Growing Concerns:

Cages help tomato plants grow upright, taking up less space in the garden and keeping the fruit off the ground.

In my last article, I discussed how to avoid staking plants, but there are several benefits to staking or providing plant support. These include increasing the space in the garden, giving plants more light exposure, giving plants better air circulation and making it easier to prune and harvest.

Plant supports should be installed before plants grow too large. This way, the plant will grow through the support system and hide it from view. If staked later, plants can be damaged, neighboring plants can be smothered and it is difficult to camouflage the system.

Single-stake systems are used with plants that have tall, brittle stems and large spike flowers, such as delphinium and hollyhock. Examples of single-stake systems include single-support metal rings, which are coated to prevent rusting, bamboo canes, plastic-coated metal stakes, tall metal spirals or straight, strong sticks. All of these are fairly inexpensive, with the latter being free when foraged from the landscape.

For plants less than 2 feet tall, pea stakes work well. A pea stake is a forked branch stuck into the ground to support peas and shorter plants. Several pea stakes can be pushed into the ground to surround a plant and bent toward the middle to create a basket for the plant to grow through. This is a rustic and very affordable method of plant support.

Bushy clump-forming perennials, such as aster, phlox or false dragonhead, can split and flop in bad weather or under the weight of their own flowers and foliage. Cat's cradles are a great way to support multi-stemmed perennials. A grid is created by placing five to six stakes in a circle around the plant and using green waxed string to create a cat's cradle for the foliage to grow through. Creating cat's cradles can be time-consuming but less expensive than the commercial circular grids available.


Circular grids are manufactured from heavy-gauge wire coated with green enamel for camouflage. When installed early enough, the mature plants will grow through the grid and camouflage it. Circular grids keep heavy peony flowers from flopping on the ground.

Cages and tuteurs work well with tall plants, vines and tomatoes. A cage is a metal frame that supports the outside of the plant and is quite noticeable. Cages are available as raw metal or coated with colored enamel. A tuteur is a decorative cage made from wood or metal.

To maximize space in the garden, vining plants such as cucumbers, melons and squash can be trellised. Not only does this method save space, it keeps the fruit off the ground, making maintenance and harvest easier. Don't forget to add hammocks to support the larger melons and squash. Trellises can be decorative or simply utilitarian.

Often, no matter what we do, there are some flowers that will need staking. Avoid staking problems by starting early in the season, adding additional tiers of support when necessary and making sure the system is anchored in the ground to avoid toppling.

What To Read Next
Get Local