Helping your plants to stand up is vital to their health, since plants that crawl along the ground are more prone to disease. Keeping plants upright will also help to save space in your garden, especially for long vines such as tomatoes and pole beans.
So, how do you help plants stand up? To help plants stand up, use supports such as stakes, cages, trellises, and flexible wire. You can also use landscape features in your yard, such as fences, arbors, and pergolas. Sometimes you can even use sturdy plants as support to help other plants to stand up.
Of course, the support you use to help plants stand up will depend on which ones you are growing.
In this article, we’ll talk about the ways to support plants and keep them upright. We’ll also get into what you can use to attach plants to their supports.
Let’s get started.
How To Help Plants Stand Up
To help your plants stand up, you can use one or more of these support methods:
- Flexible wires
- Other plants
Some of these methods will work for indoor container gardening, such as stakes, cages, and flexible wires. Others are restricted to outdoor gardening.
Let’s take a look at the various ways to support plants and when each method is best. We’ll start with stakes.
(You can also watch the video on YouTube if you prefer!)
Stakes To Help Plants Stand Up
Staking is one of the most common ways to help plants stand up, either indoors or out in the garden. You can use stakes of any height, depending on the type of plant you need to support.
To use a stake for plant support, first choose a stake that is tall enough to support the plant when it is fully grown. Add some length (perhaps a foot) to drive the stake into the ground.
For example, if need to support a tomato plant that will grow to 6 feet tall, choose a 7 foot tall stake. Drive it one foot into the ground, and there will be 6 feet left for the plant to climb.
Install the stake before the plant starts growing. Otherwise, you could damage the roots of an established plant.
If your plants are already growing and have roots, drive a support stake into the ground close to the plant, but not close enough to hurt the roots. If this is impossible, consider another support method, such as a cage (more on this later).
You can use stakes made of many different materials, including:
- Wood – wooden stakes are sturdy and easy to find. However, they won’t last long outdoors unless they are pressure treated – but you might not want to use wood treated with chemicals in your garden. You can try bamboo for a longer-lasting and environmentally friendly stake. It is fairly easy to drive wooden stakes into the ground using a hammer.
- Plastic – plastic stakes are light and can last a long time. The sun might eventually crack them, but they won’t rot like wood. However, plastic stakes might not be sturdy enough for tall plants with heavy fruit, such as tomatoes. It can be a little more difficult to drive plastic stakes into the ground using a hammer without breaking them.
- Metal – metal stakes are the heaviest of the three types. They are sturdy like wood, but durable like plastic. They will last a long time and are easy to drive into the ground. I think this is the best material for stakes.
If you don’t have the budget to buy stakes, you can get creative. I have used all kinds of items for plant stakes, including:
- Wooden paint mixing sticks (for shorter indoor plants)
- Long straight branches from trees
- Leftover PVC pipes from plumbing projects
- Metal fence posts
Stakes are a great way to support tall vining plants or those that have heavy fruit, such as:
- Pole Beans
- Tomatoes (indeterminate varieties)
Cages To Help Plants Stand Up
Cages are another common method of supporting plants to help them stand up. Usually, cages are not as tall as stakes, but you can make them as tall as you want.
Cages have multiple legs or stakes to drive into the ground. One benefit of cages is that you can drive them into the ground after a plant has established roots.
Since the supports go around the plant, they are less likely to damage the roots than a single stake.
Cages can be made of plastic, wood, or metal, just like stakes. However, metal cages are probably your best bet for outdoor durability and ability to bear weight.
Cages can be used as plant supports for both indoor and outdoor gardening. Cages are a good way to contain the growth of wider plants, such as:
- Tomatoes (determinate varieties)
Trellis To Help Plants Stand Up
Trellises are often used in outdoor gardening not only for support, but to add beauty to a home. A trellis has lattice pattern that is ideal for climbing plants.
The lattice pattern provides many places for plant branches to weave in and out as they climb. You can make a trellis as tall as you like, but a good height to aim for is 6 feet.
A trellis can have several shapes, including:
- Vertical – this type of trellis stands up straight (perpendicular to the ground) and can be attached to the side of a house or fence.
- Lean-to – this type of trellis is basically a vertical trellis that leans at an angle. You can lean this trellis against a house or fence, or you can support it with a vertical support (such as a stake) driven into the ground. You can plant shade-tolerant plants underneath a lean-to trellis.
- A-frame – this type of trellis is basically two lean-to trellises that meet in a point at the top. You can plant shade-tolerant plants under an A-frame trellis.
- Teepee – this type of trellis is usually circular at the base and forms a point at the top. Plants can move around in a circle as they climb a teepee trellis.
You can build a trellis out of wood, plastic, or metal. However, there is also the possibility of building a trellis from string or rope.
You can even make a trellis out of recycled materials. You can learn more about the best materials for a trellis in my article here.
A trellis will provide good support for many plants, including:
Arbor To Help Plants Stand Up
An arbor is another outdoor landscape feature that adds beauty to your yard while providing a place for plants to climb. An arbor can also provide shade to a part of your garden, such as a bench, path, or entrance.
