I wanted to find out whether staking new or transplanted trees is necessary. So I did some research, and wanted to share what I learned.
New and transplanted trees go through a similar period of transplant shock. Whether you are taking a tree out of a pot or out of the ground, when it goes into the hole you dug, the roots are completely unattached. They must begin to grab hold of the soil around it for support.
So how the tree is planted is crucial to whether it will thrive or weaken. A wide, shallow hole is best and a new tree needs deep watering every five to seven days.
But there are many factors to consider before staking a tree, including soil type, the size and thickness of the canopy, whether the location is windy, and the ratio of the weight of the root ball to the canopy.
Planting a tree in loose, sandy soil may be a reason to stake although not necessarily mandatory.
We have clay soil, which can be very slippery when wet. So a well-watered, new tree without established roots might have a higher risk of blowing over in strong wind. This situation might warrant staking.
If the new tree has a small root ball and a large or thick canopy, a gust could blow it over. It might benefit from staking.
If staking is needed, there are some very important guidelines to follow. Never tie the support lines tightly, but leave them a little slack. This allows the tree to sway gently and strengthen its developing root system.
Make sure the support lines are not a material that will cut into and damage the bark and limbs. Stakes should only be left in until roots are established, which could be a couple of months up to one complete growing season. Keep the stakes low to support the root ball while allowing the tree to move.
According to Linda Chalker-Scott, and extension horticulturist/associate professor at Washington State University, improperly staked trees will grow tall with a dense canopy but won’t develop a widening trunk or supportive root system.
Once stakes are removed, there’s a greater chance of blow over. But the overall consensus is that most properly planted trees do not need staking.
Darla Menking is a certified Bell County Texas Master Gardener and a Texas Master Naturalist.