Gardening | Magnificent live oak trees provide connection to history

Massive old southern live oaks draped with Spanish moss and long oak alleys leading to grand plantation homes are two signature images of the old South. The magnificent oaks inspire not just awe, but offer a sense of place and connection to history.

Live oaks, Quercus virginiana, are native along the southeastern coastal plain from Virginia south to Florida and west to Texas. They favor the warm humid conditions along the coast and tolerate winter’s brief cold.

The oaks grow well in acidic, sandy soil and heavier clay loam as long as it provides good drainage. Although they become drought-tolerant after they are established, they fare better when heat is accompanied by moisture. They can handle brief freshwater flooding but, again, must have good drainage. Close to the coast, the trees’ waxy leaves tolerate some salt spray.