Perennial Gardens

Staking Trees

Staking Treestaking tree illustration

  • Staking is usually not required or recommended.  Windy or sandy sites are the exception

  • Plant material should be staked at right angles to the most critical wind direction

  • Use arbor tape to secure the tree making sure that the tree is not inhibited from moving.  Staking lower on the tree is preferable because the greatest stresses occur when the staking height is above 2/3rd the height of the tree.

  • Check often to see if the arbor tape is too tight.  If left unchecked, the tree could be girdled leaving the tree unable to receive water or nutrients

  • Stakes should be removed after one growing season

Removing the Stakes

All staking should be removed within one year after planting. You may be able to remove stakes for fall planted trees by mid-spring. The tree should have become established in this period of time. Growth is actually reduced if the supports are left in place for long periods of time and some plants can become girdled by wires as the trunk increases in diameter.staking gone wrong example






The Myth of Staking Trees

"Newly planted trees should be staked firmly and securely"

It's interesting (and comforting) to find that nearly all current books and reputable web pages are correct in their assessment of staking.  Then why are there so many incorrectly staked trees in the landscape? 

  1. Containerized nursery materials are often staked for stability, and many consumers don't understand that the staking material needs to be removed upon transplanting

  2. Oral and written information from some retail nursery centers instruct their customers to stake their trees regardless of the need for doing so.  These instructions are sometimes incorrect in addition to being unnecessary.

  3. Some landscape architect specs describe outdated staking procedures, and these are followed by the landscape installation company.

  4. There is little to no aftercare for many tree installation sites.  Without a management plan as part of an installation agreement, staking materials will not be removed at the appropriate time (if every)

The Reality

The three cardinal sins of tree staking are:

  • Staking too high

  • Staking too tightly

  • Staking too long

Trees that are staked improperly will:

  • Grow taller, but with decrease truck caliper

  • Develop less trunk taper (or even a reverse trunk taper)

  • Develop a smaller root system

  • Suffer rubbing and girdling injuries from stakes and ties

  • Be more likely to snap in a high wind after stakes are removed

  • Often be unable to remain upright after stakes are removed

Bottom Line

  • Most containerized and correctly dug B&B materials do not need staking: bare root tress often do.

  • If trees must be staked, place stakes as low as possible but not higher than2/3 height of the tree

  • Material used to tie the tree to the stake should be flexible and allow for movement all the way down to the ground so that trunk taper develops correctly.

  • Remove all staking material after roots have established.  This can be as early as a few months, but should be not longer than one growing season

  • Materials use for permanent tree protection should never be attached to the tree


*The Myth of Staking information is from Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D, Extension Horticulturist and Associate Professor, Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University
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