types of Oak Trees that will grow well in Florida.
Oak trees are hardwood trees, and can vary significantly in color, size, and shape. If you’re thinking of planting one near your home or in your garden, it’s important to do your research. Some oaks can grow well over one hundred feet tall, and many can live for several centuries! That means planting an oak tree is a long-term commitment in most cases.
In general, oak trees are a good choice for Florida landscapes. With only a few exceptions, they can resist hurricane-strength winds. Many of them provide gorgeous, showy color in the fall season and attract a wonderful mix of wildlife.
In this comprehensive guide to Florida oak trees, you’ll learn about some of our favorite varieties. Whether you want a shorter, denser tree that will fit in your backyard garden or hope to grow a stunning specimen over one hundred feet tall, there’s an oak tree on this list that should suit your needs.
Scientific name: Quercus Gilaura
At first glance, Blue Japanese Oak trees hardly resemble the rest of their family. This type of oak is relatively short, growing to between 25 and 40-feet tall. And their canopy is dense, rather than open, like many larger oaks.
Blue Japanese Oak trees get their name from their purple-tinted leaves that change to a shiny green as they age. As an evergreen oak, these trees don’t put on a fall show, nor do they attract wildlife.
They grow in USDA zones 8A-9B, which includes most of Florida. They thrive in full sun conditions and areas with acidic, well-drained soil.
Scientific name: Quercus Incana
Bluejack Oaks are a great choice for most gardens and yards. This species is considered small-statured and shrublike. Though they grow up to 55 feet tall, they don’t have running roots and won’t take over a space like other oaks tend to.
Bluejack Oaks get their name from their long and narrow blue-green leaves. The leaves feature smooth edges, a pointed tip, and fuzz-covered silvery undersides. Against their dark-gray to black bark that’s carved with deep grooves, Bluejack leaves are stunning, and many landscapers favor them.
These trees do best in the sandy soils of Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma. They prefer full sun and are well-adapted to drought and wildfires.
Scientific name: Quercus Austrina
Bluff oaks are a favorite amongst landscapers because of their uniform, upright branches that don’t droop low to the ground. In front yards, along streets and sidewalks, they provide easy walking clearance, and pruning isn’t hard.
These trees can grow up to 60 feet tall and have a 50-foot spread. That said, many are closer to 40 feet tall and 35 feet wide. They grow moderately fast, and their ovular canopies provide plenty of shade. With dark green leaves and scaly-white bark, they’re also gorgeous in most landscapes.
These oaks don’t change color before dropping their leaves, prefer slightly acidic soil with good drainage, and grow best in USDA zones 8A-9B. This means this tree is hardy in all of Florida except for the southern tip.
Scientific name: Quercus Macrocarpa
Bur oaks are one of the more picturesque species of oak trees. They grow between 70 and 90 feet tall and often feature thick trunks, up to seven feet in diameter. Their crowns are uniform and round, and their long, lobed leaves put on a stunning fall display. The leaves shift from green to shades of red and copper before dropping.
Unfortunately, their acorns are filled with tannin and covered with a furry, bur-like cap. They fall away with the leaves and together make a huge mess on sidewalks and lawns. That said, the roots on Bur Oaks grow downward and tend not to lift nearby pavement as they extend.
Scientific name: Quercus Muehlenbergii
Chinkapin Oaks are sometimes called Chestnut Oaks because of their large and easy-to-shell acorns that attract all sorts of mammalian foragers, including humans. These large oak trees can grow up to 90 feet tall but usually only reach about 50 feet tall when cultivated. Their canopy tends to spread an equal distance, providing plenty of shade.
Initially, Chinkapin Oaks grow moderately fast but tend to slow as they age. Every fall, their yellow-green leaves will turn to shades of red and gold before dropping to the ground. Though Chinkapin Oaks prefer full sun and well-drained soil, they can survive in wet areas and do well in USDA zones 3A-8B.
Scientific name: Quercus hemisphaerica
Sometimes oak lovers mistakenly call the Darlington Oak a Laurel Oak. That’s because arborists once thought they were the same species. However, Darlington Oaks like drier environments in Florida, Virginia, and Texas. They also have long, thin, leathery leaves that differ from Laurel Oak trees.
Darlingtons have a short lifespan for an oak tree, only living for 50 to 90 years. However, they grow fast and can easily reach 100 feet tall when they mature. They have striking gray bark that starts smooth but grows as the tree gets older.
Scientific name: Quercus Laurifolia
At up to 60 feet tall with a dense, spreading canopy Laurel Oaks are a favorite for creating shade in yards and parks. Their trunks reach up to four feet wide, so they’re not exactly small trees, though they don’t tower like other oaks.
Laurels are wet-site tolerant and act as evergreens in much of Florida, though further north, they’re deciduous. There, their smooth, ovular, and shiny green leaves turn yellow and red in fall and winter.
Scientific Name: Quercus Lyrata
Overcup Oaks are mighty trees that grow up to 100 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Their round silhouettes and thick branches are complemented by whimsical, twisting trunks. They’re a favorite for growing near streets because their branches don’t droop.
