Irrigation wire helps secured staked plants

Let me preface this article by stating that for years I refused to grow many plants for one reason, I hated staking plants. In truth, what I really disliked was the appearance of the poor job of staking that I was doing.

I did everything wrong; the wrong stake at the wrong time was only the beginning of my sins. The stakes were too short, too tall, the wrong color, I used too few to do the job properly, and to top it off, I even used the wrong type of ties to fasten the plants to the stake.

This week, I'll try to share with you what I've learned about the art of staking so you can enjoy the variety of plants that require it, especially if you live in that windy corridor of the valley that stretches from the east side of Ashland to South Medford.

We first need to identify what plants require staking. The easiest answer is any plant in your garden that has flopped over in the past due to wind or rain.

The other obvious choice is plants that grow tall, like delphiniums, hollyhocks and the taller varieties of snapdragons. This makes them susceptible to damage by average wind velocity, never mind the possibility of a summer thunderstorm with its accompanying wind gusts.

Another group of plants that requires a different style of staking is the clump-forming type with tall flower stems such as Shasta daisies, the taller coreopsis varieties, and asters. It would be impossible, along with being downright horrific looking, to attempt to tie every single flower stem of these plants to its own stake. In addition, the cost would be as ugly as the result, not to mention the amount of time required to stake a couple of good-sized clumps.

Fortunately, we have some easier solutions.

In the case of the tall, single-stemmed type plants, a single bamboo stake pushed into the ground next to the stem in early spring should suffice for support through the flowering season if the stake is of the proper height to start. This is where experience really helps. It is better to err on the side of having the stake be too tall rather than too short. It is very easy to find a good supply of tall, stout bamboo stakes locally as I have seen them in nearly every nursery and garden center in good supply.

Tie early and often is a good piece of advice when it comes to staking. But what is the best material to use for ties? That horrid green vinyl stretch tape has no place in the home landscape. It is forgivable only if you own a nursery and need to tie very quickly.

I like to use heavy coated wire of the type used for irrigation wiring. It is referred to as 14-1 direct burial wire. That skimpy little coated wire sold on spools will cut through soft plant stems in a hurry. First, take a twist around the stake to fasten the wire at the selected height, then loosely loop around the stem before twisting together. The idea is to leave room for stem expansion while still supporting the stem. Strips of cloth can also make good ties.

You can support the clump-growing plants by completely encircling the clump with bamboo stakes placed just inside the outer ring of foliage and tying a sufficiently heavy twine around them to support foliage and flower stems as they grow. The twine is easily dealt with at the end of the season by just letting it return to the earth: simple and effective.

Climbing plants generally need a more permanent structure on which to grow. Roses, wisteria and grapes all need much stronger support than can be provided with a stake. If you planted trees this past dormant season, now is the time to check the ties that you used to be sure that the tree trunk hasn't grown enough to be girdled by them. Loosen and re-tie as necessary.

While you're at it, check all recently planted balled-in-burlap plants to be sure all root ball ties have been removed. If any were forgotten, they will slowly, but surely, kill the plant.

Stan Mapolski, aka The Rogue Gardener, can be heard from 9-11 a.m. Sunday mornings on KMED 1440 AM and seen in periodic gardening segments for KTVL Channel 10 News. Reach him at

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