Staking newly planted trees used to be a standard practice. But studies of how trees grow, mature, and react to their environment have shown that most newly planted trees donít need to be staked. Indeed, staking can be prejudicial to the future growth and stability of the tree.
Most young trees can support themselves and will develop greater strength if left to move naturally in the wind. The movement of the trunk induces elongation and thickening of the roots, and the trunk becomes sturdy and properly tapered. This combination results in a tree that can withstand the rigors of high wind because it is firmly rooted and has a strong, yet flexible trunk.
In special situations however staking can be beneficial. For instance, a very large tree with a full head may need temporary staking until it is firmly rooted; or a tree constantly exposed to high wind; or, a tree with very weak trunk.
When staking is appropriate, always use ties that have a broad and smooth surface, and leave some play in the ties so that the tree can sway slightly in the wind. It is important to stake properly and to remove the stakes and ties within one year, or serious problems can arise.
If staking is done inappropriately, the tree may have a poorly developed trunk, also the trunk may actually thicken near the support ties, thus restricting the flow of water, nutrients and sugars in the vascular tissue. Support ties that are too tight can cut through the bark as the tree grows in diameter. A staked tree can suffer more wind damage than an un-staked one, especially if the tree is too tightly staked. Wind damage is more severe precisely because the tree lacks the flexibility to move with the wind.
Where staking is concerned, less is more. A tree that is planted correctly, with a large enough root ball, normally does not need to be staked. The rule is "donít stake if itís not necessary." But, when it is necessary, call your Cooperative Extension Office, which has well-illustrated material available on how to set the stakes and tie the trees properly.