A Guide to Staking Plants and Training Perennials for the Best Blooms

Staking gives your garden good looks and enhances plant health.

The keys to a perennial garden's beauty are primarily unseen. Showy bloomers and striking foliage command attention, but well-amended soil, compost, mulch, and nutrients invisibly fuel the show. In the same way, staking plants and adding supports creates a hidden infrastructure that keeps a garden looking its best.

Reasons for Staking Plants

Perennials lean, topple, and flop for many reasons. Sometimes an otherwise sturdy stem tumbles when rain and wind, combined with weighty blooms, bend stems to the ground. In other cases, stems grow lush and weak because of overfertilizing; most established perennials thrive on little fertilizer. A mulch of compost in spring or an annual addition of an organic fertilizer scratched into soil power plentiful growth without creating weak stems.

Sun-loving perennials in part shade tend to stretch for the sun, which frequently requires that you stake plants. Other perennials are prone to flopping because of large flower heads or lanky stems.

In their natural habitat, many perennials don't require staking because they grow among—and lean on—taller, more robust plants, such as grasses, shrubs, or bushy perennials. You can tackle leaning and falling stems by emulating nature's planting schemes in your garden or craft your own system to support and stake plants.

Guide to Staking Plants

Staking plants falls into two categories: preventive and remedial. Preventive staking involves thoughtful planning and action before stems collapse. It's what you do for known floppers in your garden, such as peonies and meadow rue.

Choose from a variety of stakes to support perennials. Grow-through supports work well with plants that tend to flop just before bloom, such as aster, boltonia, garden phlox, and goldenrod. Select plastic-coated wire cages, tomato cages, or grids for grow-through supports. Grid stakes offer sturdy support for heavy-headed bloomers and multistem perennials, such as peony, false indigo, Russian sage, and tall daisies. You can also use tree and shrub prunings, branches that blow down from trees, or even boughs cut from discarded Christmas trees (after needles fall off).

For preventively staking plants, insert supports in spring when plants emerge from the soil. This is vitally important for grow-through and grid stakes. As plants grow, stems weave through stakes, effectively absorbing them into the clump and hiding them from view.

Staking plants remedially is reactive support for perennials that fall over because of high winds, intense summer downpours, or other interference. Keep various materials on hand to make supports -- twine, plant ties, bamboo stakes, single stakes, and branched twigs.

When you stake, you generally want the support to fall somewhere between the midpoint of plant height and the peak growing point. That's easy to judge with remedial staking. With preventive staking, choose supports based on final plant height.

Get creative and invent a staking system using straight stakes, string, linking stakes, tomato cages, chicken wire, twine—whatever you have on hand. Approach your staking ideas with a trial-and-error approach. If something doesn't work for one perennial, it might for another. You'll find the best solution as you continue crafting.

Tomato Cages

Versatile and inexpensive, tomato cages can fill many roles in the perennial garden. Press extra-large ones (3–4 feet tall) into service in support of tall, bushy bloomers such as Joe Pye weed, hollyhock, and meadow rue.

Medium-size cages (2–3 feet) graciously corral midrange perennials such as peach-leaf bellflower, purple coneflower, and Siberian iris. Transform a tomato cage into a grow-through support by wrapping and weaving twine across the horizontal support wires to form a loose grid.

Use bolt cutters to transform cages into cut-to-size supports. Snip tomato cage legs just above hoops to form stakes of varying heights. For perennials growing along a fence or wall, clip cages at one spot along the hoop on each horizontal circle and open the cage to form a half-circle support.

Bamboo and Twine

Combine stakes and twine to craft custom supports you adapt and complete during the growing season. Staking plants in early spring before they need them is recommended. Drive the stakes deep into the soil to anchor them.

As perennial stems emerge, tie twine around one stake and string it to the next stake, looping it around that stake a few times before continuing to the next stake. Add string layers throughout the growing season as stems continue to soar skyward. Keep the string tight enough to support leaning stems but loose enough to prevent a trussed-up look.

At the end of the growing season, remove this support when you clean up the garden. Wooden and bamboo stakes slowly rot over time, so it's wise to remove them from the soil over winter. Dipping the ends of wooden supports in wax can help slow the deterioration process.

Chicken Wire

Form chicken wire into a cage slightly narrower than the mature width of the floppy perennial you want to coax upright. Place the wire cylinder against the soil, and anchor it by weaving bamboo stakes through the wire into the soil. This is a wonderful choice for bushlike perennials with thin stems, such as asters, baby's breath, helenium, or plants that rabbits tend to nibble.

Ways to Support Plants

There are as many ways to support plants as there are creative gardeners. Shown here are a collection of some favorite kinds that are commercially available, as well as some traditional techniques.



Flat, circular grid with three or four legs; push legs into soil first, then snap ring in place; stems grow through grid.

Use with clump-forming perennials, such as peony, garden phlox, sea holly, and monkshood.



Flat, circular support with concentric circles; three or four legs push into soil; stems grow through circles.

Use with multistem, upright plants with thin stems, such as balloon flower, blanket flower, bugbane, and helenium.



Upright pieces with arms that link and form joints you can bend.

Use with any perennial that has flopped, is overtaking less vigorous plants, or is leaning into a path. Examples are centranthus, crocosmia, pincushion flower, ladybells, and Shasta daisy.

Mesh Cage


orm a cylinder of chicken wire slightly narrower than the mature width of the plant you're staking. Place it over the perennial early in the season; thread a few stakes through the mesh; sink into soil for added support.

Use with sprawling perennials such as aster, blackberry lily, obedient plant, and yarrow.

Other Plants


Position floppy perennials near stronger perennial or shrub neighbors and let stems lean on those plants for support.

Use with all perennials.

Single Stake


Use twine, hook-and-loop plant ties, or padded wire to bind stems to bamboo or wood stakes; look for single-stem stakes at garden centers.

Use with tall perennials topped with heavy flower spikes, such as delphinium, foxglove, hollyhock, and lily.

Tomato Cage


Sink a tomato cage into soil; thread a few stakes through cage sides and sink into soil for added support.

Use with clump-forming perennials, such as helenium, salvia, and showy sedum.

Twig Stake


Insert sturdy, branched twigs into soil near floppy plants for support.

Use with clump-forming perennials, such as false sunflower, meadow sage, and spotted bellflower.

Plants That Need Staking

No matter how perfect your growing conditions are, some perennials just grow on the leaning side and benefit from a little extra support from one or more stake types.

  • Aster: Grid, grow-through, tomato cage
  • Balloon Flower: Grid, grow-through, tomato cage, twig stake
  • Boltonia: Grow-through, tomato cage, twig stake
  • Centranthus: Grow-through, tomato cage, twig stake
  • Delphinium: Single stake
  • Foxglove: Single stake
  • Gayfeather: Hoop, tomato cage, twig stake
  • Goldenrod: Grow-through, tomato cage
  • Helenium: Grow-through, tomato cage
  • Peony: Grid, grow-through, tomato cage
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