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:
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 |
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:
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 |
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.

Many types of oaks are susceptible to oak wilt – a highly contagious fungal disease that is often fatal. Members of the subgenus Erythrobalanus are particularly at risk of succumbing to this disease.

You may want to propagate a Mexican White Oak tree from an acorn:
Photo by Gretchen Heber

Thorough and conclusive research has not yet been done to determine how susceptible Mexican white oak is to this disease, according to Texas A&M professor of plant pathology and microbiology Dr. David Appel.

According to Dr. Appel, oak wilt has indeed been confirmed in these trees occasionally over the past 30 years.

However, according to the well-regarded specialist in tree disease biology, epidemiology, and control, “I am willing to assume, based on host biology, that Monterrey oaks are still more resistant and a better alternative than any of the red oaks when planting in a high-risk area for oak wilt infections.”

The trees may also be plagued on occasion by powdery mildew, but they are generally able to overcome that problem on their own, without human intervention.

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 |
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 |
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.

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 (@guest_804)
2 years ago

Would this tree do well in central Wisconsin?

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
Noble Member
Reply to  Ann
2 years ago

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
William Marshall (@guest_1303)
2 years ago

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

Kurt Miller
Kurt Miller (@guest_2408)
1 year ago

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_2455)
Reply to  Kurt Miller
1 year ago

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
John Brace (@guest_3657)
1 year ago

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
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
Noble Member
Reply to  John Brace
1 year ago

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_3813)
1 year ago

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_3928)
1 year ago

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_3975)
Reply to  Terri
1 year ago

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

Jared Wylie
Jared Wylie (@guest_5271)
Reply to  Joan
7 months ago

US Trees of Texas in Willis (north of Houston) carries them

Mona (@guest_5451)
Reply to  Joan
6 months ago

I also live in San Antonio and have a beautiful Monterrey Oak that we planted about 8 years ago. It has grown so fast. We bought our tree from Milberger Nursery in San Antonio. I was there a few weeks ago and they have some. Tree was about 10 foot tall when we bought it and now towers over my 2 story house.

Douglas Malsbury
Douglas Malsbury (@guest_5452)
Reply to  Terri
6 months ago

I planted 3 Monterrey Oaks in my yard in San Antonio, TX about 3 years ago. in 10 gal. buckets from the local nursery. We have had a little snow, but all 3 are doing well. The oldest has a trunk about 4″ and produced around 50+ acorns which I am trying to germinate in a damp towel roll. I am starting to get roots break out of the acorn after two weeks today already! The others have not produced any acorns yet. Patience!

Elizabeth (@guest_3973)
1 year ago

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
Jennifer Ard (@guest_4038)
1 year ago

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
Saunders Yvonne (@guest_4073)
1 year ago

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_4402)
11 months ago

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

Scott (@guest_4527)
10 months ago

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_4614)
10 months ago

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_4667)
10 months ago

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 »

Colleen Catlady Hardesty
Colleen Catlady Hardesty (@colleenhardesty2)
10 months ago

My city, San Antonio is planting trees in some neighborhoods. Mine is one of those. I am getting a Mexican White oak!!! There were several trees to choose from and this was the smallest as I don’t have a large lot! I should be getting it tomorrow afternoon!!
Since I read your article I am really excited about this tree!!! I can hardly wait!!!

Deborah Michals
Deborah Michals (@guest_4927)
9 months ago

I planted two 4” Mexican White Oaks in front of my house in Feb. and, per the nursery’s advice, kept two gator bags around the base of each. They were doing great for about 6 months. Then one got flooded. Now it has slime flux, beetles, and some little holes that look like sap sucker holes. It’s lost most of the bark around the base. I’m worried it’s girdled. I think the gator bags were a bad idea. When I try again, should I use them?

Patty Blackmon
Patty Blackmon (@guest_4988)
8 months ago

I went to our local nursery ready to buy 2 Monterey Oaks in 65 gal. Pots the tree lady there talked us out of that saying we needed to buy the smaller tree saying they would grow up faster than the big one ????? I’m not understanding her logic. Can you help me. She says we need to buy the tree in 30 gal. Pots half the size. I’m trying to shade my house! My husband and I are in our late 60s we’d like to see these trees big. Hahahaha. Oh I live in Selma Texas.

Sherl (@guest_5047)
8 months ago

Do these drop acorns or anything such as acorns at any time?

Kevin (@guest_5277)
7 months ago

I wish i had better news but this tree is confirmed susceptible to graft with other oaks and to die from oak wilt. I’ve observed and confirmed this in my regular duties as a master arborist using real-time pcr dna testing. It is documented on my youtube page and my website at arborcareconsulting dot com.

Kevin (@guest_5441)
Reply to  Gretchen Heber
6 months ago

Dr appel said they are less suceptible than red oaks – the most st suceptible of all. He chose his words carefully as typical of scientists. What he didnt say is that the Mexican Live oak is less suceptible than the Live Oak is. So, basically he is leaving open that possibility when or if any studies are actually ever conducted that it could very well be equal to the live oak in suceptibility. I think many of us are well aware of how live oaks fare infection.

Karen Rockoff
Karen Rockoff (@guest_5619)
Reply to  Kevin
4 months ago
Carla (@guest_5367)
7 months ago

I have a sprinkler system and worry that it may be bad for the Mexican Oak. What do you think? I am In College Station, Texas.

