Perspectives on Tree Staking
In recently landscaped properties, it is commonplace for the newly planted trees to be staked. Yet, often trees that are several years old still have strapping on them. No tree that has been staked for more than a year should remain staked.
Should trees be staked when planted or not? Surprisingly, the answer is usually no.
The primary reason for staking at all is because home builders have their landscape contractors do so. Staking is still required by some landscape architects, but it is a dated practice with questionable benefits.
If a tree is planted properly and has a proper root ball size, staking is not necessary. Research shows trees become established faster when not staked. They also have better trunk growth and develop a more extensive root system making them more stable. Staking frequently causes more harm than good.
Could staking actually hinder tree health?
Some movement of the trunk stimulates root growth. Movement caused by wind (within reason) is crucial to help smaller trees develop into strong, structurally-balanced trees. Tying straps too tightly or leaving straps too long (see photo) will girdle the tree. In essence, this chokes the top of the tree by upsetting the natural, smooth travel of water and nutrients through the cambium layer just below the bark. Tying a tree too loosely causes bark to continually be rubbed, resulting in wounds that may never heal and allowing the tree to be susceptible to insects and disease.
Tree stakes are like crutches. They do a tree more harm than good if used too long or applied incorrectly. Avoid creating this dependency which can damage tree structure and long-term health. The key is correct planting with a proper-sized root ball – then allow nature to strengthen and develop the new tree to maturity.