“I wish the sky would rain down roses, as they rain down from the shaken bush. They would fall don light as feathers, smelling sweet, and it would be like sleeping and yet waking, all at once.”
George Eliot (1819 – 1880).
Staking trees and shrubs is often done so badly that it does more damage than good. If you have to stake a plant to keep it upright, don’t force the stake in as close to the trunk as you can get it. This sheers off all the roots in the wedge radiating out from that point. Even moving the stake out a few centimetres can make a big difference to the damage caused.
Keeping trees staked can do more harm than good. A bit of wind rock actually helps the plant to stabilise itself and to develop a tapered trunk as a result. Where you need to stake because it will fall over, keep the stakes low. They should not be more than a third of the existing height of the plant. If you still have a problem with stability, reduce the canopy bulk (called the “sail” area because this is what catches the wind). It is likely that you have a plant with too much top and not enough of a root system to sustain it.
Always use flexible ties of stockinette, old panty hose, strips of rubber from an old inner tube or similar. String and wire will cut into the trunk causing damage and potentially ringbarking it.
The bottom line remains: only stake if you really need to, not as a matter of course. It is actually better for the plant in the long term not to be staked.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.