The Top 5 Reasons You Should Plant Mexican White Oak

Mexican white oak (Quercus polymorpha) is such an incredible tree that it’s even become a favorite of the vaunted University of Texas at Austin.

Learn why Monterrey Oaks are among the best landscape tress for Zones 7-10: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/landscape-trees/mexican-white-oak/
Photo by Ralph Barrera

In fact, the facilities services of the university recommend its landscape planners pay particular attention to this “university favorite” when it comes to selecting species for the 434-acre urban campus.

Never heard of Mexican white oak or its aliases, Monterrey oak and netleaf white oak? Don’t feel bad.

It’s only recently become a go-to tree for gardeners in the South, and its distribution — and popularity — is slowly spreading.

This species naturally ranges from Guatemala all the way north through Mexico and to one small stand discovered in southwest Texas in 1992.

It is adapted to U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 7-10.

As can be attested to by any Longhorn who’s studied for a final exam in the exceptional shade provided by the tree’s expansive boughs, there are ample reasons to love this species, even if you don’t bleed burnt orange.

Let’s run through the top 5 reasons this burly beauty is a no-brainer for landscapes that will accommodate it.

1. Speedy Growth, Long Life

Fast-growing trees tend to be “trash trees” — plants that for any number of reasons aren’t particularly desirable to have in your landscape.

Consider adding a Mexican White Oak tree to your landscape | GardenersPath.com
Photo by Ralph Barrera

Mexican white oak is an exception to that rule.

This tall treasure grows to 40 feet — and it gets there quickly. With a growth rate of as much as 4 feet per year, a newly planted sapling will tower majestically over your home well before you pay off your mortgage.

Growth rate and ultimate height, of course, are dependent on growing conditions. Thin soil and extreme drought may limit the tree’s ability to achieve maximum height, says Skip Richter, a county extension agent with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service.

The trunk can grow to be two feet in diameter, though as a sapling, the tree is lanky and gangly before it fills out, according to Richter. “Sort of like a teenager,” he adds.

And your teenage sapling is quite likely to mature well into grandparenthood, as the Monterrey oak’s average lifespan is about 100 years.

When mature, the tree has a broad and rounded crown, and provides excellent cooling properties for your home.

2. Almost Evergreen

The leaves of this oak tree are four to five inches long with smooth or serrated edges of varying degrees.

In fact, the “polymorpha” part of this plant’s scientific name refers to the fact that different specimens can have different leaf shapes.

Learn all about adding Monterrey Oak trees to your landscape: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/landscape-trees/mexican-white-oak/
Photo by Gretchen Heber

We’ve noticed that tiny seedlings’ leaves are more serrated and tend to smooth out as the tree matures.

This giant squirrel playground holds onto its leaves until late winter or early spring when it defoliates, followed by a rapid re-leafing period.

In lieu of a showy flower, the tree’s small, young leaves display an attractive red-peach color before turning bright green and then maturing into thick, deep green leaves with a leathery texture.

All in all, a Monterrey is leafless for just 2 to 8 weeks, depending on the climate in which it is planted.

In Austin, they begin to re-leaf before we’ve even finished raking up the fallen leaves.

3. Well-Adapted

While especially happy in dry environments with some rainfall, this tree is found in a number of varying ecosystems, including river banks, mountain forests, and desert-like areas.

Monterrey Oak bark is rough and multi-layered | GardenersPath.com
Photo by Gretchen Heber

This hardy species, as many Texas gardeners can attest, is extremely drought-tolerant. Even in July and August — when temperatures regularly hit triple digits — we don’t give them any supplemental water.

Mexican white oak prefers neutral to alkaline soil pH, and can adapt to many soil types including sandy loam and well-drained clay soils.

4. Resistant to Pests and Diseases

Monterrey oak is typically a very healthy tree.

You may want to propagate a Mexican White Oak tree from an acorn: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/landscape-trees/mexican-white-oak/
Photo by Gretchen Heber

“I’m not aware of any diseases that plague this tree,” says Richter. “As a member of the white oak family, it’s not susceptible to oak wilt, something that can hit live oaks hard.”

This species can generally handle the rare case of powdery mildew that may occur on its own.

Some Texas gardeners have seen spring oak worms snacking on the foliage, but the damage is minimal and usually doesn’t require breaking out the diatomaceous earth.

5. Minimal Care Required

Because Mexican white oaks are fast-growing, you’ll want to regularly prune the lower limbs to raise the canopy.

Other than that, these oaks don’t need much pruning or thinning — they aren’t plagued by deadwood the way live oak trees can be.

Assuming they are planted in proper soil and receive occasional rain, these green giants require no additional care.

Hooked? Here’s the Caveat

Now that we’ve got you fully captivated by this tree and you’re heading out the door, keys in hand, to drive to the nearest garden center, we must ask you to pause.

Monterrey Oak trees grow fast and they grow tall | GardenersPath.com
Photo by Ralph Barrera

Pat yourself on the back. You are now among the relatively few in the U.S. who have even heard of this species.

While hugely popular at UT and throughout Texas and a few other southern states, adoption of this tree, as with many “new” species, is slow.

Commercial gardeners are trying to meet demand, but, sadly, many garden centers do not yet carry this tree.

However, though you may not be able to find Monterrey oaks locally, you can find them online. SeedJungle Organics is one such purveyor, and they are available via Amazon.

Or, you could always plan a road trip to Texas. We love visitors!

