How to Stake a Tree Properly (And How Long to Keep It Staked)

How to Stake a Tree Properly (And How Long to Keep It Staked)

The new tree you planted is counting on you for enough water, sunlight and nutrients – and it needs a few other elements to succeed, too.

A bit of pruning early on can help your tree establish a good shape. And your new tree may need a bit of literal support, like a stake.

Though, not all young trees need to be staked. Read on to see if you should stake a new tree. If so, learn some staking trees methods and how long to keep a tree staked.

What You Need to Know About Staking New Trees

While it seems like young trees need extra support, most trees don’t need to be staked. Staking trees that don’t need it can cause the tree to grow fewer roots and develop a weak tree base.

Only stake your tree if it needs extra support, protection or help staying anchored.

Should you stake your new tree?

If you properly planted a healthy tree with a sturdy trunk and solid root system, chances are you won’t have to stake it. You also don’t have to stake evergreens, conifers or trees that have branches growing lower to the ground. There are times when you should stake trees, though.

Do stake:

  • Bare-root trees or trees with a small root ball.
  • Trees planted in areas with lots of foot traffic, like a sidewalk or street.
  • New trees that can’t stand on their own or those that begin to lean.
  • Eucalyptus trees, mesquite hybrid trees, oleander trees and acacia trees.
  • Tall, top-heavy trees with no lower branches.
  • Young trees if you live in a very windy area or if the soil is too wet or loose.

If your new tree needs staking, here’s how to stake it for support.

  1. Remove the nursery stakes, and find two or three stakes (wooden or metal). Place your hand on the trunk and see where it needs to be steadied. That’s how tall your stakes should be.

  2. Place the two stakes opposite each other and about 1.5’ away from the trunk. Use the third stake only if needed and put on an open side of the tree.

  3. Use a soft material, like canvas strapping or tree staking straps, to attach the stakes. Allow enough slack, so the tree can naturally sway. Don’t use rope or wire, which damages the trunk.

How long should you keep a tree staked?

Generally, remove the stake the next growing season. If you add a stake in spring, remove in fall. If you stake in fall, remove in spring. Otherwise, the tree will depend on the stake and won’t stand on its own.

Also, make sure you always remove the wire around the branches! The tree can eventually grow around the wires, which could potentially cut off the flow of water and nutrients.

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  • The Tree Doctor July 3, 2018 >Hi Meredith, Strong winds can affect young, top-heavy trees in several ways. The leverage can sometimes bend the trunks to remove the tree from vertical. Depending on the severity of the bend, this can possibly cause damage to the tree’s internal plumbing. Staking or guying can bring the tree back to vertical, but may not be able to compensate for any internal damage that may have occurred. If the lean is a result of the tree’s root ball being torqued in the ground, roots may have been torn or damaged, once again depending on the severity of displacement. In both situations, staking the tree may not “fix” any physical damage that may have occurred. Only time will provide an answer. Make sure the tree has enough water and only keep the stakes/guy wires on the tree until it looks like it can support itself. Do realize that the tree may be susceptible to leaning again for several years should strong winds come from the same direction as before. Hopefully, this helps! Best of luck to you, Meredith!
  • Meredith Buschmann June 30, 2018 >Hi! We planted a pink dogwood 2 years ago. The tree is about 5 or 6 ft now. Unfortunately, we had some rough storms and wind. It is now leaning a little bit. If we steak it now, when would you recommend us removing the steaks? Thank you for your help!
  • The Tree Doctor August 7, 2017 >Hi Annie. Oh no! We hope this is not the case, but it does sound like it could have been staked incorrectly. To make the best recommendation, you can email us a photo at blog@davey.com to know for sure. You can also use this photo to send to the landscaper to show why they did it incorrectly. After all, you definitely want to make sure the tree is properly staked for the health of your tree! Here if you have any other questions, Annie.
  • Anne High July 28, 2017 >My landscaper staked a sycamore right next to the trunk, in several places, very tightly and up to about the seven foot level. The area is extremely windy. I think it isn't appropriate staking, am I right in insisting they redo it as you've stated? It's been like this for over six months.
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