Most gardeners would agree that staking plants is not their favourite task, but many of the choicest flowers absolutely require it. And timing is everything. Different plants need to be staked at different times during the growing season—delaying the task only makes matters worse. Once a plant has toppled over from an unexpected thunderstorm or gusty winds, it’s often too late to resurrect it. Here’s how to give them the support they need.Plants with spreading, fleshy tubers, such as dahlias, should be permanently staked as soon as they go into the soil to avoid potentially damaging the roots once they’re established. Supports should be strong enough to sustain the mature weight of the plant, and at least 30 centimetres longer than its eventual height, so they can be sunk securely into the ground.
Bulbous plants such as lilies and gladioli need staking once they reach 30 to 40 centimetres tall. To avoid unsightly bare supports early in the season, mark the spot by inserting a Popsicle stick at planting time, three to four centimetres away from the bulb. Then, when the plant has grown and it’s time to stake, avoid damaging the bulbs by replacing the marker with a stake.
Gardeners who grow older varieties of herbaceous peonies, which can be top-heavy, should invest in reusable peony rings: either an open model or a wide-spaced circular grid that sits atop three or four legs. As peony shoots emerge, insert the legs securely into the soil, taking care not to damage the plant’s crown (the area at ground level where the stems meet the roots).
Annuals and perennials with fibrous root systems—such as cosmos, monkshoods, asters, bellflowers, delphiniums and some tall coneflowers (Rudbeckia spp.), such as R. laciniata ‘Herbstsonne’ (a.k.a. Autumn Sun) and R. nitida—should be staked once they reach a height of 30 to 40 centimetres. Evenly space three or four stakes around the plant, several centimetres from the crown. Starting at the bottom, knot a length of raffia or loosely woven jute to one of the supports, looping it around the second and third stakes before retying it to the original one. As the plant grows, continue adding lengths of raffia, wound every 15 to 20 centimetres up the stake. This will provide a loose, flexible cage that lets plants move in the wind without snapping or falling over.Avoid using thin string or wire ties when securing stems to stakes, as these materials often cut into tender shoots, damaging the plant’s vascular system and leaving it vulnerable to insect pests and diseases.