Elisabeth C. Miller Library logo Miller Library Home UW Botanic Gardens Home UW Botanic Gardens Home book graphic

3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, WA 98195 | (206) 543 0415 | Open: | Library Schedule

Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Tree staking, Pruning trees

I have two 15 foot maples (2-inch diameter trunk) in our front yard. They shot up with quick growth last year, which was very impressive.

Now, with the recent rains on their thick foliage, they are sagging to an extreme degree. One tree, to the west of the driveway, has its lead trunk bending over at a 90 degree angle -- it is now parallel to the ground, no longer pointing vertically.

Why can't my trees support themselves? Where is their strength? Are they in danger of breaking? Vertical growth is the goal here, not stooping, drooping, sagging maples.

Should I prune them, or tie them up, or let them droop?


From your description it sounds like your trees could benefit from some pruning and/or staking. In general the former option is better than the latter. If you find that, after pruning, your trees still droop, you will most likely want to stake them. The goal with pruning is to slowly train the tree so that its shape fits your needs and the tree's structure is sound. Below, are some websites that will help you prune and/or stake your trees. The last two sites address in detail the issue of young trees.

The Seattle Department of Transportation's Urban Forestry Department offers a seasonal guide to tree care. Scroll down to May/June for pruning tips.

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) has a succinct page about how to prune a young tree.

The ISA also has a section on how to plant a tree. Scroll down to find a diagram that shows how to stake a tree.

The National Arbor Day Foundation's Nine Things to Know About Trees contains some pruning information as well.

A Grounds Maintenance Magazine column by Michael W. Dougherty of Tree Management Co. addresses the specific needs of young trees.

Lastly, the Urban Tree Foundation's Pruning page shows how to shape a young tree in order to strengthen its structure.

Date 2017-05-26
Link to this record only (permalink)

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Tree staking, Cryptomeria

I recently planted a 1 gallon, approximately 2-foot Cryptomeria japonica 'Sekkan Sugi' in my yard. I noticed it leans. Is it normal for it to lean? Do I need to stake it so it grows straight? If so, how I would stake it?


According to Oregon State University's Landscape Plants website, Cryptomeria japonica 'Sekkan Sugi' is meant to be upright.

An excerpt: "Seems to be some confusion about this selection(s?), listed as both fast and slow growing. Perhaps some of the confusion can be attributed to insufficient attention in handling similar Japanese cultivar names. Jacobson (1996) lists 'Sekka Sugi' and 'Sekkwia Sugi' as synonyms for the warped and twisted cultivar, 'Cristata'; and that 'Sekkan Sugi' may appear as 'Sekhan Sugi'. van Gelderen and van Hoey Smith (1996, p 216) have a picture of a cultivar listed only as 'Sekkan'."

Based on what Seattle-area Great Plant Picks says about Sekkan Sugi and Cristata, I think that you may want to support your tree carefully, as both cultivars are described as upright.

Here is an article from Iowa State University Forestry Extension on the matter of whether or not to stake a tree:

"If possible, avoid staking and/or guying trees. Small trees, trees less than six feet tall or less than one inch in caliper or diameter, should not need staking to support them. As tree planting stock gets larger, their root system, ball-and-burlap, or pot size may not be sufficient to support them without tipping or transferring top movement down to the root system. With trees that may be able to support themselves, plant them and watch the planting hole for several days after planting. If the tree tips or leans, it needs support; if the plant stem at the soil line is moving excessively, creating a 'crowbar' hole which is a quarter of an inch or larger than the stem of the tree, it probably needs support."

The book The Tree Doctor by Daniel and Erin Prendergast (Firefly Books, 2003) says that staking might be needed if your newly planted tree is in a windy or exposed location. The authors recommend anchoring the tree with at least two stakes at equal distance from the trunk. Drive the stakes into solid, undisturbed ground at least 2 feet deep, and tie the tree with biodegradable material like burlap, rather than wire encased in rubber hose. Leave at least an inch of room between each tie and the tree trunk. The tree should be able to sway in the wind. Remove the stakes and ties after a year. I also wonder if you could carefully dig down and shift the position of the tree in its planting hole to guide it upright. If you are able to do this easily, you can avoid staking.

Date 2018-04-11
Link to this record only (permalink)

Didn't find an answer to your question? Ask us directly!

Browse keywords

Search Again:

May 23 2018 14:32:42