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Quercus coccinea (Scarlet Oak)

Scarlet Oak

Quercus coccinea, Scarlet Oak, Red Leaves, Tree with fall color, Fall color, Attractive bark Tree
Quercus coccinea, Scarlet Oak, Red Leaves, Tree with fall color, Fall color, Attractive bark Tree

Noted for its brilliant fall color, Quercus coccinea, commonly known as the Scarlet Oak, is a deciduous tree with a broad, rounded canopy and an open, spreading habit. Long-lived and easy to grow, it belongs to the red oak group.

Quercus coccinea: An In-depth Look

Native: Native to the eastern United States, it’s commonly found in woodlands and dry ridges.

Plant Type and Habit: The Scarlet Oak is a large, deciduous tree with a pyramidal habit in youth, becoming upright-spreading and open with age.

Size: This oak tree typically grows 50-70 feet (15-21 m) tall with a spread of 40-50 feet (12-15 m) at maturity.

Flowers: Inconspicuous yellow-green catkins appear in spring as the new leaves unfurl with a red hue

Fruits: The acorns are produced after 20 years. They are oval to round, measuring about 0.5 to 1 inch long. They have a deep, saucer-like cap covering about one-third of the nut.

Foliage: The large, lustrous, dark green leaves, adorned with 7-9 pointed, bristle-tipped lobes, turn brilliant red and scarlet in the fall. The magnificent fall color display may last 3-4 weeks.

Bark: The bark is dark, ridged, and furrowed, turning more scaly as the tree ages.

Hardiness: It’s hardy in USDA zones 5-9, tolerating a range of climatic conditions.

Uses: Prized for its spectacular fall color, poor soil tolerance, and wind resistance, Scarlet Oak is a very popular landscape choice. Useful as a specimen or shade tree, it is perfect for large areas where it adds beauty to the landscape. Its wood is also used for construction, flooring, and cabinetry.

Wildlife: Oak trees support over 800 caterpillar species in the United States. They are host plants for over 500 species of butterflies, including the Striped Hairstreak, Banded Hairstreak, Edwards Hairstreak, Red Banded Hairstreak, White M Hairstreak, Mourning Cloak, and Horace’s Duskywing. Birds and mammals, including deer and squirrels, voles, and turkeys, consume the acorns.

Deer and Rabbits: While young trees may be susceptible to browsing by deer and rabbits, mature Willow Oaks are less prone to damage. Using protective measures like tree guards can help safeguard saplings from these animals.

Drought Tolerance: This oak has good drought tolerance, especially when established.

Toxicity: The leaves and acorns contain tannic acid, which can be toxic to horses and some pets if ingested in large quantities.

Invasiveness: This species is not considered invasive in its native range.

How to Grow and Care for a Scarlet Oak Tree

Light: Prefers full sun. Plant in an area receiving at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Soil: Adaptable to a variety of soil types but thrives best in fertile, sandy, well-drained, slightly acidic soils.

Water: Regular watering is important for root development during the first few years. Mature trees are drought-tolerant but benefit from occasional deep watering during prolonged dry spells.

Fertilizer: Fertilization is not typically necessary. If growth is slow, apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring.

Pruning: Prune during the dormant season to remove dead or crossing branches and maintain structure. Avoid excessive pruning.

Propagation: Primarily propagated through acorns. Plant fresh acorns in the fall. Germination can take 1-2 years. The Scarlet Oak is difficult to transplant due to its tap root. Grow your own oak tree: a step-by-step guide to planting acorns.

Pests and Diseases: No serious insect or disease issues. Scarlet Oak is susceptible to oak wilt, root rot, anthracnosecanker, leaf spot, and powdery mildew. Potential insect pests include scale insects, leafminers, galls, lace bugs, borers, and caterpillars. This tree is also susceptible to fire damage due to its thin bark.

Requirements

Hardiness 5 - 9
Heat Zones 5 - 9
Climate Zones 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Trees
Plant Family Fagaceae
Genus Quercus
Common names Scarlet Oak, Oak
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 50' - 70'
(15.2m - 21.3m)
Spread 40' - 50'
(12.2m - 15.2m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky
Tolerance Drought, Dry Soil
Garden Styles Prairie and Meadow
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Alternative Plants to Consider

Quercus douglasii (Blue Oak)
Quercus chrysolepis (Canyon Live Oak)
Quercus myrtifolia (Myrtle Oak)
Quercus velutina (Black Oak)
Quercus laurifolia (Laurel Oak)
Quercus phellos (Willow Oak)

Find In One of Our Guides or Gardens

Roots of Life: Exploring the Diverse World of Trees
Green Canopy, Better World: Exploring the Benefits of Trees
Trees that Invite Wildlife to Your Garden
Spectacular Trees for Vibrant Fall Colors: A Gardener’s Guide
Quercus (Oak) – Pests and Diseases to Watch Out For
Grow Your Own Oak Tree: A Step-by-Step Guide to Planting Acorns
8 Compelling Reasons Why You Should Plant an Oak Tree
Native Oak Trees: A Must-Have for Your Landscape
Native Plant Alternatives to Quercus acutissima (Sawtooth Oak)
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 5 - 9
Heat Zones 5 - 9
Climate Zones 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Trees
Plant Family Fagaceae
Genus Quercus
Common names Scarlet Oak, Oak
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 50' - 70'
(15.2m - 21.3m)
Spread 40' - 50'
(12.2m - 15.2m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky
Tolerance Drought, Dry Soil
Garden Styles Prairie and Meadow
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
Guides with
Quercus (Oak)
Not sure which Quercus (Oak) to pick?
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