Should You Stake Lily Plants: Tips For Staking Lilies In The Garden

Should You Stake Lily Plants: Tips For Staking Lilies In The Garden

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By: Mary Ellen Ellis

Do lilies need staking? A lot of taller plants will eventually need a little extra support if you don’t want your flowers lying in the dirt. This is especially true in late summer and fall and with tall, top-heavy flowers like lilies. Staking lilies is a simple way to ensure your late season beds continue to add beauty to your garden.

Should You Stake Lily Plants?

There is no real reason in terms of the health of the plant to stake lilies in the garden. Your perennial blooms will come back next year, whether they droop now or not. The main reason for staking lilies at all is to keep up appearances.

Your perennial beds just don’t look that nice when all the flowers droop over and land in the dirt or mulch. A little staking is great for your garden, but you need to know how to do it right to keep the flowers happy and healthy as well as attractive.

How to Hold up Lily Plants and Blooms

Lilies can grow anywhere from two to six feet (0.5 to 2 meters) tall, which means the structure of the stem may begin to fail them at some point. Stakes for lily plants can be any type of garden stake, like a bamboo dowel, but you can also get creative. If you plant the flowers near a fence, trellis, or porch, you can use these structures to prop up your plants as they bloom and grow top heavy.

If you want the staking to be hidden, standard green bamboo is a good choice. They blend in well in the garden. You can also use different lengths of dowel, starting short and replacing it with subsequently taller stakes to avoid an imbalanced look and a whole lot of sticks towering over your bed. Another popular option is to use a tomato cage once the lilies have grown taller.

When tying the lilies to a stake or other structure, use twine or fabric, not wire that can harm the stem. Leave enough space for the stem to grow, but not so much that it will just flop over again. For the tallest lilies, you will probably need to tie the plants to the stake in a few places. Always include a tie just below the flower; otherwise, a strong wind can break it off the stem.

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Perennials lean, topple, and flop for a variety of reasons. Sometimes an otherwise sturdy stem tumbles when rain and wind conspire with weighty blooms to bend stems to the ground. In other cases, stems grow lush and weak because of overfertilizing most established perennials thrive on limited fertilizer. A mulch of compost in spring or an annual addition of an organic fertilizer scratched into soil power plentifulgrowth without creating weak stems.

Sun-loving plants in part shade tend to stretch for the sun and frequently require staking. Other perennials are simply more prone to flop by virtue of large flower heads or lanky stems.

In their natural habitat, many perennials don't require staking because they grow among -- and lean on -- taller, stronger plants, such as grasses, shrubs, or bushy perennials. Tackle leaning and falling stems by emulating nature's planting schemes in your garden, or craft your own system of stakes and supports.

How to Avoid Staking Plants

Staking can be time-consuming and make your garden unsightly. Proper nutrients, plant placement, watering, and pruning all help keep your plants from flopping.
Photo/Illustration: Stephanie Fagan

While gardening with perennials is a labor of love, I try to keep my chores to a minimum. Weeding, watering, pruning, planting—these tasks can take a good bit of time. For the most part, I don’t mind gardening is therapeutic. One area on which I refuse to spend my precious time, however, is staking. This task not only is tedious but also creates an eyesore. There’s nothing worse than when the rhythm of a border’s color and texture is interrupted by obtrusive stakes.

Rather than relying on supports to hold up slouches, I depend on environmental tactics to keep my plants looking good and standing tall. Things like soil, spacing, light, water, and pruning practices not only influence a plant’s leaf and flower production but also have an impact on its overall stature. By being aware of how these elements play a role in my perennials’ growth and size, I have a garden that has lived virtually stake-free for years, and my plants are happier for it because they flourish in conditions that suit their needs.

A good balance of organic matter goes a long way

Amend beds with compost to supply perennials with needed organic manner.
Photo/Illustration: Brent Benner Tending your own pile or buying compost at a garden center are two ways to come by this valuable resource.
Photo/Illustration: Brent Benner

Perennials generally thrive in well-drained soil with some organic matter. If your soil lacks these characteristics, it’s time to amend it. I know firsthand that this is sometimes easier said than done for gardeners with challenging soil like clay, but good soil goes a long way in the garden. Clay soil is the kiss of death for many perennials because it is difficult for roots to pene­trate and holds too much water, causing roots to rot. Likewise, sandy soil can lead to a peren­nial’s demise because it supplies few nutrients and holds little water.

Plants grown in less-than-optimal soil often show signs of stress and are unable to support themselves. Some perennials prefer clay or sandy soils, so as often as possible, match the right plant to your soil type. Most perennials, however, like the good stuff, so amending your soil with organic matter, like composted cow manure, leaf mold, or compost, and a drainage-promoting component, like gravel or perlite, to a depth of at least 12 inches is the way to go. In extreme cases—if you’re gardening on rock or in hardpan, for instance—building a raised bed for perennial plantings is a good alternative. Either way, top your plantings off with a thin layer of mulch at planting time to keep roots cool and moist and plants going strong.

Unless a soil test tells you otherwise, take it easy on the fertilizer. Overfeeding encourages leggy growth, and your plants will flop and require staking. If you do need to fertilize, choose a feed that is low in nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) because these elements are responsible for pushing lots of green growth and metabolizing the nutrients. Higher phosphorus (P) is fine because it promotes desired blooms, fruit, and root growth.

