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! Livestaking – Sticking sticks in the ground and watching them grow

 
gardener
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Fall is almost here and soon our plants will start going dormant. Once they do you might be planning on going around and chop-and-dropping some of them. While chop-and-drop is a great way to build soil you might be able to use the woody cuttings to get free plants!

This is called live staking and it’s the lazy persons way of growing new plants. My blog post—How to Use Live Stakes to Get Free Plants–is all about this great and easy method to get free plants for your wild homestead.

Essentially, live staking is simply taking hardwood cuttings (2+ feet long) and sticking them in the ground at least halfway down. You want to have several leaf buds below the ground and several above the ground.

Fall and winter is the best time to do this since you want the plants to be dormant and the soil moist.

But as great as this method is it won’t work with all plants. But since it is easy to do I’m always trying new plants out and sometimes I get lucky.

Check out the blog post for more details into live staking but keep reading for a list of plants that I have successfully live staked.

Plants that can be Live Staked



There are a number of plants that can be live staked but plants like willows and cottonwoods are the easiest to grow this way. But after trying out a number of other plants I now have a list of 10 plants that can be live staked.

1. Willows - Easy
2. Cotton Wood - Easy
3. Mock Orange - Challenging
4. Seaberry - Easy
5. Elderberry - Challenging
6. Red Oiser Dogwood - Easy
7. Douglas Spirea - Easy
8. Snowberry - Easy
9. Black Twinberry - Easy
10. Red-Flowering Currant - Easy

A lot of these plants are native to my area. I will often take cuttings from native plants growing along roads or public trails and try live staking them. This can be a great way to get free native plants to grow on your wild homestead!

Now some of these same plants could be cultivated from hardwood cuttings in a nursery and likely with more success. But live staking requires no equipment beyond clippers which is why I like it so much.

One final tip is you can soak willow cuttings in a bucket of water along with other plants you want to live stake to give those plants a boost. Willows release a hormone that stimulates rooting in themselves and other plants.

This is why willows live stake so easily!

When you soak other plant cuttings with willows the released hormone helps to trigger those plants to root. I tend to leave them all in the bucket together for 3-5 days to give time for the hormones to be taken up by the plants.

Have You Tried Live Staking?



So have you tried live staking before? I would love to hear from you what plants worked and which did not. Please leave a comment with the plants you have successfully live staked!

If you have not tried this method before I would also love to hear your thoughts on it. Do you think you will give it a shot?

Live staking really is a great way to get more plants. I’m eyeing some branches on some of my red flowering currants that need to be cut back. Those branches are going in the ground!

Please leave a comment and make sure to check out the blog post for more information on live staking!

While you are over on the blog most make sure to leave a comment! If you are the first to do so you will get a piece of pie! The pie will get you access to some special features on perimes, discounts at some vendors, and you can use it to purchase some products on the permies digital marketplace.

If you leave a comment on the blog post make sure to leave a post here on permies too so I can easily give you the slice of pie.

Thank you!
 
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My uncle planted my nemesis apple tree with a chunk of log and a single small branch. I didn’t argue them putting it between two raised beds because I thought it would not work. It does.
 
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(I posted on your blog, too)

Good to know that it works with Seaberry. I’ve been wanted to plant that and other thorny fruiting shrubs along the perimeter of my land, but with 10 acres I didn’t want to buy that many!

I'll test it with Siberian Pea Shrubs, Black Currants, Blackberries, Mulberries, and Wild Plums, and let you know how well they worked. In a few years I should have Juneberries, Hardy Oranges, and Haskaps to try it with, too.
Staff note (Daron Williams):

Thanks for commenting on the blog! You were the first to do so! Pie for you!

 
pollinator
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I cut three moringa branches and stuck them in the ground a week or so ago, and they all have little leaves popping out already. I'm excited to try this with more trees.
 
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I have done this with redcurrants; they propagate incredibly easily.  After fall pruning, just stick some of the cut pieces in the ground.
 
master pollinator
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I put some moringa in the ground 2 months ago and it had grown 18 inches when I headed back to Canada last week. But I think in the future,  I will plant moringa from seed, because I'd like to get the taproot that doesn't always develop when done this way.
 
Ellendra Nauriel
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Priscilla Stilwell wrote:I cut three moringa branches and stuck them in the ground a week or so ago, and they all have little leaves popping out already. I'm excited to try this with more trees.