However, their lobed green leaves turn brown before dropping each fall. At the same time, they’ll fruit and drop acorns which are a favorite for wild hogs, deer, and other mammals. This creates a lot of litter on sidewalks.
Overcup Oaks are prevalent in the Florida panhandle region, but they aren’t suitable outside USDA zones 6A to 9A.
Scientific name: Quercus Stellata
Post oaks are small for oak trees, standing 40 to 50 feet tall with a 35 to 50-foot spread. They have a dense but irregular canopy with gnarled, twisting branches and deeply lobed leaves. Though deciduous, their fall colors are unreliable. Sometimes they’ll turn a striking copper and gold before dropping their leaves, but such a showing is rare.
Post oaks prefer well-drained, alkaline soil and grow well in non-fertile areas within USDA zones 6A to 9A.
Scientific name: Quercus Shumardis
Shumard oaks grow up to 80 feet tall but have a relatively narrow spread of 40 to 50 feet. Their canopy is open, and they don’t produce as much shade as other oak trees. However, their dark green leaves turn vivid orange and red each fall, creating a stunning show.
Shumard oaks do well in USDA zones 5B through 9B but require full sun and well-drained soil to reach their epic lifespan of up to 480 years!
Scientific name: Quercus Virginiana
When you envision an old southern oak tree in your mind’s eye, you probably picture the Southern Live Oak. This iconic tree features a curving trunk up to 6 feet wide. It has broad, twisting branches that stretch up to 80 feet high and are usually dripping in Spanish moss.
Evergreen leaves and a gorgeous red-brown trunk that turns gray with age make this tree a stunning sight in USDA zones 7B through 10B. It likes full sun but can handle partial shade and grows in both dry and wet areas.
Scientific name: Quercus Falcata
The Southern Red Oak is sometimes referred to as a Spanish Oak tree. It grows up to 80 feet tall and has an open canopy that spreads up to 70 feet wide. This tree puts on quite a show during the fall as its leaves turn from shiny green to golden red and brown.
Southern Red Oaks feature dark bark that’s almost black, like a cherry tree. They prefer full sun and grow well in USDA zones 7A through 9B.
Scientific name: Quercus Bicolor
Swamp White Oaks earn their name by handling flooded areas well, though this tree prefers well-drained soil in sunny spaces. It grows well in the panhandle area of Florida (USDA zones 4A through 8B).
Swamp White Oaks feature broad, open canopies that create dense shade. They stand up to 70 feet tall and can be equally wide. They have large green leaves with fuzzy undersides. In the fall, the leaves will turn yellow or red and drop. Swamp White Oaks also produce acorns that wildlife loves.
Scientific name: Quercus Nigra
Counterintuitively, Water Oaks don’t need much water to survive. These highly drought-tolerant trees grow easily in USDA zones 6A through 10A. They feature a spreading canopy that produces lots of acorn fruits in the fall. Unfortunately, their acorns are full of tannins and tend to stain sidewalks.
Their staining capabilities and drooping branches that tend to break make them a better pick for large open spaces than suburban or city streets. They can grow up to 80 feet tall, and their spread is almost as wide as 70 feet.
Though it’s unreliable, they can put on a yellow show for about a week in early fall. However, more often than not, they act as evergreens.
Scientific name: Quercus Alba
You can find the slow-growing White Oak across Florida’s panhandle, in USDA zones 3B through 8B. These massive trees grow up to 100 feet wide, and their canopies can spread up to 80 feet. However, they live for centuries, and it takes them a long time to reach their full size.
With a trunk that’s up to six feet wide and roots that are prone to lifting pavement, White Oaks do best in wide-open spaces.
These trees probably earn their name thanks to their scaly, white bark. As the tree ages, the bark will smooth in spots. White Oaks also have greenish-white undersides to their leaves. The tops of the leaves, though, are dark blue-green.
Every so often, White Oaks will turn red in the fall, but this process is unreliable and won’t happen every year. When it does, expect them to drop their massive leaves, which can grow up to eight inches long, along with plenty of acorns.
Scientific name: Quercus Phellos
Thanks to their shady canopies, Willow Oaks are popular in parks throughout the south. They grow up to 70 feet tall and spread up to 50 feet wide. Though their canopies start out narrow and pyramid-like, they’ll fill out as they age. By the time a Willow Oak is mature, it usually has a symmetrical, round canopy.
Willow Oaks earn their name from their willow-like leaves. Long, light green, and oblong, the leaves are strikingly similar to a willow tree. However, unlike willow trees, Willow Oaks will turn color in the fall, dropping yellow leaves and acorns all over nearby sidewalks.
These oak trees like plenty of moisture when they’re young and do well next to marshes and streams. As they age, they become remarkably drought tolerant. They grow in USDA zones 6A through 9B, which includes almost all of Florida.
Oak trees earn their genus name, Quercus, from combining two Celtic words. Quer means beautiful, and cuez means tree. We think they certainly live up to the name, and every tree on this list is stunning in its own way.
If you’re in Florida and considering an oak tree for your yard, there are plenty of species to choose from. Now that you know about many of them, hopefully, you can select one that best suits your space.