The Northern Red Oak (Quercus Rubra) Care Guide

The Northern Red Oak, otherwise known as the Quercus Rubra or Red Oak, American Red Oak, Northern Red Oak, Quercus borealis, is a somewhat well known tree plant native to the Southeast, Northeast, and the Southwest of the United States.

Best known for its low maintenance and moderate growth, this tree will likely liven up your house (or garden) with its green-colored leaves. But, only if you learn how to take proper care of it for it to thrive.

Fortunately, taking care of your Northern Red Oak is not too difficult – as long as you follow our guidelines in this Northern Red Oak Care Guide. Now let’s get started.

In order to take proper care of your Northern Red Oak you’ll need to keep in mind the following guidelines:

  • Water: The Northern Red Oak needs water once a week but more often in dry weather. Reduce watering when it’s established.
  • Light: Keep your Quercus Rubra in an environment where it can receive full sun on a daily basis. 
  • Soil: Make sure to keep the Northern Red Oak in soil with moist but well-draining properties, so ideally, one that is made of sand, loam, and clay.

That’s it – sunlight, water and soil! The basic 3 fundamentals for all plant care, and with the Northern Red Oak this is no exception. With these three elements, your leafy friend will live healthy and happy.

Scientific / Botanical Aspects

In botanical terms, the Northern Red Oak belongs to the Fagaceae family, the genus Quercus and the species Rubra, hence its scientific (or botanical) name Quercus Rubra (KWER-kus ROO-bruh).

As with other Quercus’s, the Northern Red Oak is a deciduous plant, which means it will shed its leaves annually once autumn comes.

Growing Region

The Northern Red Oak is a plant native to Eastern North America and Eastern Canada. This is why the Quercus Rubra is used to growing in specific regions such as the states in Southeast, Northeast, and the Southwest of the United States.

Knowing your plant’s native region is very useful, as it can give you tips on which environment is best for your Northern Red Oak. If you keep it in mind, you can try to replicate these conditions at home, and you’ll likely end with a healthier plant.

With this in mind, the Quercus Rubra will be most used to the heat zones in the 5 – 9 region, as the plant hardiness level falls between 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a and the ideal climate zone is between 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21.

Growth and Size


In terms of size and growth, the Northern Red Oak is a relatively moderate grower, which makes things somewhat easy for any plant enthusiast.


But, how big does the Northern Red Oak actually get? What should you expect in terms of size? Let’s dive right in…

The Quercus Rubra can grow up to 50′ – 70′ (15m – 21m) in 50′ – 70′ (15m – 21m) and 50′ – 70′ (15m – 21m) in 50′ – 70′ (15m – 21m). 

Also, expect it to grow in a wonderful spreading shape, which is something worthwhile to remember when making your garden landscape plans.


In terms of watering, the Northern Red Oak is a fairly simple plant to take care of. This is mostly because it has a straightforward watering schedule and somewhat regular watering needs.

Specifically, most experts agree that the Quercus Rubra needs water once a week but more often in dry weather. Reduce watering when it’s established.

Which is why it is considered a plant with relatively average needs in terms of water. 

As a rule of thumb, you should remember to keep your Northern Red Oak in soil with moist but well-draining to well draining characteristics, as these will guarantee the right conditions for your plant to grow and thrive. 

When you consider this, this is why you should aim to choose soil that has good drainage, and moist properties to keep the right moisture levels at all times. 

But, if you want a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to watering your Northern Red Oak then you should consider the famous ‘finger’ test. To perform this test, you just need to put your finger in your plant’s soil and determine if it’s moist or not. If it is, then don’t water; if it isn’t, then please do. In any case, this test will allow you to know if your Northern Red Oak needs or does not need water, every time.

Soil Mix

As mentioned earlier, the Northern Red Oak prefers to have soil with good drainage, and moist properties at all times, reason why you need to make the soil mix out of sand, loam, and clay.

This is why most experts agree that the Northern Red Oak requires soil with clay, loam (silt), and sand, which will give you the right conditions it needs.

In addition to this, expert gardeners recommend having preferably neutral to acid soil.

Light and Exposure

In terms of light & exposure, the Northern Red Oak requires full sun in order for it to thrive under the right conditions. 

Most experts agree that this tree will do well as long as you keep it in full sun, and it will be able to grow properly.

Specifically, we recommend that you place your Quercus Rubra in little to partial shade (only 2-6 hours of direct sunlight a day), to full and direct sun (more 6 hours of direct sunlight per day).


Being a deciduous plant, the Northern Red Oak will shed its leaves annually once autumn comes. But, you can expect it to have its ‘prime-time’ during the spring (late), the summer (early, mid, late), and during the fall.


You can expect your Northern Red Oak to flower around the spring months from April to June (spring).

The Northern Red Oak produces some wonderful brown/copper and green flowers around this time of year.


The leaves from the Northern Red Oak have a beautiful green color during most of the year.

In particular, they have a simple arrangement with a alternate organization in its leaves. You can expect the leaves from your Quercus Rubra to be around (> 6 inches) in size.

Attracts, Tolerance and Resistance

The Northern Red Oak is well known for its tolerance to dry soil and drought conditions, so don’t worry if any of these come along, your Quercus Rubra will be fine.


How should you then organize your garden to include your new Northern Red Oak? Here are some recommendations by expert gardeners.

Most Quercus Rubra owners agree that this tree will look great in most contemporary and rustic gardens of all types. Other owners consider that they complement well most gardens of informal and cottage, and in prairie and meadow styles. 

In particular, the Northern Red Oak’s best location within your garden is in beds and borders, others use it for landscaping in a wildlife garden, specimen, firescaping/fire wise, coastal exposure, mass planting, privacy screen, or a woodland garden.

Companion Plants

Northern Red Oak’s do well with some other plants beside it. One good companion plant is the Euonymus, which will pair up nicely with your leafy friend.

Others consider that a nice Symphoricarpos will work well too, so choose whichever you find works best for you!


So that’s it! These are the main plant care requirements that you need to keep in mind in order to have a healthy Northern Red Oak in your garden or home.

Martin Duran

Hey y'all! My name is Martin Duran and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since 2018 I have been learning about plants and how to take care of them. Here's is my journey... “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

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