An arbor is usually at least 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide so that you can walk underneath comfortably. An arbor can have a flat roof or a curved roof (arch).
You can plant on both sides of an arbor and allow plants to grow up both sides and meet in the middle. You can also plant on one side and allow plants to grow up one side, over the top, and down the other side.
An arbor often has trellises or latticework on both sides. This provides a surface for plants to climb more easily.
An arbor can be made of stone, wood, plastic, or metal. Stone is the longest-lasting but most expensive.
Wood will decay over time, while plastic may eventually crack due to sun damage. Metal is probably the best choice for a long-lasting arbor that will be a fixture in your garden for years to come.
Arbors can be used to support various fruits and flowering vines, including:
Pergola To Help Plants Stand Up
A pergola is a large outdoor structure that is bigger than an arbor. A pergola creates a kind of overhang with a partial roof for shade.
Pergolas are often made of wood, although you could build one out of plastic or metal. A pergola can make a patio more welcoming and comfortable.
A pergola also provides a place for plants to climb. In turn, the leaves of those plants will provide extra shade as they grow.
Some climbing, flowering plants you could support with a pergola include:
Rope To Help Plants Stand Up
You also have the option to use rope or twine to help plants stand up. This method would be most useful for supporting an entire row of plants all at once.
Of course, there will be more to this support system than rope. For example, you would first need to drive stakes into the ground at either end of the row.
Next, take a rope and tie one end to the first stake, close to the top. Tie the other end of the rope to the other stake, close to the top.
Make sure the rope is tight, since this is the “main” rope of the system and will support all others. If the rope is not tight enough, you could add extra stakes along the row as needed.
Then, tie a length of rope to the “main” rope at every spot where you need a plant support. For each plant, there would be one vertical rope attached to the main rope.
Finally, drive a small stake into the ground close to each plant you want to support. Tie each vertical rope a stake to hold it in place.
As the plants grow, they can climb up along the rope. This method would be useful for tall vining plants, such as:
- Green Beans
- Tomatoes (indeterminate varieties)
Rings To Help Plants Stand Up
You can also use rings to help plants stand up. These rings would be shorter than an arbor, but they would still give plants a place to climb.
Most rings would probably be made of metal or plastic, since it would be difficult to curve wood into the circular shape needed. For example, Etsy has both a copper arch ring and steel rings to place in a garden.
Multiple rings placed along a row could also provide support for a row cover to protect plants. They may not be the most practical method of support, but they will add an interesting feature to your garden.
Flexible Wire To Help Plants Stand Up
Sometimes, a small piece of sturdy but flexible wire is all you need to provide support for a small houseplant. The wire could be bent into any shape if you make your own support.
Flexible wire supports will not hold tall or heavy plants with lots of fruit, such as tomatoes. However, they are perfect for small houseplants or even for shaping the branches of bonsai or small (Dwarf) fruit trees.
Fences To Help Plants Stand Up
You can also use fences to provide a place for your plants to climb. Chain-link metal fences or vinyl fences with a lattice pattern would both suffice.
As mentioned earlier, you could also lean a trellis against a solid fence to provide a way for plants to climb.
Other Plants To Help Plants Stand Up
Sometimes, plants use other plants to help them stand up. For example, ivy will often climb up trees, and will sometimes completely cover the tree and its branches.
In a symbiotic relationship, cornstalks provide a place for pole beans to climb so they do not rot on the ground. In return, green beans (a legume crop) fix nitrogen in the soil so that corn has more nutrients for growth.
How To Secure Plants To A Stake, Trellis, Or Other Supports
Some plants will curl around supports on their own. For instance, the tendrils of peas or squash will wrap themselves around any available support on a trellis.
However, other plants may need a little help to stay upright as they climb a support. For example, “tying tomatoes” to their supports is a common chore known by many gardeners.
Here are a few methods you can use to tie plants to their supports.
Twine is a common item used to tie tomatoes and other plants to stake or supports. Make sure you have pruning shears or scissors handy to cut the twine to the proper length as you go along tying up your plants.
You can also use twine to tie plants to cages, trellises, and other supports, depending on which plant you are growing. You can learn more about twine and its uses in my article here.
Gardening tape is made of a self-adhering material, instead of using an adhesive (glue). For example, this roll of gardening tape from Levitt Industrial Textile has Velcro.
If you have leftover twist ties from grocery shopping, you can use them to tie plants. Bags of bread often have twist ties, and some produce items come wrapped in twist ties.
Just remember that you will need longer ties for thicker vines (such as tomatoes), especially if you are attaching them to poles.
Zip ties are easier to use than twist ties, since you don’t have to twist them around. I always thought you could not reuse zip ties, but there is a Lifehacker article suggesting that you can, so there you go.
Now you know how to help your plants stand up, using any of these 10 methods. You also know when it is best to use each method.
You might also want to check out my article on tall houseplants for your home (or apartment, or classroom).
I hope you found this article helpful. If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.