For thousands of years, the oak has stood for strength and endurance. It’s even been named America’s National Tree by an act of Congress. Why not grow a piece of history by sprouting this majestic symbol from a humble acorn? You’ll experience the satisfaction of starting a tree that could live for centuries. And you’ll find it’s a great activity for kids, helping them understand age-old cycles of nature firsthand.
First, soak acorns in water for 24 hours, then discard floaters. Acorns from the white oak family (leaves typically have rounded leaf lobes) will sprout almost immediately; those from the red oak family (leaves usually have pointed leaf lobes) need a cold treatment first. Both can be refrigerated.
Why do acorns float? Either the acorns have dried out (more common when acorns are exposed to hot, dry weather after dropping from the tree) or they have been infiltrated by borers (right). These acorns probably won’t germinate, so it is best to discard them.
Next, air dry acorns, then place in a sealable jar or plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel (squeeze out excess moisture). Place in a refrigerator crisper for 3 to 4 months. Inspect regularly; discard any moldy acorns. Note: Some people add slightly damp peat moss to the bag.
Remove acorns from cold storage and wrap each in a swatch of chicken wire -- edges facing upward -- to discourage foraging critters. Plant about 2 inches deep in an old nursery pot filled with 2 parts compost, 1 part topsoil. Or you can use potting mix.
Lastly, put the container in a sunny spot sheltered from wind and intense heat. Water sparingly until germination, then water 2 to 3 times a week. Plant in a permanent location before winter, surrounding the seedling with hardware cloth to protect against wildlife.