Best way to attach a sign to a tree
I wanted to write a post showing how we attach our Plants Map Signs to a mature tree. When we were trying to figure out how to do this properly, we called our friends in the forestry department at Virginia Tech. We were introduced to the awesome folks at Bartlett Tree Experts and got an invitation to their private arboretum near Charlotte, NC.
Guess what they study there? Well, among many other horticultural and scientific things, they have a grove of trees dedicated to the study of plant tag materials and attachment methods! After our visit, we came up with this method that you see in the photos.
The photo below shows an example of a Plants Map Sign using our tree mount hardware. The set includes a 2.5″ stainless steel screw* with 2 stainless steel washers and 1 stainless steel spring. The screw is 3/16″ in diameter.
Starting at the end of 2021, we’ve decided to focus again on building great software so that you can document your plant information and share it with your visitors, and will no longer be distributing tree hardware sets ourselves. However, Cultivated Connections is now offering these same sets, and you can contact them directly at email@example.com to order. We will list other companies that may offer these sets here as we find them. To suggest another company to add to this list, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The deck screw has a “star” head and requires a special bit to install. We include 1 bit with the first order. The advantage of this is that we believe it deters most people from trying to remove it from the tree because most likely they won’t have something handy to unscrew it due to the unique head style.
This hardware is what we suggest when attaching signs to a healthy, mature tree. This is not recommended for young trees or trees with a small diameter (DBH).
- First, insert the stainless steel screw through the hole on the front of the sign.
- Next, add a washer, then the spring and then second washer to the back.
- Using a star drive bit (we include 1 with your first order), insert the screw into the tree just until the spring begins to compress slightly.
The slight tension on the spring holds the sign properly and keeps it away from the tree. This apparatus allows for the tree to grow by slowly compressing the spring overtime without damage to the tree.
Routine Spring Check
Remember to check the sign on the tree every year or so and when the spring begins to compress, loosen the screw a few turns to expand the spring again and you are set for another year or two. Again this method is suggested for mature trees that have a slower growth rate.
I don’t have an exact answer on the minimum diameter for mounting a sign with this method, but I estimate that the screw goes into the tree about 1.5 inches so I would not use this method on trees smaller than 5 inches (DBH) or young trees still rapidly growing. We do sell a traditional stake and this sign can be mounted that way until the tree grows enough to have the sign mounted on the tree.
More Attachment Options
For another alternative, see how we use our smaller tags as branch tags to attach to smaller trees or shrubs.
For more information on tags, signs, and stakes please visit our main Tag Information Page. Use the contact form on the bottom of the page if you want to order stakes or tree hardware separate from a tag order.
*Note: We used to recommend and sell 3″ stainless steel screws. These worked well but after some testing, we’ve decided to switch to a shorter 2.5″ screw. The reason is that if someone is using an electric bit driver or drill to install the screws, in hardwood and with enough speed, the friction of turning the longer screw could soften the metal and cause it to break off. We have found that a 2.5″ screw is sufficiently long and it will save on a few turns of the driver and cause less heat buildup. This should lessen the chance of breaking off a screw in the tree.