Rusted metal trellis supporting flowering jasmine

How to support plants

We suggest a variety of ways to support the different plants in your garden.

Lots of plants, whether it’s newly planted trees, sweet peas or flopping perennials, need some form of support to keep them healthy and looking their best.

If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of ways to make your own supports quickly and cheaply, using things sourced from the garden or from materials like steel rods.

Lots of plants, whether it’s newly planted trees, sweet peas or flopping perennials, need some form of support to keep them healthy and looking their best.

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If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of ways to make your own supports quickly and cheaply, using things sourced from the garden or from materials like steel rods.

Plant supports needn’t just be functional, either. Obelisks, pergolas and arches are some of the more elegant ways to both support your plants and catch the eye. Others can be ‘invisible’, fading into the background and letting the plants stand out.

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Check out some of the best ways to support your plants, below.

Obelisks, pergolas and arches are some of the more elegant ways to both support your plants and catch the eye.

Wigwam

Wigwams are most often created from straight poles, like bamboo canes or hazel rods. They range in size from small, container-suited wigwams, to head-height structures for growing sweet peas and climbing beans. Not recommend for perennial climbers that need a more permanent support.

Good for: annual climbers, Group 3 clematis (pruned back each year).

A small wigwam of branches supporting black-eyed Susan in a container
A small wigwam of branches supporting black-eyed Susan in a container

Obelisks

Obelisks are a staple of the cottage garden. Constructed from metal or wood, they’re typically more hard-wearing, permanent structures that serve as attractive garden features on top of supporting plants. You can cross over bamboo loops to create a simple, temporary obelisk.

Good for: any well-behaved climber. More vigorous climbers could hide the structure you’re trying to display.

A sturdy wooden garden obelisk supporting star jasmine
A sturdy wooden garden obelisk supporting star jasmine

Arches

Like obelisks, garden arches are more permanent structures, that are just as much a feature as they are plant supports. Lots of climbers can be grown up and over them, but you can also train trees, like apples, over the arch, or a laburnum for the pendulous blooms. Plants in hanging pots can also be hooked on and displayed.

Good for: any climber, training trees, hanging pots and baskets.

Wooden garden arch supporting clematis
Wooden garden arch supporting clematis

Edging

If you have beds and borders containing plants that are likely to flop over, edging is a good option, especially if you have a long length to cover. Try a low boundary of willow edging, or plant some sturdy hazel rods at intervals along a border edge, then link together with twine – both have rustic appeal.

Good for: beds and borders containing billowy plants.

Rustic border edging made of twine and hazel rods
Rustic border edging made of twine and hazel rods

Pergolas

Pergolas are especially useful if you’re growing large, vigorous climbers like rambling roses, crimson glory vine and Clematis montana. The vertical space is ideal for hanging containers and plants with pendulous fruit and blooms like grapes and wisteria.

Good for: any climber, hanging containers.

Grape vine growing up a garden pergola
Grape vine growing up a garden pergola

Metal rod supports

Metal rod supports are ideal if you’re looking to discretely support plants that tend to flop over, like peonies, oriental poppies, dahlias and Siberian irises. They’re also long-lasting and won’t break. Follow Monty Don’s advice on making your own steel rod plant supports. Similar supports can be made from bamboo canes and willow stems.

Good for: tall or floppy perennials, particularly those with large, heavy flowers.

Placing a steel rod support around an aquilegia
Placing a steel rod support around an aquilegia

Metal wires

A framework of wires provides a strong, low-key support for lots of climbing plants, including climbing roses, hops and jasmine. Fixed to fences, walls and other boundaries, the wires should last years. Watch Joe Swift use metal wires to create a pergola.

Good for: all but the heaviest, most vigorous climbers, wall-trained trees like espaliers and fans.

Metal wires fixed along a garden fence as climbing plant supports
Metal wires fixed along a garden fence as climbing plant supports

Tree posts

When planting new trees, it’s essential they’re supported with a strong, sturdy post to allow the roots to get established without being buffeted around by winds. Follow this advice on planting trees.

Good for: trees.

A young tree tethered to a supporting stake with a wide strap
A young tree tethered to a supporting stake with a wide strap

Trellis

Trellis can be used in a number of ways to support plants. Bought as ready-made panels, it can be affixed to walls and fences, or used as a divider in the garden to grow plants up. Metal trellis is stronger and lasts longer than wooden trellis, but more expensive.

Good for: any climber.

Rusted metal trellis supporting flowering jasmine
Rusted metal trellis supporting flowering jasmine

Old plants

This applies to the stumps of old trees and large shrubs. Should you need to cut one down, keep the stump so you can grow climbers up it. Living trees can be used, too – rambling roses look beautiful if allowed to grow through a large tree. Watch Monty Don cut down a dead tree to use the stump.

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Good for: lightweight climbers.

Meadow planting beside a gnarled tree stump
Meadow planting beside a gnarled tree stump

Tying in your plants

When trying in your plants, be sure to leave room for the stems to move around a bit within the loop. If it’s too tight, you could damage the stems, particularly if using wire.

Lots of plants, whether it’s newly planted trees, sweet peas or flopping perennials, need some form of support to keep them healthy and looking their best.

If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of ways to make your own supports quickly and cheaply, using things sourced from the garden or from materials like steel rods.

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