Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Do Trees Really Need Staking?

A tie left in place too long can end up strangling (girdling) the tree.

There is an old belief that you should always stake a tree solidly when you plant it. Indeed, this was the accepted practice for most of the 20th century. But not any more. In fact, the International Society of Arborists now states this is the number one myth concerning tree care. Studies show that staking young trees is not useful in most circumstances. In fact, unstaked trees tend to show healthier, denser growth than staked trees.

It seems that the wind moving the upper part of the tree stimulates the production of longer, deeper roots that better anchor the tree to the ground and also cause it to develop a thicker, stronger trunk. And then there is also the problem of well-intentioned gardeners who install a stake, but then forget to remove it, or don’t know they should, so that the stake ties start to dig into the trunk and eventually girdle it.

When planting a tree, the important thing is that it be properly seated in its planting hole, so be sure to tamp the soil delicately but firmly in so the root ball itself doesn’t move. (A root ball that rocks in the wind is not good thing!) A stake, however, would only be need in exceptional circumstances, such as:

  1. A very windy location;
  2. A steep slope;
  3. A tree with good branch development but a weak root system.
Any stake used should be installed in the soil beyond the root ball.

If you do decide to stake, make sure to insert the stake in the ground outside the root ball and not into it and especially to use a tie that is flexible, fairly broad and doesn’t dig into the bark. And leave a bit of wiggle room: the trunk should move at least a bit in the wind.

Finally, remove the stake after one year at the latest. Mark it on your calendar: the future health and even the life of your tree depends on it.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “Do Trees Really Need Staking?

  1. Pingback: Free Your Tree! – Laidback Gardener

  2. Pingback: Don’t Strangle Your Tree! – Laidback Gardener

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