Another option is to look for a seed-swap website. Mature trees produce bushels of 1-inch acorns that any Monterrey oak owner would be thrilled to get rid of.

Sharpen Your Shovel

If this tree sounds like a dream come true, it really is. Fast-growing, semi-evergreen, adaptable, disease-resistant, low maintenance… can you argue with that?

If you like tall, fast-growing trees, plant Mexican White Oak | https://gardenerspath.com/plants/landscape-trees/mexican-white-oak/
Photo by Gretchen Heber

How about adding one of these fast-growing giants to your landscape soon?

Had you heard of this tree species? Does it sound like something that would be a worthy addition to your landscape? Tell us why or why not in the comments section below.

Hook ‘em!


Don’t forget to Pin It!

If a top university recommends this tree for its own campus, you know it’s gotta be good. We share five unbeatable reasons why you should plant a fast-growing and easy-care Monterrey oak tree in your landscape — learn more now at Gardener’s Path.

Photos by Gretchen Heber and Ralph Barrera, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.

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About Gretchen Heber

A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.

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Ann
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Ann

Would this tree do well in central Wisconsin?

Allison Sidhu
Admin
Trusted Member
Allison Sidhu

Hi Ann! Thanks for your question. It looks like you’re probably located in USDA Hardiness Zone 4. Unfortunately, this tree does best in zones 7-10 and isn’t recommended for areas with harsh winters.

If you’re looking for a fast-growing tree to add to your landscape, you might like to try river birch, paper birch, tulip poplar, bald cypress, American sycamore, quaking aspen, or eastern white pine. Stay tuned for an informative post on these lovely shade trees (and more!) coming soon to Gardener’s Path.

William Marshall
Guest
William Marshall

I live in deep south Texas and this soil is just pure sand. What are my chances of this tree growing here?

Kurt Miller
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Kurt Miller

I have planted three oaks … As I am in Austin, I was told they are fast growers! Two years and the trees may have grown 6in? I water regularly, the live oaks that were planted the same time have grown 2-3 feet! They are healthy, leaves are nice and green, but just will not grow……. ideas?

Chris
Guest
Chris

I live in a new development and we have many of these – some grow indeed 2-3 feet a year after just a few years. Others, barely any growth. It is strange and I have to assume it is either lack of deep watering or rock soil that it hasn’t penetrated yet.

John Brace
Guest
John Brace

Hey Gretchen
I’m a certified Arborist in California and I’m looking
To purchase a Mexican White
Oak ( seedlings) or actually a
Tree to plant in Pasadena ca
Any recommendations on how
To get this tree or seedlings
Would be much appreciated
Thank you John brace

Allison Sidhu
Admin
Trusted Member
Allison Sidhu

Thanks for your message, John. It looks like the supplier that we recommended no longer has these seeds available- we’ll do some research. In the meantime, we have been able to locate some suppliers with acorns available on Amazon, but we’d like to find a reputable supplier for live plants as well. Stay tuned for an update!

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

We’ve had a Mexican Oak in our back yard for about 15 years. The tree is now about 35 feet in height and continues to grow very well. We’ve not seen too many of these in our Houston neighborhood, but we do have some nurseries who carry them. The tree limbs are really neat with lots of grooves and texture. The blue jays seem to enjoy nesting in ours and the squirrels hang out there as well.

Terri
Guest
Terri

Just bought one this weekend and can’t wait to get it planted!! I’m in San Antonio and I’m hoping it does well here too!

Joan
Guest
Joan

Terri – where did you purchase your tree? I live outside of Houston and can’t find a nursery that sells them.

Elizabeth
Guest
Elizabeth

Will this tree work in the Texas Panhandle in a windswept edge of the canyons in caliche soil? If so, where can we find them for planting?

Jennifer Ard
Guest
Jennifer Ard

We have a Monterrey Oak that we planted 5 years ago here in central Austin, and it has grown from a sapling to a almost 30 feet. We have conservatively pruned and it is really happy and healthy… however, I see that a lower limb really needs to be trimmed and it is the largest lower limb of the tree … about half the diameter of the trunk. If this isn’t taken off, it will not be used as we wanted, being able to stand and place patio furniture under as it is a great shade tree. So, my question… Read more »

Saunders Yvonne
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Saunders Yvonne

I live in San Antonio and have this tree. It dropped all of its leaves this winter and hasn’t leafed out yet but there are numerous buds. Should I be concerned?

Alicia
Guest
Alicia

Will this tree interfere with a home’s foundation? we have a small yard.

Scott
Guest
Scott

I live in San Antonio. Fanicks nursery has plenty of these at great prices. I built a new house downtown and now have planted 3 of the Mexican white oak/Monterey. I love that they hold their leaves year round. I guess they come in 10 gallon containers, 12’-15’ tall, 3” to 4” diameter for $300! My lot has black clay about 20’ to 30’ deep. The oaks seem to love it. I also have a Bur and a chinquapin, but they lose their leaves for the winter.

Kay
Guest
Kay

Thanks for the really helpful information about Monterrey Oaks. We have four approximately 5 year old trees. They are healthy and doing well. Is it possible to transplant them to another location?

Holly
Guest
Holly

I planted 2 white oaks in my backyard 3 years ago and one is growing very well and thriving in height and branches. The other one has barely gotten any height. Just this year it finally produced More leaves but the branches are super short. The trunk and height almost look the same as when we planted it – just more leaves now which I’m happy about. It’s just looks the same size as when we planted it. Odd since we planted both at same time and the other one is really growing well and this one isn’t. They are… Read more »