What To Do With Tall Plants (3 Solutions For Overgrown Plants)


If you are good at taking care of your plants, they will get bigger with time.  Some plants might get too tall – and in those cases, you might want to do something to get their growth under control.

So, what should you do with tall plants?  If your plants are getting too tall, you have a few options to deal with their height. First, you can put outdoor plants in a container to limit their root system and size. Second, you can prune your plants to make them shorter. Third, you can provide support for tall plants to climb as they grow.

Of course, there are lots of methods to provide support for plants as they grow taller.  You can also propagate some plants from cuttings after you prune them.

In this article, we’ll talk about a few ways to handle tall plants and make them more manageable.  We’ll also give a tip on how to prevent tall, top-heavy potted plants from falling over in their containers.

Let’s get started.

What To Do With Tall Plants

If you have tall plants (either indoors or outdoors), they might be getting to the point where they have outgrown their home (or are encroaching on the territory of other plants or neighbors!)

philodendron
Philodendron and other plants may start off small, but they may eventually get quite tall and need support or pruning.

In that case, there are a few things you can do with your tall plants:

  • Use a container to limit the plant’s root system (and thus limit growth).
  • Prune the plant to decrease its height and width.
  • Provide support for your plant to climb as it grows.

Let’s take a closer look at each method, starting with containers.

Put Tall Plants In A Container

Putting a tall plant in a container will limit its size and growth rate.  It all goes back to the roots of the plant!

bonsai
A bonsai plant is pruned and kept in a small container. The pruning and lack of space for roots keeps it at a small size.

Have you ever wondered why bonsai trees stay small?  The answer has to do with stress caused by two main factors:

  • intense pruning
  • restricted root growth

Restricted root growth is caused by the small container size for bonsai trees.  However, you can apply this same principle to other plants.

By keeping a plant in a small pot, you prevent its root system from growing beyond the boundaries of the container.  A plant’s growth is, in large part, limited by the size and strength of its root system.

root bound plant
Plants kept in small pots may eventually get “root-bound”, since the space they have for root growth is limited.

If nothing else, a restricted root system will slow the growth of your plant so that it doesn’t get out of hand too quickly.  If it does, you might still need to prune it (see below).

You can learn more about the factors that affect root growth from the University of Missouri Extension.

You can learn more about container gardening here.

Prune Tall Plants

If your plants have already gotten too tall, it might be time to prune them back a bit.  Pruning just means removing a nonessential part of the plant (for example, some of the leaves or part of the vine on a Philodendron or Monstera plant).

Monstera plants
Monstera plants may eventually need some pruning as they grow taller.

Pruning will cut a tall plant down to size, but if you do it right, the plant will survive.  Here are some tips from the University of Maryland Extension for sensible plant pruning:

  • Find a pair of sharp pruning shears to make your work easy.
  • Clean the shears with alcohol before each cut to prevent the spread of disease between plants.
  • Pinch to remove 1 inch or less of stem or leaf to stimulate new horizontal growth (instead of vertical growth, which makes the plant taller).
  • Prune an entire branch or section to reduce height.
pruning shears
Use clean pruning shears to prune your plants if they get too tall.

In some cases, it is also possible to take the cuttings (leaves or vines) from a pruned plant and creating a whole new plant.  This process is called vegetative propagation.

To propagate a plant cutting, you will need to provide all of the things that any plant needs: light, water, soil, and eventually, nutrients.

Support Tall Plants

If you don’t want to pot up or prune your tall plants, then there is one last option.   You can provide support to your plants as they grow so that they don’t fall over when they get tall and top-heavy.

Some of the common methods for supporting plants include:

  • Stakes
  • Cages
  • Trellises
  • Hooks
tomato plants with stakes
Stakes are one way to support tall plants, but cages, trellises, and hooks will also work.

Let’s take a closer look at each method, starting with stakes.

Stakes To Support Tall Plants

Stakes are a simple but tried-and-true method you can use to support your tall plants.

First, you drive a stake into the soil (either in a pot or in the ground outdoors) near where your plant is growing (or will be planted).

tomato stakes
After you drive a stake into the ground near your plant, use twine to tie the plant to the stake as it grows.