Just a heads-up, that may or may not be a sign that it rooted. Cut branches will sometimes do that on their own, even when they're not planted. Give it some more time to make sure.
 
master pollinator
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I am also trying to propagate Moringa with sticks in the ground.  No big deal if they don't make it.
 
Dale Hodgins
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That's exactly what happened to one of my moringa. Even the one that survived initially grew some really nice foliage, which dropped off. But then it grew some more back, which has persisted. It was a new cutting from a healthy tree, so it had plenty of energy to do that without drawing any energy from roots that couldn't have possibly had time to develop. It put on 4in of leaf after being in the ground for only a week. The next bunch of leaves on the one that survived, came more slowly. It was done in full sun and most days we reached about 88° Fahrenheit. Not an ideal situation.
 
Priscilla Stilwell
pollinator
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Ellendra Nauriel wrote:

Priscilla Stilwell wrote:I cut three moringa branches and stuck them in the ground a week or so ago, and they all have little leaves popping out already. I'm excited to try this with more trees.




Just a heads-up, that may or may not be a sign that it rooted. Cut branches will sometimes do that on their own, even when they're not planted. Give it some more time to make sure.



It almost certainly hasn't rooted yet. But that's what the leaves will make happen! :)
 
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What about evergreens?  I'm looking for a winter windbreak on-the-cheap.

(P.S.  I tried "join the arbor day foundation, get 10 free trees".  Found 10 bareroot twigs "packaged" with a rubber band and jammed in my mailbox one January. Well, that was a waste of time. LOL!)
 
gardener
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What food producing perennial live stakes most easily?
I'm gonna guess elderberry?

I have one willow stake that is thriving as a tree.
It's in a huge planter by my back porch.
The chooks love the leaves,  it's like candy to them.

I started some willow stakes when it was still cold this year.
They did great,  even thrived after being cracked at ground level(vandalism).
Finally died from something, the neighbor spraying them with poison is my bet.
I have built up my defenses since then,  so I expect to try again.

I just tore the roof off my backyard shed.
I'm going to replace it with a pallet based living roof.
As part of the experiment, I'm going to bury fresh green  willow branches lengthwise in the soil mix.
I hope it will spout along the length of each branch.
There will be a barrier between the soil and the plastic membrane, but it's still a risk.
If I'm successful, I might have trouble getting some of  the chooks down at night!

I have two mulberry trees I have been pollarding.
I haven't been able to get the cuttings to root,  but now I have a couple of barrels of rain water with sprayer heads going constantly.
The hope is to get hardwood cuttings to root.
If it works,  I will be cranking out fruit and nut trees!
We shall see.


 
Priscilla Stilwell
pollinator
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William Bronson wrote:What food producing perennial live stakes most easily?
I'm gonna guess elderberry?





I was going to suggest moringa, Chaya, and mulberry. But I see your problem with mulberries. The other two are tropical.
 
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k Eilander wrote:  “What about evergreens?  I'm looking for a winter windbreak on-the-cheap.“

I’ve never tried live staking evergreen branches but I suspect it may not be super easy. I just bought spruce seedlings from a nursery for $1 each, that are about 16” tall, which, to me, is cheap. But they won’t be a windbreak for at least 10 years. They are planted in 3 rows across the east side of my land (where the worst wind comes from), the rows are 10’ apart, and the trees are 10’ apart, but staggered, so looking at it broadside there is a tree every 3.3’.
Meanwhile, I have also stuck willow twigs in the ground farther east of the spruce plot, in a 12”x12” pattern that is 6’ wide and the length of the property. These will grow fast, and my plan is to start criss-cross tying them, much like a chain link fence, once they get taller. I’ve done that in the past, and they grow together like lattice fencing. My idea is that the willows will be a partial windbreak until the spruces get bigger, and also help protect the seedlings from wind driven snow. I also like that the willows attract chickadees and junkos.
 
pollinator
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I have also had success with roses, forsythia, buddleia, red currants and black currants.

I didn't stake directly into soil, but shoved a dozen or so sticks of each into a pot with garden soil. Most of the rooted well by spring time.
 
master pollinator
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I have had success with willow and black locust...
 
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I've done grapes, a couple of varieties.

I'm pretty sure evergreens are going to be hard to do.  

As a possible alternative for evergreens, In the US most states have a program where you can buy large quantities of trees of selected varieties for about $1 each.  I bought about three or four hundred from indiana and they were 1 to 2 feet tall and well rooted.  Pretty much all of them grew.  You have to make your order in the fall or winter and they ship in the spring (or if they are close enough you can drive and pick them up).  I know indiana had evergreens, black cherry, hickory, pecan, as well as lots if smaller trees like wild hazelnut (taste like hazelnuts, only small) and wild plums and redbud.  I've looked up utah and idaho and they also have a mix of their local trees.
 
