Southern live oak can grow in moist to dry sites. They can withstand occasional floods and hurricanes, and are resistant to salt spray and moderate soil salinity. They tend to survive fire, because often a fire will not reach their crowns. Even if a tree is burned, its crowns and roots usually survive the fire and sprout vigorously. Furthermore live oak forests discourage entry of fire from adjacent communities because they provide dense cover that discourages the growth of a flammable understory.
Although they grow best in well-drained sandy soils and loams, they will also grow in clay. Live oaks are also surprisingly hardy. Those of southern provenance can easily be grown in USDA zone 7 and the Texas Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana var. fusiformis), having the same evergreen foliage as the Southern variety, can be grown with success in areas as cold as zone 6. Even with significant winter leaf burn, these trees can make a strong comeback during the growing season in more northerly areas such New Jersey, southern Ohio, and southern Connecticut.
Live oak or evergreen oak is a general term for a number of unrelated oaks in several different sections of the genus Quercus that happen to share the characteristic of evergreen foliage.
The name live oak comes from the fact that evergreen oaks remain green and "live" throughout winter, when other oaks are dormant, leafless and "dead"-looking. The name is used mainly in North America, where evergreen oaks are widespread in warmer areas, along the Atlantic coast from southeast Virginia and North Carolina to Florida, west along the Gulf Coast to Texas and across the southwest to California and southwest Oregon. In particular, the campus of Rice University is home to thousands of live oaks.