Which Oak Tree Varieties Thrive in Austin, Texas?

By Tree Expert Codey Stout
Updated On

Are you wondering which oak tree varieties thrive best in Austin?

You’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • The best types of oak trees to plant in Austin
  • How the environment in Austin impacts oak tree growth
  • How you can help your oak trees thrive in Austin

And much more!

Which Oak Tree Varieties Thrive in Austin, Texas

So, if you want to make sure that your oak trees survive and thrive for the longest time possible, keep reading our guide below to learn everything you need to know!

The city of Austin and its residents hold their trees in high regard, acknowledging and appreciating that they provide shade, clean air, and natural beauty to the area. Just over 30% of the city is covered by the tree canopy, which is above average for an urban area like Austin.

Unfortunately, not all tree species can handle the climate in Central Texas. Residents in the Austin area frequently deal with excessively high temperatures, extended drought conditions, and strong winds from hurricanes and tropical storms.

Of the many species that can survive in Austin, certain varieties of oak trees are among the largest and most beautiful. Below, we’ll be discussing the various types of oak trees that can thrive in Austin, as well as some tips for ensuring they remain healthy and strong even in the sometimes extreme weather in Texas.

Types Of Oak Trees in Austin

Not all oak varieties are equipped to thrive or even survive in the Texas heat. So, if you’re worried about the health of your oak tree or its ability to survive, reach out to one of our tree specialists in Austin to evaluate the tree and give you tips on how to save it. That said, the below types of oak trees usually fare the best and are most likely to last through drought and severe weather from hurricanes and tropical storms.

1. Live Oak

Quercus virginiana, more commonly referred to as the live oak, is a durable variety of oak that is prevalent throughout Texas. There are several varieties of these deciduous trees that appear in Austin and can stand up to the harsh weather conditions.

Although the different live oaks vary somewhat from species to species, live oaks generally reach about 50 feet tall and can have trunks that grow to 48 inches or more in diameter. They have a tall, single trunk that spans out into a vast crown, sometimes twice as wide as the tree is tall.

Live oaks bear acorns that attract squirrels, raccoons, and some other wildlife, so they might not be ideal for those looking to avoid rodents and other potential pests. They do provide some of the densest shade of any other tree in Austin, and they’re considered an evergreen, so they’ll provide bright green beauty year-round to any yard.

Although live oaks are susceptible to oak wilt, which is a relatively common tree disease in Austin, they stand up well to most other conditions, including temperatures over 100 degrees. They are also naturally quite drought tolerant.

A. Texas Live Oak

Texas live oak trees, referred to formally as Quercus fusiformis, are slightly smaller than other varieties, rarely exceeding 45 feet in height and 40 inches in diameter. The large, meandering branches often reach down and touch the ground if left to grow uninhibited.

Texas live oaks are aptly named because they’re one of the hardiest trees in the state. They store water well and can go long stretches of time without water during drought conditions. Of course, if possible, you should try to water the base of Texas live oaks during a drought to keep the tree well fed.

The largest recorded Texas live oak in America is located right in Bosque County, with an impressive trunk diameter of around 9 feet.

B. Hinckley’s Oak

Hinckley’s oak trees (Quercus hinkleyi) are more common in Western Texas, but they do pop up in Austin and can survive the excessive heat and drought conditions in the area.

This oak is often referred to as a shrub, as it’s very small and only reaches about 5 feet tall. It has a single trunk and an intricate array of branches that drop large, round acorns in the early fall.

Unfortunately, this variety is quite rare and is listed as a threatened species by Texas and on a federal level.

C. Sandpaper Oak

Sandpaper oak (Quercus pungens), also called pungent oak trees, appears primarily in Western Texasl but can be found sparingly in Austin. They are medium-sized trees or shrubs that reach up to about 20 feet in height. Their crowns are dense and span out nearly as wide as the tree grows tall.

Sandpaper oaks are relatively easy to care for in Austin because they prefer direct sun exposure, have minimal watering requirements, and have a high tolerance for extreme heat.

2. Red Oak

Red oak trees (Quercus rubra) can top out at an impressive 90 feet tall, and they provide ample shade and plenty of natural beauty. They’re stately in appearance and have a tall, rounded crown. The red oak subgroup includes the Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii), the Texas red oak (Quercus buckleyi), 

Some red oaks can live several hundreds of years, sometimes reaching trunk diameters of 6 feet or more. They have waxy leaves and drop large acorns in late September and early October.

Unfortunately, red oaks are highly susceptible to fungal infections that are prevalent in Texas. While they may need some TLC to avoid infection, they are adept at surviving and thriving through the harsh Texas summers and hurricane season.

3. Mexican Oak

The Mexican oak — also called the Mexican white oak or Quercus polymorpha — is a hearty oak species that prefers conditions similar to those in Austin. It holds up well through prolonged droughts, and the intense sun and heat in Central Texas are no issue. These are sometimes grouped together with the post oak (Quercus stellata), another white oak species prevalent in Austin.

These oak trees are smaller than many other varieties, usually topping out around 40 feet tall with a trunk up to 2 feet in diameter.

The Mexican oak is a semi-evergreen tree, so it provides a beautiful green color and adequate shade for most of the year.

4. Lacey Oak

The Quercus laceyi, more typically referred to as the Lacey oak, is a medium-sized tree that can grow to about 60 feet tall and 40 or 50 feet wide at the crown. The leaves are a beautiful peach color in the early spring and fall, and the summer brings more natural green leaves and occasionally even a bluish color.

Lacey oaks are very common in Central Texas, not only because they thrive in hot, arid conditions but also because they are naturally resistant to oak wilt, a common fungal infection in the Southern United States.

