Grafting southern live oaks?

Has anyone ever grafted Southern live oaks? I got a very tall tree from a nursery for salvage, and I’m wondering if i can graft some branches near the base before trunk chopping it.


I don’t remember where I read about oak grafts, but I have in my mind that it is possible now in spring.

Nevertheless, I guess the question is what do you want to do with it. If it is for bonsai, to achieve a credible taper transition from this trunk diameter could take forever.

By doing the grafting and trunk chop, I could take advantage of the beautiful nebari and then over a period of ?? years grow out a new top that had taper. Here are a couple of photos with possible trunk chops illustrated, without any grafts.

I know. . . the graphics work is poor, but I think you get the idea.

I have a Quercus Subar I just trunk chopped when I got it from a nursery that was tall like that. I would chop it like your edits. But I’m also in native range for many oaks. This might be a good subject to air layer off the top and see if it back buds lower down in the process then you could get 2 trees out of it

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Yeah. I keep looking at it and thinking the air layer==> trunk chop route will be best. But I am still wondering about the grafts to get some growth down lower on the trunk. Also, this is native range for Quercus virginiana-- Southern Live Oak.

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I am planning a similar thing this spring. I salvaged a live oak at Lowes last year for $7 and will airlayer the top. I do hasome small branches loower down which i hope will develop.


My best guess, from observation…, is the trunk chop will elicit NEW buds from the base of the tree; basically new trunks… You will have a 1 year old multi trunk bonsai…
I would try grafting first, then try a airlayer.
I have never done live oak bonsai.
Mostlly Utah scrub oak. Q. gambelii . I do have red, white , and English oak bonsai, too. None have been very successful bonsai… the leaves are too big, even when summer defoliated. Utah scrub oaks have smaller leaves; though, they keep geting eaten and/ or dying on me…:rofl:
I DO have an adult cork bark oak (suber ?) landscape tree that I want to do a air layer on…
Post which way you go… and success /failure…

So I wanted to wait until I got home from vacation to reply. This is my subar I didn’t have the ability to air layer (space issues while waiting) and trunk chopped it down from about 8’ to about 36”. I reduced its rootball from a 15gal pot to a training pot, there were not very many roots on the poor tree and most of the soil fell away. I feel pretty good I was able to keep about 60% of the roots.

With these buds popping now, plan is to let it run this year to recover, pick structural branches and put it in the ground next year or so.

I know it’s not a southern oak, but an oak in native range. If this were my tree, I’d go airlayer and let new buds pop lower as well. It’s going to take a while for the oak to airlayer anyways, so style your lower tree while getting a second tree!

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What are you leaning towards with this tree? I am curious, Oaks are fun trees

So, I wanted to wait until the tree produced its spring flush. It has and it looks strong and healthy. So, I haven’t yet decided whether I will do it this year or next, but I think what I want to do first is air layer off the top of the tree, leaving at least one branch with foliage on the main trunk. Second, after the tree recovers, I will do a chop down low. See the photo. First step- air layer at one of the two sites marked up top. Second step- chop down low. What do you think?

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Cool! If it were me I would airlayer at the lower top line. It gives you the best options for branching when you remove the airlayer to have another good second oak. Then after separating I would chop near your lower line

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Oak air layers can take considerable time to take so start your layers early. I would plan on a 2 season air layer. As for grafting, you will need whips to graft, probably a good plan to attempt those as well, they will require some time to take as well. I started a bunch of seedlings this season but not big enough for grafts yet. Probably good for thread grafting next season though, if you’re looking.
Fun project, good luck with it.
I’ve been trying to get a handle on live oaks now for the last 5 years, they’re definitely a challenge.


I am trying to airlayer one as well. Got it on sale at Lowes here in Virginia last year for $7; let it recover for a year and started the airlayer in early June.
Fingers crossed.

Unfortunately, mine is not doing well in the sustained 105+ degree heat. Probably not going to make it.


Shade!! We aren’t getting brutalized by the heat like you guys and mine are shaded part of the day or cool roots if anything

I’ve got my sensitive trees under 30% shade cloth and a misting system. I put my tropicals, desert and other more heat tolerant plants behind a bamboo screen without misting. The biggest issue IMO is protecting the roots from overheating. Second is protecting the foliage. My live oak was already sickly, and I just haven’t put the time and expense into constructing shade for it. So, I’ll just have to wait and see. If all I lose is the one nursery tree, I’ll be fortunate.

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Update on my live oak. It dropped all its leaves and I thought it was done for. But. . . good news! It has begun to leaf out again, and the leaves look very healthy.


More good news on the live oak. Aa very “adventitious” bud has sprouted near the base… And a whole new flush of leaves has appeared in the crown of the tree! Pics below.

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