Choose stakes and supports that match the needs of the plant and of you as a gardener. They must be tall enough and strong enough to support the entire mature plant when wet or windblown, and they must be firmly inserted in the soil. A stake that breaks or tips over can cause more damage than using none at all. Take care not to damage roots when inserting a stake, and avoid tying the shoots too tightly to the stake. Install the supports as early in the growing season as possible, so that the plants can be trained to them as they grow, not forced to fit them later on. When growing plants from seed, install the support before planting.
In the flower garden, choose supports that are as inconspicuous as possible. Thin, slightly flexible stakes that bend with the plant are less conspicuous and may be better than heavier, rigid ones. In general, select stakes that stand about three-quarters of the height of the mature plant. Insert them close to or among the stems so that as the plant grows, the foliage will hide the supports. Choose colors and materials that blend with the plants. Bamboo stakes tinted green are available in a variety of sizes and are a reliable, inexpensive choice for many plants. You can also buy wood, metal, and plastic stakes and trellises, and a wide assortment of metal rings and support systems. Soft string, strips of t-shirts, or panty hose work well as ties, and green-tinted twine or plastic-covered wire are inconspicuous ways to fasten plants to their supports.
In the vegetable garden, sturdiness is more important than appearance. Staking vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and beans makes them easier to cultivate and harvest. It increases yields by preventing contamination with soil-borne diseases and allowing for more plants in a given area. Choose tall, sturdy stakes or cages that can support the plant even when it is heavy with fruit, and insert stakes firmly into the ground. Use narrow strips torn from rags or bands cut from stockings to gently fasten plants to supports.
Trees and tall shrubs are sometimes staked temporarily at planting to help hold them upright until their roots become established. Fruit trees on dwarfing rootstocks may need to be permanently staked.