Please note that staking a tree often does more harm than good. If the tree has a heavy crown or leaf cover and small root ball or is top-heavy with bare roots, is young and planted in a windy area, or has a flexible trunk that won’t stay upright without support, it may be necessary to stake the tree.
You may also want to stake the tree if it’s in a high-traffic area where children or careless pedestrians may knock the tree over.
If staking a tree is necessary for any of the above reasons, it’s very important to do so in a way that won’t harm the tree.
You’ll want three 2×2 inch wooden or metal stakes standing at about 5 feet tall. Metal stakes may be more appropriate for heavier trees or those planted in windy areas. A post driver or sledgehammer can be used to pound them into the ground. You want a wide smooth strap to tie around the trunk.
Place them about 1.5 feet away with the point of the triangle facing into the direction of the prevailing wind. Stakes should be driven about 18 inches into the ground. A post driver or a sledgehammer is useful for this task.
Before tying the tree, you’ll want to feel for the best place to stabilize. Hold the trunk in one hand and sway the tree back and forth. Somewhere between halfway and 2/3 up the trunk will be a location where the tree stops swaying significantly. If you tie too low, the tree will uproot itself. Too high, and it will easily snap.
The material you want to use for the tie itself should be flexible and wide to prevent damage to the tree. A cloth strap, rubber tubing, pantyhose, or products like Biostretch (available at amazon) can be used. Do not use wire, nylon cord, or anything abrasive that could bite the bark of the tree.
When tying, allow for some movement, but not too much. Constant movement can cause damage to the bark, but without a little bit of sway, the tree won’t develop strong roots. Any staked tree should be monitored regularly for any signs of girdling, rocking, or abrasion.
After the first growing season, it should be safe to remove the stakes. If you plant in the fall, remove the stakes in the spring. If in the spring, remove them in the fall.