Sun to part sun
Moist to moderately dry soil. Tolerates clay.
The Willow Oak, Quercus phellos, a medium to large species within the “red oak group”, occurs mostly in the Southeastern United States. It occurs from Missouri, south to extreme-eastern Texas, east to the Florida Panhandle, and extending north along the coast to Long Island, New York.
It is listed as a Pennsylvania endangered species, currently only present in a few south-eastern counties of Pennsylvania but naturally absent from the rest of the state. Even so, it is not hard to grow in the home landscape and even tolerates clay soil.
Form, Habit, Growth Rate
This species usually has more height than spread; commonly growing 40 to 70 feet tall and 25 to 50 feet wide at maturity. Some record-setting trees are over 100′ tall. Its name comes from its leaves, which are small, narrow, and very similar in appearance to those of a willow tree. These leaves make this oak unique, and perhaps a better choice for those who refuse deciduous trees with large leaves.
The Willow Oak grows quickly compared to other oaks. Fall foliage tends to be yellow or gold. To plant your Willow Oak, choose a moist, well-drained loamy soil in full sun or part shade. It does tolerate poorly drained soils, including those heavy with clay. Be sure to cage young trees to protect against deer browse and buck rubs.
Best grown in zone 6. If you are in zone 5, plant in protected area with a southern exposure.
Like other oak species, the Willow Oak has remarkable value for wildlife. It serves as a larval host for several butterflies and moths, as well as the Northern Walkingstick (stick insect). Squirrels relish the acorns, as do chipmunks, flying squirrels, deer, foxes, bears, white-footed mice, and raccoons. Even larger birds will eat them, such as woodpeckers, blue jays, crows, ducks, grouse, quail, pheasants, turkeys, and nuthatches.