JoAnne Skelly: Can fallen trees be saved?

Can you save a tree that has blown over? It depends on its size, root damage and how soon you stand it up again. It depends on stabilizing it without damaging the trunk or branches to keep it from moving around in the soil. It depends on roots regenerating before the tree is stressed by high temperatures. It depends on keeping the root mass moist.

Smaller trees are more likely to survive than larger ones. Shallow-rooted trees can be straightened with more success than deep-rooted ones. Re-standing a tree within two days of falling is ideal unless you can keep the roots moist and protected.

To raise a tree less than 20 feet tall with a six inch or less stem diameter, dig a space the depth of the lifted root mass under the root ball, so that it has a place to go as it is lifted upright. Prune any broken roots with clean sharp pruners or pruning saw.

When using a rope or chain to pull the plant upright, use thick pads around the rope or chain to avoid damaging the trunk. Once upright, the top of the root ball should be at grade. Depending on the size of the tree, have helpers with you as you attempt to lift it. Large trees will require a skilled tree care company.

After lifting the tree upright, fill the hole and firm the soil into place. Water the tree and mulch around it. Stake trees six to 10 feet tall with sturdy six-foot stakes on three sides of the tree with one placed upwind from the prevailing winds. Put the stakes at the outer edge of the hole to avoid damaging the root ball. Loosely loop a minimum one-inch-wide smooth belting (old carpet, burlap, inner tubes, canvas strapping, etc.) around the trunk and attach at 1/3 to 2/3 up the stem from the ground to the first set of branches, not directly below the first branches. Avoid contacting the branches with belting material and do not use ropes or wires through sections of hose. These damage the tree.

Larger trees will need to be guyed with short strong anchors driven deep into the ground with belting attachments made loosely around the stem above the first set of branches. The idea is to allow some sway of the trunk and canopy so the tree doesn’t snap in a strong wind. Leave the stakes, guys and attachments for one to two growing seasons, until the tree doesn’t move in the soil.

For information:

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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