Free the trees! Why it’s important to remove tree stakes

October 5, 2015

While staking young trees may seem like a good idea, the stakes can often do more harm than good. Read more to learn why it might be a good idea to skip the stakes.

50 trees planted at a rebuilt school from two years ago had been staked and forgotten, so Montgomery County students recently volunteered on their day off to help DEP save the trees from disease and death.

There is almost never any need to stake a tree, if the tree was well-grown at the nursery, and planted well. Stakes are only needed in the first year if things are expected to bump into them (car doors or soccer players, for instance).


Students removing stakes from a tree

Volunteers cut the wire to remove stakes from a growing tree.


Check out these reasons to SKIP tree stakes:

  • Save money and time: You won’t have to pay for stakes or take time to remove them.
  • Trees grow better and get bigger: When they sway in the wind, they grow more roots, which provide water and nutrients for growth.
  • Save the environment: Tree stakes are made from wood, which was logged, and metal, which was mined, and this all ends up in the trash.
  • Protect the trees from bark damage: Stakes can pull too tightly or cut into the bark if left on too long as the tree grows.


Student clearing mulch away from the base of a tree

A volunteer takes time to pull mulch away from the base of tree. When placed in a volcano formation touching the base of trees, mulch can have negative impacts, causing disease and rot.


Always remember to treat the bark of a tree like your skin—don’t leave anything on it all of the time! (What would happen if you left your socks and belt on for a year non-stop?) Take off old watering bags, pull mulch off the base of the trunk, and remove stakes and plastic labels. Plant a tree well, protect it, and it will reward you for years to come!

Want a free tree on your property, to provide shade and other benefits? Sign up on Tree Montgomery.

Blog by Mary Travaglini, Planning Specialist in DEP’s Stormwater Facility Maintenance Program

Scroll down for more images of tree damage.


Deep cut in tree from tree stake

The wire was just removed from this tree, but it was left on too long, as evidenced by the deep gash in the trunk. This tree will most likely not survive.


Pulling mulch away from base of tree

Volunteers pulled several inches of mulch away from the base of this tree. If you see mulch volcanoes, it is recommended that you pull mulch away from touching the trunk. When mulch touches the base of the tree, it can cause disease and rot, as seen in the damp bark in this photo.


Tree rot on tree from watering bag

A watering bag was left on this tree for too long. A DEP employee was able to remove the bag, which exposed bugs and dampness that are negatively affecting the trunk of the tree.


3 comments on "Free the trees! Why it’s important to remove tree stakes"

  1. Curt Nelson says:

    Thank for this info about tree care Mary.

    1. Gwen Bausmith says:

      Thanks for the comment, Curt. We’re glad you enjoyed the article!

  2. I find it scary when you showed the picture of a tree trunk overrun by bugs after removing a watering bag has been left too long on it. In case they reach the inner trunk due to being covered in this manner for too long, my suggestion is to call a professional removal service to take it down. Doing this will help prevent it from becoming a home to wood-boring insects, which in turn can prevent a home from being invaded by these in the future.

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