Staking Trees at Planting Time

Trees are often staked with guy wire or straps at planting time.  Sometimes this is necessary due to the size of the tree in relation the root ball and the soil type.  However, it can cause real problems with your tree in the following years if not done properly.

Staking of a newly planted tree should only be done if absolutely necessary. If a tree is planted correctly in the native soil without additives, staking is often not necessary. If a tree needs to be staked, here are some pointers that will help insure the long-term health of the tree:

  • Always use a broad strap or a soft hose around the tree trunk, never put wire or rope alone around the stem
  • Don’t over tighten the wire so that unnecessary pressure is put on the stem of the tree.  Allow for a little movement of the tree.
  • Use 2-3 stakes and wire placed low on the trunk if the root ball wobbles
  • Use 1 stake and wire if the tree bends in one direction to help straighten the stem
  • NEVER leave the stakes and wire past the first season.  The tree’s roots should be firmly established and holding the tree stable after six months to a year if planted correctly.
  • Do not place stakes right next to the trunk of the tree or through the root ball.  Place outside of the root ball.

Trees need to bend and move in the wind to grow properly and gain a good taper on the stem.  If the tree is left staked, it will not get enough motion and the stem wood will not grow correctly.  Also, the tree will eventually grow around guy wires which produces a weak point in the stem and point of fungal infection.  Below are pictures of a prime example of trees that were staked when planted and the stakes and wire was left on too long.  Every one of these trees has a large canker wound and internal rot in the stem due to the negligence of not removing the staking after the first season.

These beautiful street trees have had their lives and usefulness cut short because the staking was not removed quickly from the trees.  Every tree in the row has the same canker and rot due most likely to the improper staking in their early life that caused the original wounds that have spread up and down the stems.

Scott Geer

Scott Geer

Scott Geer has a master's degree in forestry from Stephen F. Austin State University and is an ISA Board Certified Master Arborist.® He is also a graduate of the American Society of Consulting Arborists Academy.