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Although I love all trees, the English Oak Bonsai (Quercus robur) holds a special place in my heart. So much so, that we chose to call our only son ‘Oak’ – our two older children are girls. I should have expected that our son Oak would tower above the rest of the family at the age of 12 years. It was a natural progression for me to specialise in the Bonsai Oak tree.

English Oak (Quercus robot) Bonsai Tree

Our English Bonsai Oak trees are fantastic representations of these majestic native trees. They form powerful trunks and main branches and make incredible bonsai. On most of our oak bonsai the leaf size is down to about 5cm (2″) and on some of the older ones they are about 2.5cm (1″) They are easy to care for and extremely hardy.

A bonsai Oak tree displays very distinctive and almost ‘iconic’ lobed leaves and pretty autumnal acorns. The English Oak’s representation in miniature form, mirrors the grandeur of mature woodland trees. The Oak’s powerful and commanding sturdy trunk, which develops character and texture over time, adds to its character. A deciduous bonsai, which needs a rest dormant period during mid winter. It has changing foliage colours, from limes, deep greens to red tones.

Oak tree meaning or symbolism:

With age the Oak displays a very powerful strong trunk, incredible exposed root flare with spreading design which is mirrored in the canopy. The bark is aged and craggy as one would expect to find in a very old woodland tree. The oak is an emblem of power, strength, ancient wisdom and survival and many nations, including England, have chosen the Oak as their national tree. In addition to representing qualities related to power and durability, the oak tree is considered a bearer of good luck, fertility, potency, healing and health.

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Oak Bonsai tree

A few tips are listed below about growing and caring for a Bonsai Oak Tree.

  • The biggest enemy of outdoor bonsai is wind. Strong winds will quickly dehydrate any delicate buds and leaves so a sheltered position is preferable.
  • Although most bonsai will tolerate most weather conditions the ideal situation is a sheltered semi-shaded position. This helps prevent your bonsai from drying out too quickly.
  • Watering is the most important part of growing bonsai. Check your bonsai morning and evening to see if it needs watering. If the soil looks dark and feels wet then it will not require watering. Only when the soil looks light brown and feels damp will your bonsai require more water. Water thoroughly all over the soil until the water drains through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Never let your bonsai dry out and avoid keeping it constantly wet. The soil should go from wet to damp between watering. Remember the hotter the position the more water your bonsai will use. If the soil surface becomes hard during hot weather simply submerge your bonsai in water, to cover the soil surface, for about ten minutes.
  • Oaks are deciduous bonsai should be pruned to shape rather than wired, as the wiring will damage the delicate bark. New shoots which have grown to about 2-3cm should be pruned using a sharp pair of bonsai scissors. Carefully prune back to the first pair of new leaves.
  • To keep your bonsai strong and healthy we recommend the use of a good bonsai fertiliser. Use weekly during spring, summer and early autumn.

all the best

34 replies

  1. Hi Lloyd,

    I was wondering if I could ask your advice on English Oak Bonsai please?

    Is there an ideal time of year to create a Bonsai Oak from a potted 3 year old specimen?


    1. Hi Rob, the best time to start would be in late February. Remove the sapling from the pot and reduce the tap root by about half more if there are lots of lateral roots. You can wash all the soil from the roots and carefully untangle them. If you want the trunk to be thick then plant it in the ground for a couple of years or in a large pot and prune it to about 6 inches when the trunk is about the right diameter. If you plant it in a small pot it will grow slowly but trunk proportions will be better. Once you have done the roots you should prune the main trunk to about one third of the overall height that your bonsai will be. I always grow my saplings in thirds. The first third is about getting the trunk from the ground up to the first main branches the right size and shape. I then allow the middle to grow with nice branches and the after about 10 – 20 years I grow the top. I hope this helps. Don’t be put off by the time it takes, growing bonsai is a journey, enjoy the journey and forget about the destination.
      All the best

  2. Hi, I’ve been looking for info on bonsai oak trees for ages and was wondering if you could help? I’ve got an oak tree that’s about 10 years old in a ceramic pot about 12inches square. I would live to put it into a nice bonsai pot but am scared that if I take it out and prune the roots it will die. Have you any advise on this as I would be very grateful. Thanks

    1. Dear Andy,
      The best time of year to root prune your Oak would be early March – the bonsai will have come through the worst of winter but the buds will have not yet started to swell.
      It sounds as though it will look much nicer in a nice pot.
      We have produced a Re-potting DVD if you need help – please see the link below:—re-potting—root-pruning
      Kind regards

  3. Hello Lloyd
    Just browsing through the youweb and came across your comments on Quercus Rubra. I too, have a facination for them. The first one I grew was over 42 years ago. Mind you, I have kept it in a bonsai pot nearly all that time. It’s about 450mm high. Trunk isn’t all that thick. I have experimented all this time and have quite a few trees now. Just potted and or repotted about 10. They are my favorite tree. Regards.

