HOW TO: Stake a Tree

Not all trees need staking. However, it's necessary to stake a tree under certain circumstances. Stake a tree when it's in a windy area, is top-heavy, is a large evergreen or is in a location where it could get knocked down by children or cars. There are a number of ways to stake a tree. Remember to avoid putting anything against a young tree's bark that rubs or otherwise damages it, evoking disease.

Recent discoveries are changing recommendations for how newly planted trees should be stabilized. New trees may need additional support for 18 to 24 months until their roots take hold. The “mechanics” for how a tree is supported is called “stabilizing,” and there are two principle methods from which to choose: trunk stabilizing and root ball stabilizing. Done properly, trunk stabilizing can be an effective method to let a newly planted tree develop a sufficient root structure. With either method, proper planting techniques should be followed. The type of stabilizing you use dictates when to install the tree. With either method, you should follow proper planting techniques.

  1. Dig a hole at twice the width of the tree's root ball and at approximately the same depth of the root ball.

  2. Roughen the sides of the hole, especially in compacted clays or hard soils.

  3. Center the root ball in the hole and set the depth so that the root collar is visible above the surrounding soil. The root collar should not be buried.

  4. “Heel” the tree into place. This requires replacing the native soil around the root ball and tamping it firm. Adjust the tree's position as you proceed. Move the tree into position by moving the root ball. Pushing or pulling on the trunk can cause damage to the smaller roots.

  5. When the hole is half filled with dirt, install the tree.

  6. Fill the hole with dirt to the level of the surrounding soil, tamping the soil firmly into place as you go.

  7. Create a water berm around the outside edge of the finished planting with mulch. Keep any mulch from covering the root collar itself. A good rule of thumb is to leave a 3-inch bare space around the trunk.

  8. Hoses, wires and other tight materials restrict growth. Therefore, use a 3-inch webbing or polyethylene strips twisted loosely at their midpoint once around the tree and then attached to the stake with staples. This technique allows the material to grow and move with the tree and creates some swaying, which helps the tree grow stronger roots.

  9. The numbers of stakes you use depends on the size of the tree. A tree with a trunk 3 inches or less in diameter needs only one stake placed on the windward side, but use more, if needed. Stake larger trees in two or three directions.

  10. Drive the stakes about 18 to 24 inches into the ground. In high-traffic areas, place their tops high enough so no one will trip over the webbing, at least 3 feet.

Source: John King,,, Grounds Maintenance,,,

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