Staking Your Tree

Staking is a practice used to anchor, support, and protect recently planted trees. Trees are often staked unnecessarily and incorrectly. Even still, there are times when staking can help a tree if done correctly.

Tree Development

A tree’s form will change depending on its growing conditions. Movement of the trunk signals the tree to increase trunk girth and root growth, thus increasing stability. Besides trunk movement, branches lower on the trunk add girth where they are positioned. Not only does this increase trunk taper but the branches have a dampening effect with wind as well.

Most Young Trees Do NOT Need Stakes   

Most young trees can stand unsupported. Given what we know about tree development, staking can weaken a tree. If the tree is staked too tight and does not move, then development of trunk and roots is delayed. When a tree is tied too tightly and the rigid staking is removed, the tree will flop over. In addition to blocking the tree from building strength, trees that are poorly staked can be damaged by the staking material itself. Wire ties easily cut bark and can girdle a tree. Poorly placed stakes can rub and break branches.

Why Stake?     

Despite the downsides  of tree staking, it can be beneficial to stake a tree when needed. If done properly, staking can help a tree stand while the roots are established. This is especially true when the tree has only a small amount of roots that have not yet spread into the surrounding soil. Staking can help a tree stand straight that is stubbornly leaning even if it is well rooted in the ground. The stakes can also act a barriers to protect the tree from lawn mowers, weed whackers, frisbees, and other mobile objects including people and pets.

When Should I Stake?     

  •  If the tree is exposed to high wind on a regular basis
  •  In areas of high traffic 
  •  If your tree is not standing straight (use one stake)
  •  If the tree's root ball moves in the soil when you hold the trunk and gently move it back and forth (use two stakes)

Steps to Proper Staking

  1. Remove any temporary staking materials from the nursery such as plastic tape or bamboo stakes.
  2. Drive one or two parallel stakes (wood or metal) as needed a foot in to the soil just outside the root ball. Stakes should be in line with the prevailing wind.
  3. Support the trunk with your hand as you move it up the trunk. When the tree is upright, that is where the ties will be attached. Ties should be as low as possible on the trunk.
  4. Attach the tree to the stakes with ties. The ties should be a broad, soft, flexible material. You might try using a pair of nylons or the inner tube of a bicycle tire. Don’t use wire or rope.
  5. Don’t cinch up ties on the trunk. Ideally it should form a continuouse loop or figure eight between the trunk and the stakes.
  6. Remove the ties when the tree can stand upright on its own. Ties should be on no longer than a year. You may leave the stakes without the ties as a form of protection for the tree.