Precise placement equals peak performance

Avoid the temptation to overplant. Even though plants may look puny in the beginning, they will grow to be healthy, unimpeded specimens if spaced according to their mature size.

Although it feeds our need for instant gratification, overplanting is another big no-no if you want your plants to perform and stay upright. Planting perennials too close together leads to leggy growth as plants search for light, air, and room to grow. Be sure to know your plants’ mature size at planting time and space them accordingly.

Likewise, the wrong lighting conditions leave perennials out of whack. It may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many plants I’ve seen growing in the wrong lighting. Sun lovers mistakenly placed in too much shade become weak and elongated. Before you site your perennials, take note of condition requirements on plant tags or in reference books. A little effort in research in the beginning will save you a lot of effort in staking later on.

Finally, don’t forget to consider one of the most overlooked conditions in the garden: wind. This invisible force can wreak havoc on perennials, leaving them as flat as a pancake. Avoid placing garden beds in the path of a wind alley. Wind can also create microclimates, especially on slopes. If a slope faces south or west, summer winds will wring out the soil, leaving the location dry and hot. Conversely, if the slope faces north or east, it will be sheltered from the summer winds, leaving it cool and moist for a longer period of time.

Watering deeply and less frequently is best

Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to water perennials. Sprinklers are hard on plants and can cause stems to buckle and flowers to flop.
Photo/Illustration: Brent Benner

How and when you water your plants is almost as important as watering them at all. It’s better to water plants deeply with greater spans between intervals rather than shallow and often. Deep watering encourages healthy, far-reaching root growth, which stabilizes plants, gets them through dry spells, and promotes strong stems. It’s best to water in the morning hours so that plants have a chance to dry off before evening. Wet leaves at night can lead to rampant disease problems.

Avoid overwatering. In most cases, too much water causes more problems than lack of water, resulting in sloppy plants that can be top heavy, leggy, soft stemmed, or generally overgrown. Plants are weakened and become more susceptible to problems like diseases and insects when they are stressed by factors such as too much water, sun, shade, or lack of air circulation. Perennials generally need only an inch of water per week during the growing season.

Plants benefit from a little pruning

Give potential late-season sprawlers, like sedums, a snip in late spring or early summer. This will give plants sturdier, low-branching stems and the added bonus of more flowers.

Seasonal pruning can also help get perennials back on their feet. Late bloomers and historically floppy plants like asters (Aster spp. and cvs., USDA Hardiness Zones 4–8), boltonias (Boltonia asteroides and cvs., Zones 4–8), and sedums (Sedum spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) can be maintained at a shorter height to avoid the need for staking. Simply snip plants back by a third to a half in early summer for a shorter and bushier habit that will have little impact on the bloom. It’s also not a bad idea to stay on top of deadheading. This practice not only encourages more blooms but also promotes bushy growth removes heavy, spent flowers and redirects the plant’s energy back to healthy growth rather than to seed production.

Occasionally dividing your perennials is another way to avoid the need for staking. If you notice halos (a hollowing out at the center of the perennial’s crown) or splaying, it’s time to divide your perennials. This common technique rejuvenates plants and straightens their posture. Plants can be divided in early spring or early fall by lifting the crown with a garden fork, spade, or shovel. You then split the clump into two or three segments, replanting them with adequate spacing. Depending on the species, perennials generally benefit from a division every three years or so.

Following these strategies is a win-win situation for all involved. My perennials are happier and healthier, garden visitors get to enjoy a good show, and I don’t have to spend my time staking.

When all else fails…

Pea stakes Grids
Photo/Illustration: Steve Aitken Tuteurs

No matter what we do, some plants, such as big-flowering peonies or lilies, are going to need to be staked. Thankfully, there are many staking options available. Just remember—it is always better to put your staking system in place too early rather than too late, when your plant is already a gangly mess.

Single stakes, such as bamboo, plastic-coated metal stakes, or even tall metal spirals, are a fairly inexpensive and easy option. Often more functional than attractive, these stakes are best camouflaged behind your plants.

Pea stakes can bring an attractive, rustic look to the garden. They’re simply forked twigs or branches stuck into the ground to prop up plants. This type of staking usually works best on plants that are no more than 2 feet tall.

Cat’s cradles are a good way to stake clumping, multistemmed perennials, although they are time-consuming to build. A cat’s cradle is constructed by placing four or more stakes around the plant and then twine (green is less noticeable) is interwoven around the stakes several inches above the plant to create a grid. The string supports the stems as they grow through the grid.

Grids are the modern-day cat’s cradles. These manufactured supports are often made of heavy-gauge wire that is coated with a green epoxy. Like the cat’s cradle, plants are supported by this system as stems grow up through the grid. Many gardeners like this method because mature plants disguise it well.

Cages and tuteurs are a good choice for taller plants and vines. Cages have a metal frame that supports the outside of the plant and is quite noticeable. Tuteurs are used the same way only they are usually made of wood and have decorative appeal.

Pin my tips about staking houseplants and how to keep tall potted plants from falling over!

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Hi! I'm Brittany. This is my modern DIY, crafting, tiny gardening blog. I'm a maker who loves houseplants, cats, Ikea, and naps. I hope I can inspire you with ways to infuse creativity into everyday life.

Watch the video: How to deadhead your lilies


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