Want to give growing an oak tree a try? Autumn is the perfect time to start and all you need is an acorn, some compost and a pot
How to grow an oak tree from an acorn
Gather some acorns from the ground. Choose fat, ripe acorns – nice and brown all over. Ignore any that are green (these are unripe) or dark (these have started to rot).
Add acorns to compost
Fill a small flowerpot, yogurt pot or plastic cup with peat-free compost mixed with some sand or sawdust. Push the acorns into damp compost mix, one per container. Make sure the more pointed end is facing upwards. Cover with 2–3cm of compost.
Place the containers in a cool place out of direct sun, such as a garage, shed or unheated spare room. If it’s too warm, they won’t germinate.
In spring, check if your acorns have started to sprout. Gently water the tiny seedlings once or twice a week to prevent the compost becoming dry.
Re-pot your seedlings
When your seedlings are 25cm high transfer them to a larger pot. After one or two years the young trees will be ready to plant in the ground.
Other native British trees that are easy to grow from seed include hazel, alder and beech. Plant them in autumn as above.
How long does it take an oak tree to grow from an acorn?
After you have grown your seedlings to around 25cm high, they will need to be repotted into a larger pot. It then takes around one or two years for the young trees to be ready to planted into the ground. Because they are slow-growing trees, it then takes five or six years before the oak tree will be fully self-sustaining. Its growth slows down as it ages, and it will take several decades before it is fully grown.
Ben Hoare is a wildlife writer and editor, and proud to be an all-round ‘nature nerd’. He was features editor at BBC Wildlife magazine from 2008 to 2018, and after that its editorial consultant. Ben writes about seasonal natural-history highlights in every issue of the magazine, and also contributes longer conservation stories. His latest children’s book is 'Wild City', published in October 2020.