The largest recorded Lacey oak is a champion tree in Blanco County. It stands just under 60 feet tall and has a trunk that is over 3 feet in diameter.

5. Chinquapin Oak

The Chinquapin oak tree (Quercus muehlenbergii) — sometimes spelled “Chinkapin oak” — seems to be made for thriving in Texas. It powers through drought conditions without too much of an issue, is best in well-drained and clay soils, which are common in many areas throughout Texas, and prefers direct sunlight year-round. As such, they grow quickly and often do well in Austin.

When residents plant these among other trees, they typically top out around 50 feet tall, but they can easily grow up to about 80 feet in the wild.

These oak trees tend to attract more wildlife than many other species, so be prepared for squirrels and raccoons on your property if you plant one.

6. Bur Oak

Bur oaks (Quercus macrocarpa) are some of the most common trees to appear in Austin landscaping, and they provide plenty of shade and beauty to their surroundings. They can grow almost 100 feet tall, and most of them are wider than they are tall. They have a thick trunk, often reaching over 4 feet in diameter.

The crown of the tree is rounded but oblong, with large limbs spanning out 40-50 feet on either side in some cases.

Bur oaks do well in Texas, mainly because they’re highly adaptable to different conditions. They can thrive in full sun and part shade, they’re capable of surviving wet or arid conditions, and they’re somewhat resistant to oak wilt and some other tree diseases that are common in the Austin area.

7. Southern Red Oak

Southern red oaks, also called Spanish oaks or Quercus falcata, can grow up to around 80 feet tall and have massive crowns that provide plenty of shade for many Austin homeowners. They prefer full sun conditions and can tolerate dry soil well, so they’re nicely adapted to life in Central Texas.

Southern red oaks are susceptible to oak wilt and some other common oak tree diseases. Still, they’re generally hardy and resistant to most diseases and pest infestations that frequently occur in Texas.

What Are Some Tips For Growing Oak Trees In Austin?

Growing oak trees can add tons of beauty to your landscape, offer shade, and bring wildlife to any property. Most oak varieties grow relatively quickly, sometimes reaching 10-15 feet in the first few years after planting. In general, the oak trees prevalent in Austin are well-equipped to handle the dry conditions as well as the intense sun and summer heatwaves.

With that being said, there are some things you can do to help your oak trees grow as healthily and quickly as possible in Austin. The below tips will help your oak trees survive through the extreme Texas weather and avoid infection from some of the more common tree diseases in the area.

Tip 1: Plan

Before you even plant your oak tree, it’s crucial to choose a good place for it, where it can grow uninhibited above and below the ground. The oak varieties that thrive in Austin can grow very tall and up to about 100 feet wide, with root systems to match.

As such, you should plant any substantial oaks far enough away from power lines, your home, fences, sheds, and other personal property to ensure that it doesn’t become a hazard once it is fully grown and considered a mature tree.

Tip 2: Plant Early

Once you have the perfect placement for your oak tree, it’s time to plant! It’s best to plant oaks in Texas between October 1st and the end of March, with the earlier end of that timeline being preferential.

Planting trees in the dead of summer will stress them and leave them prone to disease and pest infestation. Planting in the wet season when temperatures are less extreme will promote healthy root growth and will help the tree survive through its first Texas summer.

Tip 3: Have Your Soil Analyzed

Whether you’re just planting or caring for a mature oak tree, it’s helpful to have your soil analyzed by an arborist like ours. A soil sample is quick and easy, and we can tell you if your soil is adequate for healthy tree growth. Texas soil is well-known for its nutrients and growing ability, but it’s best to get a test done anyway to ensure you don’t need fertilizer to keep your tree strong.

Tip 4: Add Mulch Around the Base

Once your tree is in the ground, and for the entirety of its life, you should add a bed of mulch around the base. Mulch naturally helps keep pests away, but, more importantly, it also helps the ground retain water, especially during drought conditions that are common in Austin.

Trees need water to survive, and watering every day or every other day in extreme drought isn’t advisable. Adding mulch will help keep the soil below moist enough for the tree to deal with weekly or bi-weekly watering during drought. It will help keep the tree adequately fed so it can survive through the harsh Texas weather, including heat, strong winds, and excessive rain during the wet season.

Tip 5: Water Regularly

As mentioned above, you should plan to water your oak trees regularly. Trees under two years old should be watered at least once a week with around an inch of water. After that, a monthly watering during drought conditions for a properly mulched oak tree should be sufficient. You might want to add in a random watering opportunity on particularly hot days to help avoid wilting.

Tip 6: Prune Appropriately

Finally, the oak trees of Texas grow erratically and often have very dense crowns, so it’s essential to have your tree pruned by a professional like us about once every year or two. Professional pruning by our team of experts will keep your tree looking beautiful and nicely trimmed, but it will also promote healthy growth and strong limbs. Regular trims can help avoid fallen limbs, downed trees, pest infestation, and tree disease.

Wrapping Up

Oak trees are among the most giant and beautiful native trees that can survive and thrive in the Austin area. Some varieties are better than others for planting in Central Texas, as they resist high temperatures well, can power through drought conditions, and don’t mind constant and intense sunlight.

If you plant one of the oak varieties above and follow our tips for growing healthy oak trees in Austin, you’ll have elegant shade trees to enjoy on your property for decades.

Meet Your Tree Expert

Codey Stout

Codey Stout is the operations manager for Tree Triage and has years of experience removing trees. His expertise has been featured in publications like Yahoo, The Family Handyman, Homes & Gardens, and many more. The only thing Codey likes doing more than removing intrusive trees, is removing unsightly stumps.
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