Just when they enter their flowery moment of glory, some perennials have the unfortunate tendency to slump and sprawl ungracefully, weighed down by blossoms, or collapse altogether. Strategically placed stakes, props, or wire hoops provide behind-the-scenes bracing that these plants need. The best supports are unobtrusive, allowing perennials to assume their natural forms without looking rigidly bound. Here are some support systems that have proven valuable in the Organic Gardening test garden. —Doug Hall
Stakes and Twine
Some tall growers need help staying upright, even before they bloom. For these, it’s prudent to have a stake in place as the plant grows. Choose a stake of bamboo, wood, or metal, and make sure it’s tall enough to support the plant at its ultimate height. Tie stems loosely to the stake with twine or strips of cloth. Follow up weekly as the stalks continue upward. Use for: delphiniums, dahlias, foxgloves, hollyhocks.
Available at most retail garden centers
Bushy perennials with many stems can flop open when they bloom; flowers that should be held on vertical stems end up on their sides. Peony hoops—circular wire grids supported by three wire legs—prevent this problem. Place the hoop over the perennial as it emerges in spring so the stems can grow between the wires. Use for: peonies, heleniums, asters, euphorbias, sedums.
Scottish Grow-Thru Supports, four hoop sizes and four leg heights, $13 to $16, from Walt Nicke’s Garden Talk