To Stake Or Not To Stake ? A Guide On Supporting Perennials.

Early Summer is an exciting time of year; blossoms and buds have burst into life and herbaceous perennials are emerging from the soil, with their colourful, showy blooms !

With this in mind, all gardeners, whatever their level of experience, will need to start to think about providing support for many herbaceous perennials. If you have recently taken up gardening as an interest, or have limited knowledge of how to use supports, It’s hoped that you might find the following information useful.

Supports act as a guide for the growth of the plant, to keep their stems and heavy blooms upright and prevent damage during windy or rainy days. Both short and tall herbaceous perennials may need support; Delphiniums are tall and have brittle stems that can easily be damaged in strong winds. Shorter perennials, such as catmint, at the front of a border can flop over and damage the edge of lawns. Clump forming perennials, such as Sedum can split and flop on the ground in bad weather or under the weight of their own flowers.

Ideally, supports should be positioned in spring, between April and May, before plants have developed too much foliage, the stems of the plants will grow through the supports and eventually disguise them. Time is running out ! Don’t leave it until plants are in full bloom and at their most vulnerable; stems may be damaged trying to get the support in place, the support won’t be disguised by the foliage and plants will end up looking unnatural.

Traditionally, canes have been used for staking and providing support, the stems of the plant can then be tied to the support using twine. The current trend however, is to use metal frames which come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Ringed herbaceous supports are available in single, two and three ring forms; single ring supports are ideal for plants with a tendency to flop. Traditionally the two ring support is used for Peonies and Hydrangeas but is also good for any herbaceous clump with a tendency to flop such as Agapanthus, Alstromeria, Campanula and small Asters. Taller perennials that can reach heights of up to two metres can be supported by a three ring herbaceous support, such as Delphiniums and perennial sunflowers.

Semi-circular supports can be used to prevent flowers in borders overflowing onto and spoiling lawn edges, such as Nepeta and Alchemilla mollis. The images below are of one of the border plant supports that we stock on our Rosara website.

Side view of the Rosara border plant support
Rosara border plant support
Close up of the Rosara border plant support

This particular plant support is ideal for keeping medium herbaceous under control ! 

BBQ grid supports are ideal for tall perennials up to 2m tall such as Campanulas and Alstromerias to prevent their stems from collapsing.

Link stakes can be arranged in a square, a triangle or a round shape around a single or group of plants.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that, supports used for taller plants, may need to be anchored to the ground to prevent them falling over on windy days and destroying the plant and / or other plants in the border.

To Stake Or Not To Stake ? A Guide On Supporting Perennials.
To Stake Or Not To Stake ? A Guide On Supporting Perennials.

Try a ring or free form spiral support to keep the taller herbaceous under control !

If you would prefer to use natural materials in the garden, why not use branches of hazel, willow or birch to make domes. To make a dome; cut branches of the chosen material, such as hazel, push each branch into the ground to form a ‘circular wall’ around the plant which is usually a clump forming perennial. Take two opposite branches, bend over the thinner tops and weave their ends together, continue the process with the remaining branches until all the ends are woven together to form the roof of the dome. The height of the dome should be roughly two thirds of the final height of the plant. The twigs from the branches around the sides of the dome can also be woven together to strengthen and neaten the structure.

Whichever method you choose for supporting or staking your herbaceous perennials; the plant stems can be ‘tied in’ gently / not too tightly to their supports. When tied, the stems should be able to move gently inside the loop of twine during wind to prevent damage to its stems.

Hopefully, you are now more informed about your choices for supporting / staking plants and are happy to give it a go! Then, stand back and admire your favourite plants in full bloom during the summer and into autumn.

For more information on staking and training your perennial garden plants, please contact our friendly horticultural team on 01869 340342 or come and visit our 23 acre nursery.

We also sell a lovely range of plants supports via our Rosara website of which a few are featured here.

Mel Long is part of the garden maintenance team at Nicholsons, after working for more than two decades in her chosen career, she decided that it was time to re-train. After studying horticulture on a part time basis to reinforce and strengthen the knowledge she had gained through ‘hands on’ gardening, she is now reaping the rewards of her career change and thoroughly enjoys working outdoors in beautiful gardens.

To Stake Or Not To Stake ? A Guide On Supporting Perennials.