  4. I found a tiny oak tree (approx. 8 inches) about to go up a lawnmower and I planted it in a bucket of potting compost and it was fine for a while. I put strulch round it but not touching it. The leaves went white powdery. I took of the affected leaves and after some weeks it looked really great. Now all the new leaves have this white powdery stuff. What can I do to save this little oak? I have fed and watered it.

    1. Hi Heather,
      The oak has powdery mildew. The leaves will drop off soon so please do nothing this season. In the spring and summer treat for powdery mildew with a fungicide. I hope this helps,
      Best wishes

  5. Hi Lloyd
    Found an acorn this autumn just gone, scarified it and now it is a young Sessile ock sapling with a few leaves growing indoors. Potted into a 9cm pot and have been concidering over the past few weeks on growing it as a bonsai.
    The pot I am planning on potting it up in, is a clay 5″ x 3″ x 1.5″ pot. Would like to know if I should start training it, in regards of a root prune soon or give the sapling another year and is the pot on the small side.


    1. Hi Mike,
      Better to pot into a large 5L plant pot for the next 2 years to allow the trunk and roots to develop.
      Trim off the tip of the tap root but do not remove the acorn.
      Place outside in spring. It is better to develop the shape in a larger pot and then re-pot a few years later into a bonsai pot when you are happy with the shape.
      I hope this helps

  6. I have an Oak Bosnia tree, given a gift, my first tree as I’m new to this. It is 10 years old apparently. I am concerned because it is now April and it’s showing no signs of coming into bud. I sheltered it from harsh winds during the winter. I would appreciate a y advice you could give me. Many thanks.

    1. Hi Janet,
      We have some Oaks which still show no signs of bud swell. The Oak is always the last to bud. Please give it another 4 weeks before starting to worry,
      kind regards

  7. Hello
    I have an oak tree that is about 45cm tall that has been growing outside in a pot for over 25 years. I re-potted it early last spring, but this year the old tree seems to have died and there are about 12 new shoots coming up from the base. Is there anything that I can do to rescue this lovely tree?

    1. Hi Dave,
      Please can you check to see if the cambium layer is green or brown. You need to make some small nicks with your thumb nail or sharp knife into the bark. If the layer immediately beneath the bark is green then the trunk/branches are still alive.
      Can you think of any reason why the top of the bonsai could have died?
      kind regards

      1. Sarah
        I’ve checked in a couple of places and unfortunately the layer under the bark is brown.
        The tree looked the best it has ever been last year after I re-potted it, but we did notice that the dead leaves stayed attached all winter. The best way I can describe the tree now is that it looks as if it has been coppiced.
        As the tree has a lot of sentimental value I was wondering if I could keep just one strong looking shoot from the new growth to be the basis of a new tree.

      2. Hi Dave,
        This is actually a good idea. We call it a wrap around. You take the strongest shoots and remove the others. You then wrap the new shoots around the old trunk and branches; almost like using the original bonsai as a skeleton. Within quite a short time the result is very effective,
        I hope this helps
        best wishes

      3. Thanks very much for your help

  8. hi i found a little oak sapling it has three /four leaves i took it from the ground of the parent tree it is in a little youghurt pot i would love to make it bonsai ? what should i do next? should i just repot into a big pot and leave it for a couple of years what size pot and what sort of soil? it has white powder mildrew but i think the leaves will drop soon so guess dont treat it until springtime?

    1. Hi Sheri,
      yes, you are correct. Please use a larger pot. Maybe a 1-2l flower pot only half filled in depth with soil.
      Use a well draining soil such as John Innes No 2 with added horticultural grit.
      Leave it to grow and for the trunk to thicken for 18 months. The roots will need a prune in Feb/March 2018.
      Powdery Mildew is not uncommon on Oak leaves at this time of year. The old leaves will drop soon anyway.
      i hope this helps
      kind regards Sarah – Bonsai Direct

  9. Hello. I’ve got a 10 year old oak tree that I grew from an acorn in a window box and is now in a 40cm diameter pot. The main trunk is just over 1m high and there is a newer, thinner shoot that is almost 50cm high. It has so far been left to grow, but I would like to properly manage it as a bonsai. What advice do you have for doing this? What sort of height should I aim for and should I use the main trunk and try to reduce the height or use the new shoot to keep it smaller?