Tim (@guest_5450)
6 months ago

We received 2 of these from the Arbor Day Foundation about a week ago for free. Check with them if you are looking for any.

R David
R David (@guest_5453)
6 months ago

The City of San Antonio had a native tree giveaway this morning and I was able to grab one of these. I’m having trouble finding any guides online to care for this as it’s only on a 1 gallon pot. When should I plant it?

R David
R David (@guest_5468)
Reply to  Gretchen Heber
6 months ago

Thanks for the quick reply!

raul (@guest_5459)
6 months ago

Liked your article. Am now interested in buying some Monterrey oaks from a nursery near San Antonio, Tx. My Q: Is transporting young (6-7ft) trees in an open trailer for 250 miles in S. Texas during late November an issue? Any suggestions on minimizing the stress they (~50 trees) may receive during transport? Thank you!

Dwain Cearley
Dwain Cearley (@guest_5491)
5 months ago

Are they easily to grow with a nut.

Carol (@guest_5555)
5 months ago

Hello! I’m NW of Austin and have planted 3 of these beauties on my property near the Llano River. My first was recommended by my lawn man. He said to consider it for shade on my west side for shade! I immediately researched this white oak and found its many strong points. I have a huge nursery called Backbone Nursery outside of Marble Falls, Texas. This place is fabulous if you are in the area. They are online too! The owner put mevin a golf cart and drive me through the rows and rows of Monterey Oaks. Picking a beauty… Read more »

Curran (@guest_5606)
4 months ago

I planted five in my backyard in Nov. Right now they kinda have small “irrigation berm” rings around them composed of mixed up mulch and dirt. I honestly think the guy who planted them didn`t know what he was doing. because the mulch is mostly dirt the surrounding grass is starting to grow into it and I’m afraid the grass will steal water from the tree. I was hoping someone could tell me how newly planted white oaks in grass should be mulched? I was also wondering how much I should water and fertilize them. I just want to make… Read more »

Curran (@guest_5610)
Reply to  Gretchen Heber
4 months ago

Thank you so much for the advice. I think I’ll put in some elbow grease and make some mulch rings like yours with metal edging. The house we bought is south of San Antonio and has a 2 acre backyard but no trees! Trying to change that 🙂

Karen Rockoff
Karen Rockoff (@guest_5620)
4 months ago

I hate to be the barer of bad news. They have had the evidence of oak wilt in these trees for the last 2 years from samples we send….We have more labs & documentation to support not planting white oaks thinking they are resistant to oak wilt.

Kevin (@guest_5639)
Reply to  Gretchen Heber
4 months ago

Gretchen, Clean gardening practices such as painting cuts on all oaks are of course a great way to prevent infection by beetle and spore but experts such as Karen Rockoff and myself are principally seeing the infection and death of white oaks through the common inter-species grafting of these white oaks with other oak species. The increased usage of DNA testing will greatly assist in the updating of the Texas Forest Service’s education on frequency of grafting. They have already have made big changes in their position of various white oaks’ mortality and the public can expect more to come… Read more »

Tera (@guest_5828)
3 months ago

I buy mine at HEB Plus in New Braunfels. They are always in stock along with other native and drought resistant trees and plants. So happy HEB supports the local gardeners, they get it!

Jerald Kimball
Jerald Kimball (@guest_5896)
2 months ago

Does this tree thrive on the coastal area of Texas where we get extreme weather variations? Summers can be brutal here and winters very wet at times. Also during hurricane seasons we may even experience some flooding.

Jeff (@guest_6703)
28 days ago

Can I buy a 30 gallon Monterey Oak, place it in a 60 gallon container, and then plant it in 2-3 years after it has grown?

Or is it really hard to grow/keep
alive in a container?



N S (@rellihcsnan)
Reply to  Jeff
26 days ago

Hi Jeff – The best place for a large tree is in the ground. The best way to start one is by buying the smallest one available. Digging the hole is easier, and a small tree is much easier to root than a large one. The longer you keep a tree in a container, the harder it will be for it to transition to growing in the ground, and the harder it will be to physically do the job.

John Bayless
John Bayless (@guest_6810)
26 days ago

We bought a 10-ft Monterrey Oak about two years ago in San Antonio. It has grown a few feet in height … it’s now easily 15 feet high. However, it is very spindly and we have had to keep a stake on it to keep it from bending over and breaking. Is that normal for these trees? It gets full sun but is in pretty rocky soil. It seems like it is very top heavy with growth.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
Noble Member
Reply to  John Bayless
18 days ago

The trunks of these trees will stay relatively narrow while they’re young, but what you’re noticing as “top-heaviness” might actually indicate a problem with the root structure. They can do well in rocky soil, but they’re sensitive to overwatering. Giving young trees an occasional shake is sometimes recommended by arborists, to help strengthen the roots, but staking isn’t usually advised. Though it might seem helpful, they will usually grow stronger without a stake, and straighten up naturally without the added support. Even gardeners who are proponents of staking young trees usually recommend removing them within about two years of planting.

Samuel Grubbs
Samuel Grubbs (@guest_6909)
23 days ago

Question: my Mexican white oak has black spots on the leaves, not all of the leaves. Should I be concerned?

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
Noble Member
Reply to  Samuel Grubbs
18 days ago

Can you share a photo, Samuel? What do the spots look like more specifically, and can you rub them off? You might have black sooty mold, which sometimes appears when you also have an infestation of insects like whiteflies. Or, you could have an issue with another type of fungal disease, like anthracnose or leaf spot.