How long to stake new tree?

johns08April 16, 2008

I just had an 8 foot dogwood tree planted which has about a 200 pound ball (burlap and wire cage). The guys who planted it said it should remain staked for about two years. First, is it really necessary to stake the tree and second, what is the minimum time required? I recall reading somewhere that new trees may grow better if allowed to move naturally without stakes. Any thoughts?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

as long as the weight of the tree above outweighs the ball below.. including the wind shear effects on the leafed out tree ...

for an 8 footer.. at least this year...

maybe next year... depending how big the canopy is ...

what is the potential for high winds in your yard???

what is your soil???


    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 5:49PM
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I took a course at an arboreteum and it was taught by a certified arborist and his firm and they said that staking a tree is probably the worst thing to do to a tree. Does this mean I would not stake the tree at all? No, I just might, given the right circumstances.

A tree needs the wind to blow the branches which in turns strengthens the roots. So, if the wind was blowing say east to west, or pushing the tree towards the west, the roots pointing east would gain strength, and vice versa.

I would say that you should do some more research on it.

But Ken_adrian brought up a good point on the high winds and soil conditions. And in this case, I would stake it for a year as well, but loosely, give it a little play and use an old cut up garden hose over the wires so the wires do not cut into the trunk.

Is it far away from anything that if it did fall, nothing would be harmed?

Maybe some experts will key in.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 7:43PM
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Current theory-in other words, knowledge gained through testing-holds that trees develope trunk strength more quickly when they are pushed this way and that by wind. Therefore, recommendations are to not stake........unless it is needed ;^) Obviously, one does not always know IF it will be needed until after the fact. That's why Kens' questions are so vital to the decision. Is the planting location in an especially windy spot? Is the soil of a type which does not firm up readily?

Personally, unless there was some very obvious factor relating to the above, I'd not stake it at all. It's not the end of the world if the tree does get tipped a bit and has to be straightened out later.

If you do decide to stake it, use two stakes and tie with a material that will not cut into the trunk. Fasten the tie material rather low on the trunk, again to allow for some sway, and not too tight. Finally, one year should be great plenty for amount of time to leave it staked.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 9:13PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

I'd stake it at least for a few months but let it sway a little bit. Spring storms tend to be really wild at least for me down here. I didn't stake some small trees at the neighborhood park and a big storm came through a couple weeks ago and pretty much all trees got pushed in one direction and got stuck that way so i used small stakes to hold them in place for couple months but they are flexible enough to be swaying a bit.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 9:18PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

I would agree with the advice to stake only if needed, and in such a way as to A) let the tree sway a bit, B) protect the bark from the tie and C) check throughout the year that the ties are not too tight.

More important, perhaps, is your statement that the "dogwood tree ... has about a 200 pound ball (burlap and wire cage)" - I HOPE the planting crew removed both the burlap and the wire cage as they planted the tree? If they didn't, then you have a possible explanation for why they think the tree should be staked for 2 years - the roots won't grow any too well out through the cage or the burlap! If the materials were not removed, and since the tree was recently planted, I would get the crew to come back, dig up the root ball and remove them, hopefully at no charge, since it's poor planting practice to leave them on, if commonly done even so.

If the cage and burlap were removed, then I would stake only if A) it's a very windy location, B) you are prone to severe windstorms, C) your soil is extremely sandy and doesn't pack around roots OR D) if it is heavy clay, and they dug a nice half-round hole for the root ball, with smooth sides which will hold water and let the root ball slide around.

Of course, I assume you are aware of correct watering practices, and that you have mulched? If not, check back through almost any thread about planting a tree.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 10:37PM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

I wished I had staked my newly planted 'Little Gem' Magnolia this last winter. Two freezing rain events had it nearly bent to the ground with the weight of ice -- and did a LOT of damage. I may have lost it.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 7:56AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i was in a hurry on the previous post ... so followup ...

when i plant a bare root.. in pure sand... after tamping it in .. and watering the heck out of it .... i probably NEVER need a stake .... the weight of the water.. and the packing of the sand... . that tree is just not going to move ... it will break in the wind... before it will ever tip over ... presuming the canopy is not excessive ...

now... as you will recall from school.. if you ever worked with clay ... its is slippery as heck ... when wet ...

dig a hole in clay ... aka cauldron ... and insert a ball and burlap .. of widely divergent soil or potting medium ... and once that tree leafs out .. with its sailboat sail of a canopy ... there is no way it is going to not 'slip in the hole.. and end up crooked ... ergo .. you need to stake it ... until the roots can penetrate the clay and get an underground superstructure capable of holding up the sail ...

