Support Your Plants – A Guide to Common Plant Support Systems

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Got a spindly lemon tree that is sagging under the weight of its fruit? Or a cluster of zinnias that won’t stay upright because the summer heat is just too much for it to handle? Perhaps your gladiolas just decided they’d rather grow horizontally than vertically because you couldn’t quite tell which end up the bulb was up when you planted them. No matter what the case is, why not simply support your wayward plants by fixing them up with a system that works? Read on for our quick overview of various common plant supports in the garden.



These structures are necessary for growing large, cumbersome specimens such as hops or grapes. They also are a godsend for supporting plants with showy flowers that you might be using to camouflage the mess under your carport so the neighbors will stop reporting you to the homeowner’s committee. (Or, maybe that’s just me!)

All the same, the downsides to using trellises are a bit obvious. They are by far the most expensive support system available at your local garden center and sometimes even the biggest ones you can find won’t handle the plant you’ve got for very long. However, you can easily make your own trellises from repurposed materials and one of our readers even mentioned that they’d read about rebar being used in this fashion. Or, you can just be lazy like me and have the plant in question grow up the wrought iron fence or the lattice work on the garden shed. The choice is yours! (*cue dramatic music*)



These are good all-purpose garden tools that work for a wide range of plants. The ones in my yard are currently propping up everything from tiny cacti to fruit-laden lemon trees. Gardeners can easily get their own. Large stakes for bigger plants and smaller ones for flimsier specimens are sold at most garden centers for fairly reasonable prices (80 cents for bamboo stakes and $2 heavy wooden ones). Heck, you can even prop up plants using sticks from your yard or bits of broken terracotta pots (what garden doesn’t have those?) if you’re being particularly budget conscious or just don’t feel like going to the store for the four thousandth time in two days.

When inserting any sort of stake, you’ll want to make sure that it’s not going to do serious damage to the existent roots. Since my garden is predominately in containers, I try to run the really large stakes near the edge of the pot so that they don’t run into any of the main roots. I’ve stuck the smaller stakes a closer distance to the plant in question without any problems so far. However, two of the bamboo stakes I’m currently using are holding up a floppy ginger plant with a very visible root system, so your own mileage may vary.



I’ve found that cages work great for tomatoes but they can easily be turned upside down to support small vines as well. These structures would also be great for holding up groups of tall, lanky plants that want to flop over but I’ve never had that problem in my yard. Tomato cages cost either $3 for the standard, silver mesh tomato cage or $8 for ones that are coated in a brightly colored, protective substance. I personally am a cheapskate of the highest order and would rather have the difference to spend on new plant, but you might feel differently.

Of course, homemade cages might be the way to go if you’ve got a plant that doesn’t conform to the norm. When my lemon tree is fruiting, I usually create a temporary cage for it because the standard size found at the store is too small to be effective. You can easily do the same. All you have to do is surround the plant in question with several stakes then string some garden twine around them. You’ll want to loop the twine tightly around each post and knot the end to the final stake when you are finished tying things up.

When using cages, you’ll need be careful not to poke holes in any the roots or break off any limbs if you’re putting the pointy ends into the ground. Where containers are concerned, you also need to use something with a heavy base, such as terracotta, to keep the plant in question from flipping over in high winds.

All the same, don’t forget to support your plants this summer!

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About Lauren

Lauren Purcell is a freelance writer from Savannah, Georgia. She is the proud owner of two spoiled little dogs. Her hobbies include gardening (in case you hadn't noticed), cooking, traveling when she has money, and waiting on her key lime tree to produce fruit.

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1 thought on “Support Your Plants – A Guide to Common Plant Support Systems”

  1. They were all great ideas for staking plants. I also use what I have available. When I need to stake my vegetables, I use the little curtain rods, they adjust as they grow!


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