Wellington tape included into the trunk tissueNewly planted trees often are staked so they remain upright while forming new roots. While not always necessary, it is a common practice, especially for smaller, container-grown trees. Staking can keep the tree upright and also help keep the trunk straight. While performing a service to the tree in the beginning, it can be detrimental if left on the tree too long.

Landscapers use many different kinds of materials to stake trees. The most harmful are made of synthetic materials that do not breakdown or decompose over time. The most common type we see remaining on trees is called black strapping, sometimes referred to as Wellington tape.

When staking is left on too long, the tree is slowly choked—often to the point of death. The flow of water and nutrients inside the trunk becomes restricted. If not removed, staking eventually will girdle the tree, cutting through the bark all the way around the trunk.

Once a tree has established enough new roots to stay secure in the ground, remove the staking. For small trees in South Florida, that can be done in as little as three months, depending upon the species and the season the tree is planted. By nine months, most small trees with a trunk diameter of 3 to 4 inches have had sufficient time to establish.

remaining straps constricting a trunkThe fix is easy. If the tree still requires staking, make sure there is sufficient slack between the trunk and the material. This allows for future growth and allows the tree to sway just enough to stimulate new root growth. If the tree has been in the ground long enough to be supported with its new roots, remove the staking. If you must cut any of the material away, be sure not to cut into the trunk tissue.

For more about staking, establishment or trees in general, try the following resources:

The International Society of Arboriculture: treesaregood.org

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences: hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody

Broward County master gardeners: Email mastergardener@broward.org.