    1. Dear Stephen,
      Thank you for your question. Without seeing the bonsai this is very difficult to advise.
      I have produced a DVD which covers basic pruning & proportions of a Chinese Elm. The basics will be very similar and this should give you idea of where to start.
      Do the hard pruning when the Oak is out of leaf, hopefully the proportions of your bonsai will become clear after watching the video.
      If you wish to e-mail me a photo I could give you some more specific advice. My e-mail address is [email protected]
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  10. I have an oak tree, handed to me over 10 years ago, so it is probably 20+ by now, but when given it, the centre shoot had already snapped off. What I have now has a dumpy about 1.5 inches thick, with broad- spreading thin whippy branches. I am starting to prune these back in late winter to try & make it produce more side branches & thicken up. Is there any way of inducing a new terminal shoot, or of replacing it with a side branch ? Or should I just go with the impression it has been lightning-struck ?
    Any suggestions would be most appreciated, thank you, Fran

    1. Dear Fran, yes you can allow a new shoot to grow and form a new crown.
      It would look strange for a few years – you would need to allow the shoot to grow very long to thicken, then prune back to proportion in 3-4 years time.
      This method works well.
      I hope this helps
      Bonsai Direct Team

  11. Hi,
    I have grown an oak tree from an acorn, it is now either 6 or 9 years old (can’t remember!) and stands 110cm tall in a 15inch ceramic pot. I would like to bonzai it, i have no experience . Where do I start?

  12. Hi Sarah,
    This is a very difficult question to advise with out seeing your Oak.
    Basically in february you need to remove or reduce the tap root in length. It depends upon how many feeder roots you have as to how much of the tap root you remove.
    The tree will need to be reduced in height but this is also done best out of leaf and before we enter spring.
    I am sorry i cannot give specific advice.
    kind regards

  13. Hi, I live in Gloucestershire and have discovered an oak sapling on our allotment that geminated earlier this year. I live in an apartment and haven’t a lot of room and am wondering if it will grow successfully indoors, as I haven’t a garden. I need to rescue the sapling now as the allotment needs to be dug over. What medium short I plant it in initially , and how big should I let it grow before doing anything else to it. as I have decided to lean how to bonsai it. As I am 63, I could get it started and then pass it on to my children when I can’t do it any longer. Thanks for your help.

    1. Dear Rosemary,
      I would suggest to lift the Oak when it is out of leaf. Put it into a pot with normal John Innes compost and allow to grow and develop the trunk for a couple of years.
      It would need to stay in your allotment, it will not do well indoors.
      After a couple of years you can prune down the height and consider a smaller pot.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  14. I have 17 small English oaks. I nurse them from the acorn since 2017 when I collected them. I initially wanted to do a forest stile bonsai with them and I’m thinking to start working this autumn. All of them are in a pot atm (37Lx27Wx12H cm).
    I will wait till the leaves are gone before transplanting them to a new pot.
    Any advice?

    1. Hi Jorge,
      Please wait until around March until you do any major pruning or root work.
      During end of winter/early spring, the trees will be completely dormant and will not have started growing new buds yet, so is the best time to repot or work on outdoor trees.
      I hope this helps.
      Kind regards,
      Bonsai Direct

  15. I have a germinating acorn and I have planted it in a small pot. I want to grow it into a bonsai but I don’t know how.

    1. Please just grow it for 2 years so that the trunk thickens to a reasonable size. Then in mid winter 2022 you can root prune it and start developing branches. I hope this helps

  16. I love English oak bonsai trees! They are so beautiful and graceful. It’s a really tough little tree that can stay outside all year long. It has strong branches and leaves that look just like a regular oak tree but are smaller and have a lovely shape. I think it’s perfect for my garden. I give it five stars because it’s a great outdoor bonsai tree.

  17. I love English oak bonsai trees! They are so beautiful and graceful. I would love to have one as a garden ornament.

  18. I love English oak bonsai trees! They are so beautiful and graceful. I would love to have one as a garden ornament.

    1. They really do make beautiful bonsai. The Oak Bonsai trees are hardy and particularly easy to care for.

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