“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

Nelson Henderson

For me few things are as satisfying as germinating something from seed and nurturing it while watching it grow. That is why I have been delighted to grow oak saplings from acorns I have collected.

This time of year is the perfect time to go out for an autumnal walk and find some acorns to plant and grow into a hardy oak. This is a lovely old oak tree I walk under almost every day. At a guess I would say it is a few hundred years old. Oaks are very slow growing.

This one is apparently the perfect oak to collect acorns from because not only is it healthy looking, but it is likely to be the mother of a couple of other oaks further down the pathway. Collecting acorns from mature trees in groups is best for successful germination.

Some experts advise to soak the acorns over night in warm water but I have had successful germination both with and without doing so. Given that squirrels, the most prolific acorn planters, don’t bother soaking acorns, it isn’t entirely necessary.


Loosely fill a pot two thirds with some good soil or compost. To double your chances, place a couple of acorns in your pot and add another layer of soil on top. Cover your pot with a clear plastic bag or clingfilm and put it in a sunny place on the windowsill.


When you see the seedlings appear germination has been successful! Congratulations! You should now remove the bag. Make sure you water the seedlings often enough to keep the soil moist. The seedlings can be kept in the pot until the roots begin to emerge out of the drainage holes, which means it needs to be potted into a slightly larger one. Mine has already started to outgrow its pot so I’ll soon have to repot it.


Next autumn, a year after I collected the acorns, it may need to be moved into an even bigger pot. The sapling then needs to grow for one or two more years before it will be strong enough to be planted out.

This one is three or four years old and has been potted several times. We use it at our stalls and demonstrations to show what size saplings we plant but it’s outgrowing us! So we will soon need to plant it out somewhere it can thrive and grow as big as my favourite oak I pass under nearly every day.

Why not try it yourself? Plant an acorn, track it’s progress and share with us how it goes. You can email me with photos at francesca@rootsforthefuture.co.uk or share them with us on Facebook or Twitter #rootsforthefuture