Tree Staking: When it Hurts More Than it Helps
The right and wrong ways to stake a tree
We all want our newly planted trees to succeed. So it’s tempting to want to provide them with extra support from a tree stake. Despite good intentions, tree stakes may cause more damage than you’d expect.
Not all newly planted trees need staking – in fact most do not. Research shows that trees grow better, with stronger root systems, if they are able to establish themselves naturally without any intervention.
As with anything, there are right and wrong ways to stake a tree. Unfortunately, we too often see tree stakes installed improperly, or left in place far too long.
When SHOULD You Stake a Tree?
- when trees are planted in areas without a lot of root space – such as street trees located between a sidewalk and street
- trees planted in a very windy location, like corridors between buildings
- trees that have a large canopy and small root balls
- when a tree is planted on a significant slope
- trees planted in fine and lightweight soil
How Tight Should the Stake Be?
If a tree requires staking, it should be loose enough that the tree can still sway a few inches in the wind. Securing the stake too tightly can cause girdling, which inhibits water and nutrients from traveling properly throughout the tree. Girdling will cause your tree to weaken and potentially die. A stake secured too tightly can even cause your young tree to snap in half.
Slight movement of your staked tree allows for stronger root development and a strong trunk with proper tree taper.
On the other hand, staking that is too loose can cause rubbing damage, which wounds the bark, making it easier for pests and diseases to enter.
Recently, we came upon the tree below out in the field. Unfortunately, the staking material was left in place for MUCH too long, causing the tree to seal itself around the wire. This tree is now prone to breakage at the site of the embedded wire.
Tree stakes are meant to be temporary – generally only in place for 6 months to a year.
When Should You Remove a Tree Stake?
Tree staking should be removed as soon as the tree is able to support itself and when there isn’t any visible root ball movement. As a general guide: if you plant a tree in the fall, check the staking for removal in the spring. If you plant in the spring, check in the fall and remove promptly. Whenever we provide tree staking services, we return to inspect and remove the stakes in a timely fashion.
When done correctly and in the proper situations, staking can help a tree become established. If staking materials have been left on too long in your landscape, contact us for an inspection.
Posted: February 25, 2020