Mid-fall is one of the best times to plant most kinds of deciduous trees. These are the trees that lose their leaves in autumn. Thin-barked trees such as dogwood, birch and beech, the fleshy rooted tulip tree and the willow oak should be planted only in the spring.
The recommendation used to be, when you plant a tree over 5 feet in height or 1 inch or more in diameter, stake it. The purpose was to keep the tree from blowing over and prevent loosening of the roots in the soil by wind swaying the trunk.
Later, research by the University of California, U.S. Forest service, Berkeley, and Florida Agricultural Center. Fort Lauderdale, showed that staking was not a good idea unless the tree is top-heavy and likely to be toppled over unless given support.
"A young tree standing alone with its top free to move usually becomes a strong tree better able to withstand the elements," said the University of California research report. "Many trees do not need and should not have support stakes. Trees having tops that are large in proportion to their roots may be an exception, although many of these can stand along with some thinning out of branches in the crown."
The Fort Lauderdale research report said that stronger and more stable trees can be grown if the trunks are allowed to flex in the wind.
Those recommendations have now been somewhat updated by a research report from Dr. Francis R. Gouin, University of Maryland ornamental horticulturist.
It is true that trees which sway back and forth with the wind develop stronger stems and larger caliper measurements that trees that are tied to stakes, Gouin said. However, staking of large trees and shrubs is an important step in the successful transplanting of specimen plants.
The purpose of staking newly transplanted trees and large shrubs is to allow the roots to become established as soon as possible in their new location. Regardless whether they are balled and burlaped, container grown or bareroot, the soil around newly planted ones is loose and the roots can easily be lifted when the plants sway with the wind.
If the roots are lifted out of the soil, air pockets can form around the loose roots allowing them to dry, said Gouin. If roots dry, plants will either die or their growth will be retarded, depending on the number of roots affected.
Plants that do not become well established exhibit such symptoms as little or no shoot growth, abnormally small leaves, chlorotic foliage and/or necrosis (burning or drying of tissues) along the margin of leaves.
These symptoms also can be due to transplanting into poorly drained soils, planting too deep, not spreading out the roots of container grown plants, allowing plants to dry out, and over-watering.
Most landscape architects will agree that young trees with strong stems, and less than 7 feet in height, need not be staked when planted during the dormant period.
If the same size tree is planted in full follage during the growing season it must be staked.
There are two time-proven methods currently used for anchoring them, Gouin said.
For large trees, the preferred method is to use three uniformly spaced ties anchored to the ground. This method is recommended also for smaller trees and shrubs.
The second most popular method is to drive two tall stakes, one on either side of the tree. The stakes should not pierce the root ball or damage any of the roots. Do not use stakes treated with creosote or pentachlorophenol.