How to Properly Care for a Southern Live Oak Tree

Date March 18, 2022

Author TreeNewal Staff

Southern live oaks are a beautiful and iconic part of the Texas landscape. These trees can live for centuries, but they can require some particular care to stay healthy and look good through our brief but brutal winters and long, dry summers. Here are TreeNewal’s favorite essential tips on how to care for your Southern live oak tree!

About Southern Live Oak Trees

The southern live oak tree, or Quercus virginiana, is a species of an evergreen oak tree. They are most often found in, you guessed it, the south – natively from Virginia all the way down into Port Lavaca, TX! Southern live oaks are notably resistant to fire due to their monumental height and are built to withstand most floods and hurricanes considering the dimensions of their mighty trunks.

These majestic trees are also widely known for their extremely long life and relatively quick growth rate. While it takes them up to 70 years to reach their full trunk width, that’s a pretty short length of time compared to the centuries they typically live!

Did you know: The oldest known southern live oak tree is found in Louisiana and is estimated to be around 1200 years old.

How to Take Care of a Southern Live Oak Tree


Make sure to plant your oak in an area that gets plenty of sunlight – they need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day. The species can handle a bit of shade but certainly does best with full exposure.


The ideal time for southern live oak tree pruning in North Texas is once your trees have gone dormant for the late fall and early winter seasons – November through January specifically. This timeframe will help avoid the risks associated with any accidental flesh wounds to the tree that can attract pests and diseases. It’s just always easier to see where you’re cutting when there aren’t leaves blocking your view!

Be especially sure to avoid doing any oak tree trimming or pruning between the months of February and June, as this is peak Oak Wilt season. The good news is an oak tree only needs to be pruned on average every 3 – 5 years once they’ve matured. Here are some things to look out for that let you know the time for pruning has come.

Signs Your Oak Tree Needs Pruning

  • Cracked bark
  • Closely overlapping branches
  • Excessive growth
  • Storm damage
  • Drooping or broken branches
  • Unbalanced canopy
  • Dead limbs

To learn more about good pruning techniques and practices, check out our Common Tree Pruning Mistakes You Might Be Making post. Remember that you can also always give TreeNewal a call to take care of all your pruning needs for you!

Note: Thanks to their massive canopy span, southern live oaks must be planted far away from risky structures like powerlines. Their crowns often stretch anywhere from 75 up to 135 feet across with the tree itself reaching a full height of 40 to 80 feet tall!


Oaks tend to prefer acidic soil. In their natural environments, southern live oaks thrive with a proper balance of potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorous. So, if your soil is not naturally acidic, consider adding some peat moss or pine bark mulch to the area around the tree’s roots.

But that’s simply their preference. They’ll survive just fine in alkaline soil as well as even clay and sand if that’s what is available.

Pests & Disease

Insects and illness can be big, destructive problems for southern live oaks. Sap-sucking aphids, scales, and root borers are the most common pest causes of structural weakening and branch dieback, while mildew, root rot, and canker diseases lead to very similar results as well.

Learn all about root rot and how to control pests this summer.

If you suspect something may already be amiss, our ISA-Certified Arborist can take a look at your trees and plan out how best to identify and manage the issue. Call us today to get treatment started!


And finally, remember to water your oak regularly – especially during times of drought. As just little saplings, southern live oaks grow surprisingly quickly when their roots are given the right amount of moisture. However, that changes drastically to only needing minimal watering after a few years of establishing their roots.

Remember: Always plant your oak trees at a slight elevation from the surrounding soil to encourage healthy water drainage.

Proper care for a southern live oak tree is essential to keeping it healthy and looking great. Our team at TreeNewal is here to help you with all of your southern live oak needs. Contact us today for more information on how we can help you take care of your trees!

If you need advice or assistance with caring for your Southern live oak trees, get in touch with the ISA-certified arborists at TreeNewal and enjoy tailored tree care advice.

To learn more about How to Properly Care for a Southern Live Oak Tree, call our Argyle and Southlake-based teams

at tel:(817) 592-6846 or send us a message.

We’re a little different than the average tree services company.

Learn more about TreeNewal’s ISA Certified Arborists!

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Healthy trees, healthy lives.