When and How to Stake a Tree


Unlike tree removal Toronto, tree staking involves anchoring, supporting, and protecting recently planted trees to enable them to get properly established. Some trees need staking to ensure they become established. Staking is not always necessary, so it is important to know when to stake a tree and when it is not required.

When Do You Need Tree Support Stakes?

Trees in windy open areas: Wind helps trees develop solid trunks and strong roots. However, trees in open areas, such as trees planted on slopes or areas exposed to strong winds, often lean while they are being established. In some cases, strong winds can even break the trunk and even uproot the ground. Such trees require staking to offer temporary stabilization. Trees that almost always require staking include eucalyptus trees, mesquite hybrids, and acacias.

Bare-root trees: Bare-root trees do not stand up well when initially planted. They need staking to allow the roots to be strong enough to support the tree. One growing season is usually sufficient for roots to spread both across and downwards.

Top-heavy trees: Trees that are top-heavy (whose crown of leaves is dense), especially tall ones with small root balls, need staking. Consider pruning to remove some of the branches to ensure the tops are not too heavy.

Trees exposed to foot traffic: Trees that are exposed to foot traffic, such as those near a sidewalk, are predisposed to human disturbance, requiring staking. Staking, in this instance, is mostly to prevent disturbance as opposed to preventing damage from wind.

Trees growing in wet or sandy soil: Wet and sandy soils cannot hold the root of the ball completely. Staking gives roots sufficient time to establish themselves.

Vandalism risk: Staking may be necessary if there is a chance that vandals will damage or uproot unprotected trees.

Leaning trees: Strong wind can cause a tree to lean – staking can prevent this leaning. So, how do you stake a leaning tree? If the tree is already leaning when you are installing the stakes, you can try to remedy the situation first. One of the major causes of leaning is a shift in the root ball in the ground, which would require some underground intervention. Once you have corrected this, you can then go ahead with the staking.

When Should You Not Stake A Tree?

You should not stake a tree if it is developing correctly and if the wind in the area is not too strong. Note that staking can weaken a tree when not done properly, so it is not worth the risk if the tree is not in any danger.

Staking a Tree in Windy Areas

Improper staking can damage the tree or fail to have the desired stabilization result. Common problems with improper staking include trunks snapping at the point where they are tied to the stake following strong winds, slow root growth, trunk underdevelopment, and tree strangulation as a result of overly taut straps.

The tree staking method you choose depends on the type and size of the tree and the planting method. Whichever option you pick, ensure the stakes penetrate the soil at least 2 feet deep for proper anchorage. The different tree staking methods are:

  1. Single staking: As the term implies, this involves the use of a single stake. This method is used for trees that are already planted. It works best for bare-root trees, supporting the roots and allowing the stem to sway and thicken. The stake should be around 1/3 of the height of the tree. As the stem lengthens, shorten the stake. Leave a gap of between 2 ½ and 3 centimetres between the stem and the stake. Use long, upright stakes for long stems and weak stems. The stake should be inserted on the side of the prevailing wind to ensure the tree is not blown away from the stake.
  2. Double staking: Double staking involves the use of 2 or 3 stakes opposite each other. Long ties can also be used to secure stakes that are spaced equally around the tree. This method is ideal for container-grown and root-balled trees, especially in windy areas.
  3. Angled stake: Trees that are on slopes can be staked using angled stakes. The stakes are inserted inclining in the direction of the prevailing wind at a 45-degree angle, and they should be secured with a flexible tie. The stake can be installed either before or after the tree is planted.
  4. Guying: Guying involves inserting low stakes at a 45-degree angle from the tree. These are then secured using strong wires. Wires wrapped around the stem or branches should be wrapped with a rubber hosepipe to prevent rubbing. This is the ideal method when transplanting large trees.

The best time to stake a tree is immediately after you plant it. Stakes sometimes fail, and you should replace them immediately after they do.

Prerequisite for Proper Tree Staking

For proper staking, you will need the following:

  • Wooden tree support stakes with dimensions of 2×2 inches and about 5 feet tall. For large trees and in extremely windy areas, opt for metal stakes.
  • Use a sledgehammer or a similar tool to push the stakes securely into the ground
  • A smooth strap to tie around the branches or trunk

Determine the Number of Stakes to Use

Once you have the prerequisite stakes, sledgehammer, and strap, determine how many stakes you need. The choice depends on where the tree is located and its size. A single stake will do for a small tree located in a not-too-windy area. Three stakes in a triangle shape are needed for larger trees. The stakes should be placed at least 1 ½ feet away from the trunk to ensure they clear the root ball and should be at least 18 inches into the ground.

Where to Tie the Stakes

When tying the tree stakes, gently sway the tree back and forth to determine the height at which the tree is erect when swayed. This is typically between ½ and 2/3 up the stem. If you tie the stake at a height less than half the height of the tree, this will cause the canopy to sway around in the wind. On the other hand, if you tie the stake too high up the stem (right below the lowest branches), the top part may break off in case of violent winds.

Choosing the Tie

Different materials can be used to make the tie, including rubber tubing, cloth, and pantyhose straps. Other possible ties are slings that are sold in gardening stores, elastic straps, nylon stockings, and strips of cotton fabric. Whichever material you pick, it should be broad and flexible. Flat straps offer a large surface area and distribute pressure, preventing damage to the trunk. Tie it loosely to avoid damaging the trunk. Avoid stiff materials like nylon cords and wires, as they may get into the bark.

How Tightly to Tie the Wrap

When tying the wrap, leave some space to allow for a little movement. While tightly tying the wrap leads to the bark rubbing off, too little movement can hinder development. A little movement causes some strain on the tree, promoting the development of strong roots. You should form a figure 8 with the strap for optimum support.

Monitor the Trees Regularly

You should also monitor the tree periodically for indicators of rocking, girdling, abrasion, and other problems. Take corrective action immediately should you notice a problem.

When to Unfasten the Stakes

Determining how long to stake a tree depends on the circumstances. If the tree develops quickly and when it can stand on its own without support, then you can do away with the stakes much quicker, and vice versa. In most cases, the stakes should be in place until the close of the initial growing season. This means if you plant the tree in the fall, you should remove them the next spring. By that time, the tree will be strong enough to support itself. You should not forget to unfasten the straps around the branches and the trunk when removing the stakes. If the tree grows around a strap, this will obstruct the adequate flow of nutrients and water. You can leave the stakes in the ground to offer protection from foot traffic and lawn equipment.

Hire a Professional for Staking

You should consider enlisting the services of a professional to assist in the staking. A professional will have the necessary training and experience in choosing the right stakes and ties, identifying trees that need staking, and staking trees. Hiring a professional is also convenient since it means you do not have to find ties and stakes for trees, and you do not have to do the staking yourself. At Al Miley & Associates, we have been offering tree staking and related services in Toronto and the GTA for many years. We are TCIA certified and endeavour to ensure your trees grow strong and healthy. Call us today for all your tree staking, tree removal, stump removal, shrub and tree trimming, and related services.