Willow Stake Plantings


  • 3′ Length Rebar
  • Twine
  • Natural Marking Paint
  • Clean Soil Fill


  • Shovel
  • Sledgehamer
  • Shears / Lopers

Installing live willow stakes in streambanks is a simple, yet effective and sustainable solution to eroding bank areas. Lasting benefits include:

  • Stabilized banks with root growth – Can stand up to lower velocity flows
  • Increased habitat & food source for birds, insects & terrestrial animals
  • Naturally framed streambank views with tactfully placed willow stands
  • Restricted area access to the stream for people, wildlife or livestock

Harvesting must be done when the willows are dormant – this means harvesting in the fall or spring when there are no leaves on them.

When selecting a stand to harvest from, pick a healthy group of the type of willows that you want to use. Cut the willows at a diagonal angle near the base and harvest more than 30% of any given willow stand.

After harvesting, the willows should be grouped into bundles & soaked prior to planting (see Step 4 image).

Soaking stakes stimulates root growth at the diagonal cut.

Harvesting Willow Stakes

Step 1: Identify the wood you will use…

…and the location you will install the Wildlife Tree.

Step 2: Determine how you will install your wood (Bury or Anchor):

Burying for tree stabilization

If you have large boulders available, or if you would like the wildlife tree to be partially buried, you should consider the Burying method. This method is also better for areas closer to the stream. However, this method may require digging machinery depending on the necessary hole size.

Burying for tree stabilization instructions

Dig a hole long enough for 1/3 of the tree to fit in.

Lower one end of tree inside of hole and bury with compacted soil.

Add additional branches and weigh down with boulders around the top.

Anchoring for tree stabilization

Depending on your site conditions, the Anchoring method may be better for you. Rather than digging a trench/hole to bury part of the tree, duckbill (or similar) anchors are driven into the ground. This method is also more suitable for upland areas further away from the stream.
Photo courtesy of: Arctic Wire Rope [page 189]

Anchoring for tree stabilization instructions

Use the steel rod to drive duckbill anchor(s) into the ground.

Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for depth & installation specifics.

Secure anchor cable(s) to tree.

Wrap around trunk or use hardware such as an eye screw. 

Finishing Steps Compact soil around project site.

Test for tree stabilityit should not shift when rocked by hand.

Plant or seed disturbed ground around the tree.

For a successful project, you want to pick an installation area that is susceptible to erosion and close to the stream. With this in mind, look for areas that you would like to have a stand of willows by considering the following:

Views to the stream

Desired look of the area

Access to the stream

Proximity to other vegetation

After determining the area you want to plant your willows, you can identify how close to the stream the willows need to be for survival. You can drive rebar into the ground to get an idea for where the water table is. You can also look around to see where vegetation is naturally growing on nearby banks.

If you are still wondering where the water table is, you can look at the level of the stream – the water table will be fairly close to the level of the stream. Mark out your planting locations (4′ spacing is typical) and begin planting!

Willows grow naturally along waterways – you can often harvest willows right on your own property.

Do’s & Don’ts of Willow Planting



Harvest & plant willows while dormant


Plant with diagonal cut going into ground


Plant stake with bottom 6″ into water table


Keep top of stake above seasonal high water


Harvest willows nearby project site when possible


Determine planting area & size before harvesting



Don’t harvest willows with leaves on them


Don’t plant willow upside down


Don’t plant too far from stream


Don’t cut stake too short


Don’t take more than 30% of a willow stand


Don’t block desired views & access with willows

More Strategies to help accomplish Objectives you identified in the Questionnaires: