A step-by-step guide to staking and tying plants

1) If you can avoid staking a plant, do so. A plant can rely on the stake and not build the strength to hold itself up. If your plant has a small root system and too large a top (referred to as the sail area because it catches the wind) reduce the volume of foliage and branches to cut back the sail area.

2) This is heavy duty staking carried out on landscape grade plants put in to a windy situation on a road verge. Two, sometimes three or even four tanalised batons are used with wide ties. This allows some flexing of the tree without it blowing over and the stakes will last for several years. The flexing of the tree in the wind encourages it to develop a natural taper to its shape which gives it strength. To allow this flexing, the ties should never be more than a third of the way up the tree. All this staking will be removed when the tree has developed the root system and strength to hold itself up.

3) Avoid tying with string, rope or wire which will cut in to the bark and cause damage, potentially ring barking the trunk. For the home gardener, old pantyhose or strips of stretch fabric are commonly used or you can buy balls of interlock fabric tie at garden centres which are cheap and easy to use. Black, grey or muted green are less obvious in the garden. Strips cut from old inner tubes are another traditional tie.

4) Commercial growers use tying machines called tapeners which staple a flexible plastic tie in two movements so they are quick to use. However the tape does not break down in the garden situation so we avoid using a tapener except in the nursery because we don’t want little bits of black plastic through the garden.

5) Never force a stake hard in by the trunk of the plant, large or small. If you do this, you are damaging all the roots on that area of the plant, usually severing them entirely. If you think of the roots like a piece of pie or an umbrella, you are potentially damaging an entire segment of the root system. How far out you place the stake depends on the root system but even a couple of centimetres can make a big difference on small plants. You can see in the photo how much more damage the stake near to the stem will do compared to the one a little further out.

6) Bamboo stakes will usually last about a year before rotting off at ground level and this is often long enough for a plant to get established. Tanalised batons are a better option for longer term staking such as the trees in step 2 which will need stakes in place for up to 3 years. Where semi permanent staking is required for plants such as standard roses, metal stakes gently rust and become less obvious over time than other options.