These expert tips will help keep your plants secure as they grow.

By Lauren Wellbank
September 15, 2020
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Getty / Thomas Janisch

Some plants benefit from climbing (think clematis and trumpet vines), while others need support to stay upright when they start producing vegetables (hello, tomatoes!). Whatever the reason your plants need structure, these three gardeners have tips to help keep them vertical—and, ultimately, encourage them to climb.

Try a trellis.

For healthier plants, an attractive landscape background, and space management, trellising the plants in your home garden is the way to go, says Natasha McCrary, the owner and operator of 1818 Farms. "Tomato cages, wire fencing, bamboo stakes, and even strong sticks from your yard can be used to create a functional trellis," she says. "One of the most effective trellises used at our farm is Hortonova netting attached vertically to metal T-posts." 

When selecting trellising materials, McCrary suggests taking the plant's weight into consideration. "You would not use the same type of trellis for a tomato plant that you would use for sweet peas or pole beans," she explains. Once you've settled on a structure, be mindful of how it will impact the other plants in your garden. "Ideally, a trellis should be placed on the north side of the garden, running east to west," she says. "This placement will ensure that other plants in the garden are not too shaded by the trellis structure."

Choose the right support type.

When it comes to climbing plants, it's all about knowing exactly how they grow. "Some—like some clematis and sweet peas—have small tendrils that grab on," explains Troy-Bilt's gardening expert Erin Schanen, master gardener and creator of The Impatient Gardener. Knowing how they grow will let you know what kind of support they need: "Plants with tendrils are only able to grab on to supports that are about the thickness of a pencil or less, so you need a trellis with skinny supports—or you can add string or a plastic mesh (like what you would use for deer netting) net on a trellis."

Varieties that wind themselves can usually grab onto thicker supports, notes Schanen, but they might need some help getting started. "Always tie in plants with something soft—twine, bits of pantyhose, or plant ties made for the purpose—and leave room for the plant to grow and move within the tie," she adds.

Beware of aerial roots.

Some climbing plants achieve new heights by sprouting aerial roots, or roots that begin to grow from stems, vines, and branches. You want to be especially mindful of where you plant these, as they can grow into the structures they are climbing. "Over time, the vines could pull some of the grout from between the brick," explains Adrienne R. Roethling, the Director of Curation & Mission Delivery at Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden. "A lot of the time, the problem arises when folks need to remove said vines." To combat this (and to save your structures) Roethling suggests planting these alongside a metal climbing structure—not your home.

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