It’s never too late to prop up a flopped perennial. Just move in with a little support.
Grow-through grids on aster

This aster (Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’) is a strong grower, but it tends to flop toward the end of the season. The grids provide good support.

Even if you’re one of those super-organized gardeners who get all the flower supports in stalled before they’re needed, chances are good that at some point during the summer you’ll have a flopper or a leaner. That’s when you move in with infrastructure: linking stakes, Y-stakes, string and plant ties. Flexible, discreet Y-Stakes are perfect for propping plants that have fallen into the path. By staking at an angle, you can allow the plant to lean gracefully instead of flopping. Linking Stakes can retain a clump that has started to splay, or corral a flopper that’s tumbling on a neighbor. Again, with clever staking, you can make the whole thing look pretty natural. The key is to allow stems to arch and lean gracefully—too much and your plant will look like it’s wearing a girdle.

Y-Stakes on nicotiana

Y-Stakes are almost invisible when installed carefully. This nicotiana (N. alata) still looks graceful and natural, but it’s not falling into the lawn.

Linking stakes can be used in combination with other supports to stabilize extra large clumps. For instance, I have a big clump of hollyhocks, and it’s too much work to stake each spike with a bamboo pole. Instead, I surround the clump with tall linking stakes and then create a web using string to provide infrastructure. For extra stability, I stake a few of the tallest flower spikes with bamboo poles.

Preventive Staking

Linking stakes

When they’re not being used, I hang my Linking Stakes from the top of the fence, behind the lilac hedge.

If you’re smart, you’ll identify the perennial floppers in your garden. You know the suspects. Peonies rise to the top of the list. But there are others: asters, solidago, helenium and cimicifuga benefit from preventive support. These perennials benefit from Grow-Through Grids or Grow-Through Supports. I like the grids for perennials that really need a lot of help, such as peonies. The supports are ideal when you just need to keep the clump from splaying; they’re perfect for solidago and asters. These plants tend to grow beautifully in my garden, but then—just before showtime—they start flopping outward. The support rings keep the clump tidy without making it look trussed up.

Delphinium with bamboo stake

It’s tedious work, but the delphiniums look glorious when they bloom. Just make sure the stake is long enough to extend into the flower spike.

I like to grow tall plants, such as castor beans, kale and hollyhocks. In general, these big guys are fine—until you get a big storm. Once these have reached 4 feet or so, I like to move in with 5-foot bamboo poles and Velcro ties. If done carefully, the staking isn’t really noticeable, and you’ll rest easy knowing your plants will withstand high winds. I also have a weakness for delphiniums, possibly the most fussy perennial in my garden. Each spike gets lovingly supported with its own bamboo stake.

-David Grist, Online Content Coordinator