As the plant grows taller, use a piece of twine to tie the top part of the plant to the stake.  This will stop the plant from falling over or snapping due to wind or its own weight.

(For more information, check out my article on types of twine and other uses for twine.)

You can find wooden, metal, and plastic stakes, but I think metal ones are your best bet.  Plastic ones might be too weak to hold up heavier plants, while wood will eventually rot.

Depending on how tall your plants are, you might want stakes that are 6 to 8 feet tall (or more).

Remember that some of the stake (perhaps 1 to 2 feet) has to be underground.  This keeps the entire support from falling over.

tomato stake
Wooden stakes might work as plant supports, but they eventually rot. Metal stakes are sturdier than plastic and won’t rot like wood.

Thinner stakes are easy to work with, but you might have trouble driving them deep into the ground without breaking them.  Opt for thicker stakes, especially if you want to hold up heavy plants (ones with large amounts of fruit, like tomatoes, definitely need thicker and stronger stakes).

Stakes are easy to install and remove every season, which is helpful if you practice crop rotation (which you should!) outdoors.  You can also use stakes year-round for indoor containers.

Cages To Support Tall Plants

Cages (also called tomato cages) are another great way to support your tall plants.  However, they are a little shorter than some stakes, so you might reserve cages for plants that don’t get too tall.

pepper in cage

A cage creates a barrier all around the plant so it cannot tip over in any direction.  Instead, the plant leans whichever way it wants, and then naturally climbs up towards the sun.

Cages are often made of plastic or metal, but you might have luck finding wooden cages as well.  If not, you can make your own (if you are handy).

Cages are more likely than stakes to prevent larger animals from messing with your outdoor plants.

cage
Cages can also prevent animals from getting at your plants.

Cages are also fairly easy to transplant between seasons so that you can use crop rotation.

For more information, check out my article on why to use tomato cages.

Trellises To Support Tall Plants

A trellis is yet another option you have to support your plants.  However, this method is often used for plants that don’t get very heavy (those without large fruit and thick vines).

wood trellis
A trellis is a good way to support several tall plants at once.

The main advantage of a trellis is the ability to put up an entire “wall” all at once.  This allows you to support a whole row of plants with the same structure.

For more information, check out my article on how tall a trellis should be.

Hooks To Support Tall Plants

If you put up hooks or other fasteners in the walls, a plant can climb its way along the length of a room.  The hooks will provide support at intervals to keep the plant from falling down.

You can do this with philodendron and other vining plants to add a unique appearance to a room.

How To Keep Tall Plants From Falling Over

Sometimes, your tall plants get top heavy or they reach the limits of their supports (stakes, cages, or trellises).  In those cases, are still some options to keep them from falling over.

How To keep Tall Indoor Plants From Falling Over

Assuming that your indoor plants are in some type of container, you might need some weight to keep them from falling over.  Put some stones or bricks on top of the soil in the container.

This added weight will stop the plant from tipping over as it grows taller and gets top-heavy.

For vining plants, you can also add a 2nd support (like another stake).  Then, encourage the plant to climb back down the 2nd support to the soil level.

If needed, you can have it climb back up again (on a 3rd support), and so forth.

How To Keep Tall Outdoor Plants From Falling Over

You might not be able to find stakes, cages, or trellises that are tall enough to keep your outdoor vining plants from falling over.  In that case, it might be time to consider an A-frame trellis.

The idea is to build an A- shaped trellis frame out of wood, plastic, or metal.  Then, secure it by putting both ends into the ground.

yardnbarn A shape frame garden trellis
An A-frame trellis provides more space for plants to climb up and down.

The main advantage of this method is that it allows you to support a much taller vining plant, since it can grow up one side of the trellis and down the other side.

For example, a 4 foot wide, 3 foot high trellis has a diagonal length of 5 feet.  A vining plant can climb 5 feet up the first side and 5 feet down the second side (for a total of 10 feet).  However, the trellis itself is only 3 feet tall!

One disadvantage of an A-frame trellis is that they are harder to find at traditional garden retailers.  You may have to get creative and build your own!

Conclusion

Now you know what to do with tall plants and how to keep them from falling over.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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