Maintenance: Supporting Flowers

Many flowering plants need support, especially when they are in full bloom. Stakes will typically be hidden as foliage grows. You can also buy staking devices from garden centers and retailers, often made of green materials that are camouflaged by foliage. You can make your own as well, using the materials cited below.

Here are the basic plant types that require a little extra help, and how to do it:

Tall plants

Plants that produce blooms on a single stalk, like delphinium, hollyhock and gladiolus often need staking:

  • Place the stake an inch from the stalk or bulb when setting the plant. Stakes can be made of 1×1 wood, bamboo cane or stiff wire pushed into the soil.
  • For stability, drive the stake in as far as required.
  • As soon as a stem forms, tie it to the stake. Waiting too long can create a bend in the stem that won’t straighten.
  • Use a loose figure-eight pattern for the tie. As the stalk grows, add higher ties.

For ties, you can use polyethylene plastic tape, cloth strips, insulated wire or any other material that won’t damage the stem. If it slides down the stake, try tapping small nails into either side of it, or staple the tie to the wooden stake.

You can avoid staking gladiolus by planting the corms at the typical depth but covering it with less soil. Cover the developing stalk with more soil until the level is even with the ground. By adding soil during stalk development, you anchor it without staking.

Floppy stemmed plants

Aster, coreopsis, carnation and other floppy flowers may need support, too. These bushier plants can be staked with prunings from woodier plants. These natural stakes are often called “pea brush,” because it was traditionally used for peas. Cut the prunings from shrubs or trees into 16- to 20-inch pieces. Just place a circle of branches around the plant when it’s 8 to 10 inches high.

Heavy-blossomed plants

Chrysanthemums, dahlias and other plants may need staking as well. Insert a stake when planting. Gather developing stems in a loop of twine and tie them loosely around the stake. You can also drive additional stakes in a circle surrounding the plant, enclosing stems within the circle loosely with twine. This is called a hoop. If the plant has lots of stalks, crisscross the hoop with a few pieces of string or lighter wire to keep the flowers from leaning on one edge.

For dahlias, drive a stake 2 inches from the tuberous root when planting. If many stems emerge, three more stakes can be inserted around the original one, approximately one foot away. Tie twine around the stakes at intervals to support stems.

Sprawling plants

Support these with stakes and twine or light wire, or confine them to mesh cages. You can also tape or tie a wire hoop to two or three stakes to confine sprawling plants with lots of stems.

For a sturdier cage attach the mesh to 1 by 1 pieces of wood. As the plant grows, the foliage grows through and hides the cage.