Root an Oak Tree Cutting

While many attempts have been made with every species of oak tree to propagate rooted material from cuttings, these have proven to be almost complete failures. Unlike most deciduous trees, the oak cuttings from other than very young saplings will not sprout roots and develop into mature trees.

The only oak trees that have been grown with success from cuttings are the Southern red oak and the water oak, based on several studies done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forestry Service. Even in the case of these two oaks, not all cuttings flourished. The highest success rate was achieved with cuttings from stump sprouts, rather than from branches of live trunks.

The following procedure should be employed to propagate oak trees from cuttings.

Step 1 - Locate a Suitable Stump Sprout

An arborist can help locate a serviceable red or water oak stump with usable sprouts. The tree stump should be no more than 45 years old, with four years or more of sprout development. The cutting to be used should be large, more than 1/4 inch in diameter. The cut should be made between the two buds on the sprout closest to the stump.

    Step 2 - Remove the Stump Sprout Cutting

    Make an incision in the bottom edge of the sprout and cut 3/4 of the diameter. Cut down from the top of the sprout to meet the first cut. Lift the sprout carefully away to avoid tangling with other sprouts and twigs.

      Step 3 - Splice the Sprout Tips Prior to Rooting Treatment

      Make two thin splices in the sprout tip, one on each side to remove two segments of the bark and first layers of woody matter: the phloem, cambium and outer xylem.

        Step 4 - Prepare the Sprout Tip for Rooting

        Moisten the tip of the sprout with water, and dip into rooting powder containing an 8 percent solution of indole-3 butyric acid (IBA) stabilized with talc.

        Shake off any excess rooting powder. Put the sprout tip into a solution of folpet and water, allowing it to soak for 30 minutes.
        After immersion, recoat the tip in IBA powder as above.

          Step 5 - Plant the Sprout Tip

          Place the treated sprout tip in a prepared rooting soil containing equal proportions of milled pine bark and river sand cleansed of organic material.

          Enclose the rooting soil in plastic sheeting to prevent drying of the soil, and permit transmission of light. Mist the tip frequently, at least 10 times a day, for 28 days.

            Step 6 - Inspect the Roots for Growth

            Remove the root tip from the potting soil and inspect for evidence of root development. If root development is successful, then transplant into a container with the same soil as used for rooting, and water frequently. Treat with hormone and fungicide as in step 4 above, applied to the soil to establish growth.