How & When to Stake a Tree in Your Desert Landscape

Close up of a tree stake.

Many times, when you come across a tree that has recently been planted here in the Phoenix or Anthem areas, you’ll also see a stake next to that tree, tied to the tree in various ways.

We have previously written about how tree staking is not necessary for most trees, but what about those times when it is?

In this article, we will go over situations where tree staking may be necessary, the proper way to stake a tree, and the correct materials to use.

Situations Where Tree Staking May Be Needed

In most cases, by the time you receive a tree from a nursery, it is large and strong enough to be planted on its own without staking. However, there are a few situations when staking a tree as it adjusts to its new location may be helpful – but only for a short time.

The stake that comes with the tree from some nurseries is not the stake to use in this situation. Those stakes are to promote vertical growth. Remove them when you get your tree home as they can damage the root ball.

Generally speaking, we only recommend staking a tree in situations where it’s unable (or at least highly unlikely) to stay upright without a little help. Typical situations in which you might consider additional support for your new tree are described below.

In a Particularly Windy Location

Did you know that wind makes a tree stronger? It’s true! You may even have seen videos of plant owners shaking their fiddle leaf figs to simulate “wind”. The same principle applies for all trees – wind can help strengthen a tree.

When a tree is first planted, however, it may not have strong enough roots to withstand really windy situations. If you’re planting in a very windy location, where large gusts may blow over the tree, you may want to consider staking until the roots have established themselves.

Once the roots are established, remove the stakes so that the tree can get stronger by blowing in the wind. If you leave the stakes on too long, it may harm more than help the tree.

In Sandy or Poor Soil

A variety of soil types can be found in the Anthem and Phoenix areas, but if you have very sandy soil, you may need to stake your tree.

Sandy soil means that the roots don’t have much to “grab” onto to stay upright. Staking may help in this situation.

On a Hill, Slope, or Embankment

Larger trees planted in an area with sloping ground may need to be staked to help keep them upright. Planting on a slope also requires building a retention mound on the lower side of the tree to help direct water to the roots instead of running downhill.

When the Root Ball is Small

A small root ball, bare rooted tree, or any tree with underdeveloped roots may need to be staked, especially if the roots are small in comparison to the size of the tree’s canopy. Roots keep a tree balanced and steady, so if they aren’t large enough, the tree can lean or topple over.

For A Top-Heavy Tree

Similarly, a top-heavy tree or tree with a lot of foliage may cause a young tree to tip or bend. As pruning a tree during the first two years is not recommended, staking can help a top-heavy tree stay upright.

For Certain Types of Trees

While not always the case, some trees are more prone to needing staking when first planted. These include:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Acacias
  • Mesquite hybrids

How Long Should You Stake a Tree?

Trees should never be staked for longer than 2 years. Ideally, they will be staked for no longer than a growing season. That means if you plant a tree in the fall, remove the stake in the spring. If you plant a tree in the spring, remove the stake in the fall. If the tree can survive without the stakes before then, you can remove it earlier.

The Correct Materials for Staking a Tree

Using the correct materials can prevent damage to your tree. The right staking tools will allow your tree to move in the wind without letting it topple over.

Tree Stakes

Wood or metal stakes can be found individually or sold as part of a tree staking kit. Make sure they are the proper size for your tree (which may be larger than you think!). About 18 inches of the stake will be driven into the ground, so aim for something tall and sturdy enough to accommodate that.

Flexible Ties

While tree staking can help your tree by preventing too much movement, the ties should always be flexible and loose. You want to allow the tree to move in the wind without damaging the roots.

Don’t use wire, zip ties, or anything that can restrict the tree too much or dig into the bark. We also recommend against using anything that has wire inside it, as the outer materials can wear off, leaving wire that can damage the tree’s trunk.

The Correct Method for Staking a Tree

Place the stakes about 18-24 inches away from the trunk and drive them about 18 inches into the ground. This ensures that the stake is outside the root ball but within the planting hole.

The stakes should be in line with the wind. Meaning if the wind direction usually comes from the west, the stakes should be on the west and east sides of the tree.

Starting halfway up the tree trunk, hold your tree with one hand and move it slightly back and forth. Move your hand up the tree and test for the height where the tree stays upright when moved. This is where you will attach the ties.

Note: If you tie the tree below halfway up the tree, you’ll end up with the roots being lifted out. Tying just below the lowest branches also means that the tree may snap off in a strong wind.

Using the flexible material (pantyhose are a good alternative option!), loop it around the trunk at the spot you determined and tie the material to the stakes. Do not tie it to the tree.

Check the tree regularly for any issues caused by the material or weather.

In Conclusion

Whether or not you stake a tree has nothing to do with what you think you’re supposed to do. Rather, the decision should be based on what is best for the tree. If your newly planted tree seems okay without stakes to hold it up or keep it from growing at an angle, staking is not needed.

But if your young tree needs a little extra support as it grows and becomes established in its new spot on your property, staking may be what is best.

Whatever you decide, remember to remove the stakes and ties when they are no longer needed, or you may end up damaging your tree.

And as your tree grows, don’t forget that Titan Tree Care can help you keep it healthy and beautifully maintained.

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Titan Tree Care is a full-service tree care company located in Anthem, AZ and serving all of North Phoenix. We offer a wide range of services to meet your tree care needs, including tree and palm trimming, tree pruning, tree removal, stump grinding, and more. We also offer insect or disease treatments and fertilization services. We are dedicated to providing high-quality, safe, and effective tree care services to our customers and work hard to ensure that your trees are healthy and look their best.