As planters get larger, container plantings demand bigger and bolder specimens, and many of these garden Goliaths require support to look their best. Stakes used in containers should be an all-or-nothing proposition: either virtually invisible or a prominent part of the overall design. Consider it your chance to throw caution to the wind and purchase that Betty Boop-adorned metal stake you’ve always coveted.
Unless your pot is very deep (about 45 centimetres or more) or heavy enough to make it stable, avoid using stakes that are too hefty or top-heavy for the lightweight, peat-based soil mixes to support, or they’ll topple over.
Size them up
There are almost as many kinds of garden stakes as there are flowers, and it’s a good idea to have several different styles at your fingertips. Robust coneflowers (Rudbeckia spp.) may require tall, sturdy 1x1 wooden stakes, while more delicate bellflowers are content with pencil-thin bamboo. For a more natural look, gather up any straight, twiggy branches after pruning trees and shrubs to use as “pea-stick” stakes (so called because the Victorians favoured them for supporting pea vines). In early summer, these and other twiggy supports can be inserted around the crowns of mid-sized perennials such as floppy hardy geraniums, non-climbing clematis, meadow rue and sweet peas. As plants mature, the supports will disappear under the plants’ foliage and blooms.