Plant Encyclopedia

Northern Red Oak

Quercus rubra

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Northern Red Oak, huge oak tree with bright red leaves

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For a boost of gorgeous autumn color, the Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) is just the tree for you. Its lobed foliage changes colors throughout the entire year. This tree puts on a dazzling display for all the seasons. Make sure to add this mighty oak tree to your landscape’s color palette.

Plant Attributes

This large, deciduous tree has a rounded to broad-spreading base. In many cases, this tree develops an irregular crown. It has a moderate growth rate and can reach a height of 50 to 75 feet. In the spring, some catkins start to appear. During the springtime, new leaves will also merge in a light red hue. As the season turns to summer, those leaves deepen into a dark green with grayish-white undersides. The leaves are toothed lobes that end with a sharp point. The Northern red oak truly shines in the fall. Its leaves will transform into shades of harvest red, bright red, and russet during the autumn season. The acorns have an appearance of saucer-shaped cups, and they will mature in the fall. However, these acorns usually do not appear until the tree reaches 40 years old.

Landscape Use

This deciduous tree will look fabulous in your landscape. If you want a magnificent focal point in your yard, make sure to use this tree as a single specimen. For those yards with extra space, multiple trees can provide a color boost and create the perfect design element for your property. For a dramatic sight, you will want to plant these trees in a row that lines a sidewalk or driveway. In the autumn, your driveways will be painted in beautiful fall colors. The Northern red oak looks great as a grove tree. Plant a few trees in a curved semi-circle for some added interest throughout your landscape.

These trees can create that cozy outdoor sanctuary for your home. By adding a few Northern red oaks near a patio, you will have enough shade and beauty to create the perfect personal nature retreat. In some rural areas, you might even see a few native birds nesting in the branches. Northern red oaks can create a natural ecosystem for your property. For added appeal, surround your Northern red oak with small flowering trees and shrubs of all shapes and sizes. Make sure to add some plants to attract those birds and butterflies.

Planting & Care

The Northern red oak requires well-draining soil. If you want a healthy oak, it needs to be planted in a space that receives full sunshine. If you leave a Northern red oak in partial shade or wet soil, then your tree will do poorly in your yard. This oak is tolerant of droughts, but it can become stressed in those extremely dry conditions. If you are looking to keep moisture around the tree, you should add a 4-inch layer of mulch near the trunk. This mulch can also keep those roots cool throughout the summer. For those trees planted in areas with extended periods of dry weather, make sure to water the tree. If you want to remove any crossing branches, pruning should be done. Any cutting should be completed in the fall or winter.

The Northern red oak adapts to those USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8. This tree is virtually resistant to disease and pests. It is also tolerant of air pollution and salt. For that reason, it is an excellent tree for those urban or residential areas. If you are looking for a striking tree that requires little maintenance, you definitely want to consider the Northern red oak for your landscape.

Additional Information

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Northern Red Oak


If you want a huge shade tree for your outdoor space, the Northern red oak is an excellent choice for any type of landscape. These trees are hardy, fast-growing, and long-lasting. This oak looks great in those crowded city environments and huge countrysides. In almost every space, this tree will make a statement. The Northern red oak is known for its changing colors throughout the seasons. For those spaces that need a little boost, don’t delay. You will want to grab this Northern red oak for outdoor spaces.

At Arbor Valley Nursery, we have a large selection of products, including the Northern red oak. We are ready to answer all those questions and help you find the right species for your business and clients. If you would love to add this oak to your inventory, please fill out the contact form.

Plant Features

  • Plant Type: Tree
  • Watering Needs:
  • Botanical Pronunciation: KWER-kus ROO-bruh
  • Deciduous/evergreen: Deciduous
  • Growth rate: Moderate
  • Average landscape size: Moderate growing; reaches 60 to 80 ft. tall, 35 to 40 ft. wide.
  • Special features: Bird Friendly, Fall Color, North American Native Selection, Year-round Interest
  • Foliage color: Green
  • Blooms: Inconspicuous; prized for foliage.
  • Flower color:
  • Flower attributes:
  • Garden style: Contemporary, Rustic
  • Design Ideas: A beautiful specimen tree for sizeable homesites and suburban yards. Exceptional street tree and for large-scale effects in institutional planting. American native is suitable for naturalization in open space and reforestation projects in rural or urban applications.
  • Companion Plants: Burning Bush (Euonymus); Snowberry (Symphoricarpos); Spirea (Spiraea); Magnolia (Magnolia); Serviceberry (Amelanchier)

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