When Staking is Left On Too Long
Marianne C. Ophardt
Washington State University Extension
Area Horticulture Specialist
Staking wire cans girdle a tree and lead to its death. As a tree grows in girth, encircling wires “girdle” or choke the plant so that water and nutrients can’t move up and down the trunk. Tree staking should be removed from trees as soon as possible after the tree becomes established. It should never be left on the tree for more than a year.
There are some cases where the tree grows over the wire and “grafts” to itself. In those cases the tree survives but there is a permanently weak place in the trunk that is prone to breakage. In cases where the wire isn’t completely enclosed in tissue and you can remove the wire without significantly harming the surrounding tissue, give it a try.
Keep this in mind too when there are plant tags, twine, or wire located on branches or trunks. These materials don’t look harmful when the plant is young, but as the plant grows they can cause damage. Even biodegradable strings and twines may not deteriorate before they girdle the plant. Remove all “tying” materials when the tree or shrub is planted. Don’t forget to remove staking as soon as the tree is established.
Take a look at recently installed commercial landscapes, those planted within the last two to three years. In some locations, you're likely to see a number of trees where the staking has been left on much longer than needed and the wire is already cutting into tree trunks.