now .... i still have to stake stuff in my yard.. in my sand.. if i am planting potted/BB stock .... and it comes fully leafed out... as most living conifers do ... lol .. i dont bother to plant the dead ones.. lol ... i know.. we are in the tree forum ...

so ... staking is necessary ... which then leads us to just how tight you stake it up ... it does NOT have to be tight in no wind situations ... nor even slight wind.. as suggested... and as dylan noted.. THE ANSWER MY FRIEND IS BLOWING IN THE WIND ... etc ...

at planting.. you immediately begin to allow the tree to start acclimating to the prevailing winds .. let it rock and inch or two long as it basically remains upright ... frankly... if you tie it too tight.. you run a greater risk of it snapping off due to improper tie-ing ...

what you are staking for... is storm conditions... wind or wind and rain .... you dont want a good downpour .... saturating that clay .. or liquifing the sand .. and the attendant wind... letting it tip in the hole.. severing all the new roots you are trying to grow ... etc ...


    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 8:56AM
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jimtnc(7b Raleigh tttf)

I just had a pretty 9-10' Redbud planted a month ago. Didn't see how big the root ball was, but the tree has a nicely formed bowl/vase structure...probably close to 5 years old with a 2-3" caliper. They have it triple-staked with rubber straps, with instructions to loosen the straps occasionally when too tight throughout the year it should be staked, per their instructions.

Apparently, they feel after it leafs out there could be a little too much push and pull with storms in heavy clay soil. The tree was previously nursery planted and they dug it up for transport to my house.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 1:16PM
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Almost all my trees are staked with lodgepole stakes and soft rubber chainlink. I'm in a wind tunnel, a swamp, with 1000s of yards of imported sifted fine 4-way-blend and horse manure. I've loosed and changed position a few times on all ties. Watching the roots grow and how the trees (over 300) bend and sway in the wind. Will untie the first batch planted Dec05 this summer, but leave in most stakes and re-tie loosely in September.

When I first planted and did not stake some trees they blew over. That's a problem with water-saturated super loose new dirt yard. Things will settle.

The birds will miss the chainlink though -- they perch and bounce on it. But the branches are quickly multiplying, thickening, lengthening, to compensate.

Despite staking and chainlinking, some of the willows have stubbornly gone crooked and lean. Hoping they'll be OK. Also, the trees that I did not stake are noticeably all leaning the same direction. Ferocious winds. Hope they'll be OK. At least their trunks and roots are strong. Time will tell which trees end up doing better -- staked or not. I'll post the results.

Here's a picture of a scarlet curly willow which, despite staking and chainlinking, is quite bent. Hope it turns out OK:

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 2:01PM
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Thanks for all the information. The guys who planted the tree loosened the wires around the ball and cut away the burlap as far down as they could reach in the hole. I hope that will be akay. Since there is so much difference in opinion about how long to stake, I think I will compromise and stake uintil next spring. The soil is a mixture of clay and loam and we do not get many very strong winds. The tree is held be an elastic "chain" and allows some movement.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 9:49AM
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You will do well to stake at least until next spring as you say. One year is what I normally do. I decided for once not to stake a live oak last year and now I have to go out with a truck and straighten it after last fall's rains. Staking with nondamaging binding does no harm and the tree will still strengthen itself after the stakes are removed when it has put out a few roots. It does more harm to the roots to have to straighten it. Also, when you remove the stakes, apply pressure to see if the tree is set. I had a magnolia staked for a year, removed the stakes without checking, and the winds tipped it because it still hadn't put out enough roots to compensate for the large topgrowth and wind force.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 11:15AM
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As previous posters have indicated, staking is done only when conditions require it and it is typically never recommended to stake longer than one year. And generally, the recommendation when staking IS necessary is to use a 3-way method, as this allows for the greatest flex and natural movement while providing maximum support. Be sure to position the ties high enough to provide sufficient support but not too high - generally about 1/3 the height of the tree or right before it begins to branch.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 11:57AM
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Sherwood Botsford(3a)

One trick I use now when staking 5-7 foot spruce: I use 1x2 survey stakes. Or if the tree just needs a bit of help, the half inch thick stakes. These have enough flex to bend with the tree. I now use 4" wide strips of black poly for ties. If the customer forgets to remove them after a year, they disintegrate from UV. Ties are loose unless needed to secure a tree with a broken root ball, or a bare root tree. Those are snug, but generally can be loosened off after a few weeks.

Caveats: I don't do calliper trees. These are trees that are 1" and under.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 2:16AM
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I watched a PBS special where a study showing varied methods and duration's for staking trees was conducted.
The results showed you should never stake longer than absolutely required. Next the two pole method proved to be the best.
A tree staked too long will have weak roots.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 8:43PM
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