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William Bronson wrote:
I have two mulberry trees I have been pollarding.
I haven't been able to get the cuttings to root,  but now I have a couple of barrels of rain water with sprayer heads going constantly.
The hope is to get hardwood cuttings to root.



I've got three red mulberry cuttings that were given to me by a friend waiting to be planted out here in November. I sure do hope they have roots! They certainly have leaves.

How high do you pollard your mulberry trees, and how long does it take to get them grown up enough to do it? I've got lots of deer here and want to be sure they can't reach the leaves to devour the tree. That's what my friend did with her mulberry trees, and the cuttings I have now are from her doing that.
 
Posts: 53
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There are a lot of species that will root from this method at any time of year here in the tropics.  Here's some of the ones I've had success with:

Mulberry
Fig
Moringa
Porterweed
Mexican sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia)
Cassava
Chaya
Elderberry
Peanut butter fruit
Edible leaf hibiscus (Abelmoschus manihot)
Probably more I'm forgetting...

Granted, some of those like the elderberry, porterweed, PB fruit I would use a greenhouse or plastic bag to root them.  But under ideal conditions (shade, consistent soil moisture) they would root straight in the ground.  The Tithonia, chaya, and cassava will root right away and become a tree taller than me in a couple months.
 
Posts: 106
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Mick Fisch wrote:As a possible alternative for evergreens, In the US most states have a program where you can buy large quantities of trees of selected varieties for about $1 each.  I bought about three or four hundred from indiana and they were 1 to 2 feet tall and well rooted.  Pretty much all of them grew.  You have to make your order in the fall or winter and they ship in the spring (or if they are close enough you can drive and pick them up).  I know indiana had evergreens, black cherry, hickory, pecan, as well as lots if smaller trees like wild hazelnut (taste like hazelnuts, only small) and wild plums and redbud.  I've looked up utah and idaho and they also have a mix of their local trees.


Hey, Mick, what a cool program to learn about! Can I ask what search terms you use to find such programs in states? I'm looking for Arizona and not finding anything similar. It could of course be that this cash-strapped state doesn't offer such a program; or it could be that I'm not looking for the right things. Thanks in case!

Check out this thread on propagating from cuttings, too. Disappointing to read of the trouble William's had getting mulberry cuttings to root because that's one we'd like to try to increase our mulberry plantings around here; that and elderberry, which I see may be difficult as well.

I was interested to read on the thread I linked above that Malvaceae might successfully be live staked, though, as our local wild cotton (Gossypium thurberi, doesn't produce significant fiber unfortunately) forms beautiful flowering bushes looking a little like a pale hibiscus. I've been nursing along some hibiscus that I started from seed in a bulk tea bin, too, so if it survives, it's cool to know that I might be able to propagate it that way.

My current thoughts on a live staked living fence for our climate here are ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) on the outside, leaving any mesquite in the fence line in place, and trying things like elderberry and mulberry on the inside to make the whole fence denser and give us fruit. Maybe try soap tree (Sapindus saponaria) and hackberry (Celtis laevigata and pallida) to see if they might live stake, too. It seems like ocotillo likes it just a couple hundred feet higher up than us, so that'll be an experiment as well (like just about everything else) but it does seem to live stake well.
 
Conner Murphy
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Beth Wilder wrote:elderberry, which I see may be difficult as well.



The best success I've had is with tip cuttings, about 8 inches long.  Cut most of the leaves off except the tip and maybe half of the next set.  Stick in a 1 gallon pot in the shade with a plastic bag over top, you need to leave the bag on for 3-4 weeks so it has enough humidity on the leaves.  They will root and start to slowly grow, then once they are adapted you can take the bag off and they will start to grow vigorously.
 
Mick Fisch
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Beth,
I may have assumed more states had a program to provide trees.  Indiana does, it's hard to find, but it's under the indiana dept of natural resources.  I couldn't find anything in Arizona or Utah.  

In your area I think an outer part of a living fence might be prickly pear or cholla  It doesn't hide much, but most living things pause when faced with a good thick moat of cactus.
 
