Yerba Buena Nursery's guide to planting under oaks

The value of oaks

One of the most majestic, valuable and longest lasting legacies we can leave our children is the oak tree. Hundreds of species of wildlife depend on this tree for food and shelter. Our homes are enhanced by the shade and stature provided by this long-lived tree. Yet human activities such as building of homes and planting of vineyards threaten the areas where oaks remain. In addition, Sudden Oak Death is now threatening our remaining oaks, killing off portions of oak forest at an alarming rate. We need to preserve existing oaks and plant new trees for the future.

Natural watering patterns

Mature oak trees have typically survived in California with water gathered from winter rains and without water for the 6 month summer period. To keep your oaks alive you will want to replicate the no water pattern in summer by avoiding the use of plants under the oaks that need summer water. This particularly includes lawns! How often have we seen a mature oak fall down onto a newly planted lawn, added by a developer or homeowner, who has no knowledge of the consequences.

Root system of established oaks

Oaks set a deep tap root and have many shallow surface feeder roots. These shallow roots extend to and beyond the canopy of the tree and should not be disturbed. Feeder roots are typically from 12 inches to 3 feet below the soil's surface. The most critical area is within 10 feet of the base of an oak, where no planting should occur and the area must be kept dry. Organic mulch can be used in this area, provided it does not touch the crown of the tree. Between the 10 foot diameter and the dripline, minimal planting should occur. Native plants which are drought tolerant and planted in the rainy season are the best choice as they will not compete with the oak for nutrients as will other thirsty plants.

New oaks

Recently planted oaks will need to be watered for about 3 years until they are established. After that, they should not be summer watered and should definitely not be planted in a lawn. Summer watering may not appear to affect these trees for a number of years, after which root rot and decline in health may occur.

For further reference: An online book by the California Oak Foundation: Compatible Plants Under & Around Oaks

Achillea millefolium
Achillea millefolium
Pink & White Yarrow

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Achillea millefolium 'Calistoga'
Achillea millefolium 'Calistoga'
Grey-Leaved Yarrow

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Achillea millefolium 'King Range'
Achillea millefolium 'King Range'
White Yarrow

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Achillea millefolium 'Pink Island Form'
Achillea millefolium 'Pink Island Form'
Yarrow

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Achillea millefolium 'Sonoma Coast'
Achillea millefolium 'Sonoma Coast'
Sonoma White Yarrow

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Actea rubra
Actea rubra
Baneberry

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Adiantum jordanii
Adiantum jordanii
California Maidenhair

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Aesculus californica
Aesculus californica
California Buckeye

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Aquilegia eximia
Aquilegia eximia
Summer Columbine

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Aquilegia formosa
Aquilegia formosa
Western Columbine

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arbutus menziesii
Arbutus menziesii
Madrone

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arctostaphylos 'Emerald Carpet'
Arctostaphylos 'Emerald Carpet'
'Emerald Carpet' Manzanita

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arctostaphylos 'Seaspray'
Arctostaphylos 'Seaspray'
'Seaspray' Manzanita

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Harmony'
Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Harmony'
Vine Hill Manzanita

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arctostaphylos edmundsii 'Carmel Sur'
Arctostaphylos edmundsii 'Carmel Sur'
Bronze Mat Manzanita

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arctostaphylos glauca
Arctostaphylos glauca
Bigberry Manzanita

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arctostaphylos hookeri 'Ken Taylor'
Arctostaphylos hookeri 'Ken Taylor'
Monterey Manzanita

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arctostaphylos hookeri 'Wayside'
Arctostaphylos hookeri 'Wayside'
'Wayside' Monterey Manzanita

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arctostaphylos regismontana
Arctostaphylos regismontana
King's Mountain Manzanita

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Green Supreme'
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Green Supreme'
'Green Supreme' Bearberry

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Point Reyes'
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Point Reyes'
'Pt. Reyes' Bearberry

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Radiant'
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Radiant'
'Radiant' Bearberry

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'San Bruno Mountain'
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'San Bruno Mountain'
'San Bruno Mtn.' Bearberry

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi leo-breweri ssp.
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi leo-breweri ssp.
Leo Brewer's Manzanita

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Aristolochia californica
Aristolochia californica
California Dutchmans Pipe

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Artemisia californica
Artemisia californica
California Sagebrush

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Artemisia douglasiana
Artemisia douglasiana
Mugwort

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver King'
Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver King'
Wormwood

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Asclepias cordifolia
Asclepias cordifolia
Purple Milkweed

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Asclepias eriocarpa
Asclepias eriocarpa
Indian Milkweed

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Asclepias speciosa
Asclepias speciosa
Showy Milkweed

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Baccharis pilularis 'Pigeon Pt.'
Baccharis pilularis 'Pigeon Pt.'
Dwarf Coyote Bush

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Baccharis pilularis consanguinea var.
Baccharis pilularis consanguinea var.
Coyote Bush

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Berberis 'Golden Abundance'
Berberis 'Golden Abundance'
Oregon Grape

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Berberis 'Ken Hartman'
Berberis 'Ken Hartman'
Oregon Grape

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Berberis aquifolium
Berberis aquifolium
Oregon Grape

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Berberis aquifolium 'Skylark'
Berberis aquifolium 'Skylark'
'Skylark' Oregon Grape

Botanic Name

size

exposure

water

1 gal

$1

2 gal

$2

4"

$4

5 gal

$5

15 gal

$15

24" box

$24

Berberis aquifolium compacta ssp.
Berberis aquifolium compacta ssp.
Oregon Grape

Botanic Name

size