Scarlet Oak is found throughout much of the Eastern United States, and within Ohio is found abundantly in the eastern half of the state, and modestly in the southern counties, but is rare elsewhere. This Oak is frequently confused with Pin Oak (the shapes of their leaves and young trees are similar), and also with Black Oak, Red Oak, and Shumard Oak on occasion.
Scarlet Oak, as its name implies, can have the best fall color of any oak, but many trees are more russet than flaming scarlet, and its best growth only occurs on acidic soils. Scarlet Oak is an inhabitant of dry ridges, bluffs, and hills due to its superior drought tolerance. It may reach 70 feet tall by 50 feet wide at maturity, when found in the open. As a member of the Red Oak group and the Beech Family, it is related to the Beeches, Chestnuts, and other Oaks.
Planting Requirements - Scarlet Oak absolutely prefers dry, acidic soils in which to thrive. It also likes moist, well-drained soils, but does not tolerate alkaline soils, as severe chlorosis and stunted growth will develop. Soils can be fertile and deep, but most often are average to poor, rocky or gravelly, and relatively thin in the wild where it co-dominates with other drought-tolerant trees. Like most Oaks, Scarlet Oak has a tap root system that is coarse and hard to successfully transplant. It thrives in full sun to partial sun (but is shade tolerant in youth) and is found in zones 4 to 9.
Potential Problems - As mentioned above, Scarlet Oak will not perform well in alkaline (high pH) soils, and does not even like neutral pH soils. Chlorosis (yellowing of the leaf blades, with only the veins remaining green) will be the symptom of why it is struggling. In addition, Scarlet Oak will be subject to the usual array of pests and pathogens that can affect many Oaks.