Fall is Floppy Time in My Garden

For someone who is known to be a little bit of a stickler when it comes to staking my tomatoes, I am quite lax when it comes to staking or providing support for other plants in the garden.

In fact, the only plants other than the tomatoes and the pole beans that I've provided support for are the few clematis I have and a variegated climbing honeysuckle. All other plants must be self-supporting!

Sometimes this stance on self-supporting works out and sometimes it doesn't.

I have several large viburnum including this Viburnum dentatum 'Synnestvedt' which is sold as 'Chicago Lustre®'.

Most of these larger shrubs don't need any support but this one has a few low branches that start to lean out in late spring and are nearly horizontal by the end of summer. This winter they'll return to the upright position, so I leave them alone. By the way, I encourage everyone to plant larger shrubs if you have the room. The birds love the berries and the shelter that the large shrubs provide and they help hide fences and compost tumblers and all kinds of unsightly stuff that ends up in a garden.

Out in the perennial border, this tall sedum, Hylotelephium spectabile, variety unknown, is upright, as are the asters behind it.
But just just a few feet away, this tall sedum is all floppy.Gosh that plant looks tired.

To increase the odds that a perennial plant like tall sedum or asters will stay upright without staking or other support, some gardeners cut them back by about half in mid spring, which encourages branching and overall stockier growing. I cut back my asters, but don't cut back the tall sedum.

I actually don't mind the floppy plants. They might say "lazy gardener can't provide some decent support for her plants" to some people. But to me they just say... "floppy time, can't touch this"!

So the question is, do you try support every plant that flops over in your garden, or do you leave them be?


  1. I either let them flop, or prune them so the lawn mower can actually mow the lawn. By pruning I mean I don't cut the perennial (or annual, as in flowering tobacco) to the ground, but just snip whatever branches are really in the way.

  2. It depends on the plant, the degree of flop, and its position in the garden. Some floppiness can be artful and even beautiful. I'm thinking of Eurbyia divaricatus, which was born to flop. Then there are plants that must be staked, such as Anemone 'Party Dress,' because who wants a groundcover Japanese Anemone. Then there are the plants that list out over the front walk, that must be staked to provide a clear passage to the front door.

  3. This just reminds me that I didn't stake my tall sedums again this year. Every year I say I will do it. Every year I say I will trim them back so they won't flop. Hasn't happened yet. Things usually just go their own way here.

  4. I learned something interesting the other day. I have always staked my monkshood (aconitum) but was told that if you have the stalk horizontal you will get flowers that develop at each leaf axil. Sounds like climbing roses that like to be horizontal. Something new to try next year!

  5. Early in the season I'm a rather vigorous staker (my 'Plumosa' salvia that flopped similar to your tall sedum, peonies, etc). But by late summer I've stopped caring and/or run out of stakes. For example, my sunflowers are slowly descending but I'm not about to run out there with stakes at this point. There's too much else to do, and besides, I think staked sunflowers would look a little silly.

  6. I'm not a good staker, but what flops seems to vary from year to year. This year the asters are quite upright, but the achillea is flopping. Boltonia never needs help and the dahlias are holding up as well without any help.

  7. Some things here get staked, some flop, and I experiment with pinching to help some things remain more upright. I agree what flops seems to vary from year to year.

    Last year I pinched Matrona sedums and they flopped. This year I didn't pinch them and they're nice and upright. Next year I won't pinch them, and they'll probably flop. ;)

    I had to giggle at Rose's comment. By late summer I also either don't care or have run out of stakes. In moments when I do care and have run out stakes, there are always plenty of maple sticks lying in the garden here that can get the job done.

  8. Carol, my garden is suffering from the flops too. Tina's cosmos was blown over by the wind a while back and no amount of staking has worked. Also my 'New England Aster' which is about 5 ft. tall is half standing and half laying down. I just don't have much luck with staking. :(

    Your Viburnium looks so healthy and full od berries. The birds are going to love it!

  9. As I seem to have a number of garden "flops" in prominent positions this year, I'm considering using my influence as a garden blogger (ha!) to control the public's expectations. These are not floppy plants; they are "coronets" of flower. Yes, that's the ticket. Coronets: soon to be the next big thing in a garden near me.

  10. I don't always stake flopping plants, but have this urge to tie them up at the base so that they are a bit neater. If the tied up plant tips, I will find a stick or short stake to put in the ground to hold the string so the plant can be more upright.


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