Stakes rarely serve any purpose, often cause lasting harm
This tree, centerpiece of the bed assessed in Overplanted
oops, is tightly staked. If you ever see that done to your
tree, immediately remove the stakes and cords or wires.
A tree in a nursery standard sized root ball does not need
staking unless it's on a severe slope or in truly mighty winds.
Even then, guy lines should be loose to keep the tree from falling
all the way over -- they should not prevent it moving.
What we learned from Gary Watson, author of Principles and
Practice of Planting Trees and Shrubs and mastermind of
decades of tree growth work at the Morton Arboretum in
A tree can be girdled in a year by staking. Even if staking
lines are removed before they girdle the tree, by having prevented
trunk movement they cause breaks later. A tree must flex to build
Also, we learned from Dr. Alex Shigo, author of A New Tree
Biology, which captured much of a lifetime of groundbreaking
work with the U.S. Forestry Service:
Trees are not like people. If you took an individual
human cell and stood it alone, it would collapse. Our cells must be
in masses, supported by bones connected to muscles and contained in
skin, or we cannot stand. Yet a tree can stand up one cell at a
time. Every single tree cell has strength that adds up to the
tree's overall strength.
Individual cells become strong when they are subjected to
pressure as they shift in wind and weather. The cells walls crack
but do not break. Then, fortifying lignin is layered over the
fractures, which become stronger the same way an archer's composite
bow becomes stronger by lamination.