Beth Wilder
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Conner Murphy wrote:The best success I've had is with tip cuttings, about 8 inches long.  Cut most of the leaves off except the tip and maybe half of the next set.  Stick in a 1 gallon pot in the shade with a plastic bag over top, you need to leave the bag on for 3-4 weeks so it has enough humidity on the leaves.  They will root and start to slowly grow, then once they are adapted you can take the bag off and they will start to grow vigorously.


Thank you very much, Conner! Our elderberry in this area is Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis (formerly S. mexicana), which although it prefers wetter soil when it can get it can tolerate enough dryness that it grows here in the high desert. I wonder if that might make cuttings from locally-adapted young trees (the linked plant database page says "roots easily from softwood cuttings taken from one-year-old (juvenile) seedlings") a little easier to root in our dry conditions as well. A few weeks ago we planted a seedling grown out by a local native plants nursery that I'm hoping we can root cuttings from later, possibly along with cuttings from roadside trees.

Do other folks find that you have the best luck live staking locally-adapted specimens of trees and shrubs native to your area? I know Daron has mentioned working with native plants being an important part of his homesteading practice.

Thanks, all!
 
pollinator
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What a great idea. Germaine to this is layering. I've done layering on blueberries. Bend a branch of the year back to the ground, irritate the portion where it touches the ground, use a stone to keep the contact with the ground [also keeps the mower away!] and another stone to force the branch erect.
I'm so happy because I was thinking of doing live staking of purple raspberries. If I'm right, here in Wisconsin, after a good frost or two, I'm supposed to clip all branches down to the ground. They are primocanes, so instead of the biennial schedule, if you treat them like that, they flower and fruit in the first year. Just imagine the number of sticks I can collect! [Not the fruiting canes, which are probably exhausted, but the new branches]. They seem to grow more than just the primocane: They are young so they are also throwing a lot of shoots. I'm looking to extend the patch.
I found a stash of pussy willows I want to do that with too. The pussy willow is probably not the right willow to make a fedge [and keep deer out of my orchard], but my bees would love it. The poor girls could use all the help they can!
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Travis Johnson wrote:I have had success with willow and black locust...



They consider black locust an invasive here because, yes, it grows well ...from seed. and it is prolific! I think perhaps I might try the "purple robe" cultivar, which I hear is a lot more tame. In sand here, it controls erosion because of the dense network of roots that travel far and wide. Some folks rue the day when they allowed it to take hold in their landscape as the black locust formed dense thickets of this very thorny, forbidding plant. [He had a very small yard. that is pretty much the only thing there now.]
I love their scent and my bees love its nectar, haphazardly. I prefer it on my neighbors'property though. Word to the wise!
 
William Bronson
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Diane Kistner wrote:

I've got three red mulberry cuttings that were given to me by a friend waiting to be planted out here in November. I sure do hope they have roots! They certainly have leaves.

How high do you pollard your mulberry trees, and how long does it take to get them grown up enough to do it? I've got lots of deer here and want to be sure they can't reach the leaves to devour the tree. That's what my friend did with her mulberry trees, and the cuttings I have now are from her doing that.



My trees are cut at between 6 and 8 feet.
I started cutting the first when it was about 8 feet tall, because it's right along a driveway wall and my wife and in-laws were worried the roots would wreck the wall.
The other one is cut lower, at about 6 feet.
I don't know how long it takes to get them to this height, because both were volunteers that I didn't start .
The mulberry trees I did start are still  struggling sticks, but that's in another yard with different soil.
 
Travis Johnson
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Mick Fisch wrote:Beth,
I may have assumed more states had a program to provide trees.  Indiana does, it's hard to find, but it's under the indiana dept of natural resources.  I couldn't find anything in Arizona or Utah.



Everyone should try contacting their COUNTY soil and water conservation district. Ours has an annual tree sale where a person can order and pick up all kinds of trees, from apple to evergreens, and fairly cheaply too. Incidentally our Soil and Water Conservation District has soil conservation grass seed that is mixed for soil conservation (erosion control), but for our specific area. They also have a no-till drill that is loaned out for a small fee (to pay for its upkeep) and at one time even had a Yeoman Plow it loaned out. It all falls under the umbrella of conservation, whether it be trees or machines. The idea is, soil, water and air conservation.
 
Travis Johnson
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:I have had success with willow and black locust...



They consider black locust an invasive here because, yes, it grows well ...from seed. and it is prolific! I think perhaps I might try the "purple robe" cultivar, which I hear is a lot more tame. In sand here, it controls erosion because of the dense network of roots that travel far and wide. Some folks rue the day when they allowed it to take hold in their landscape as the black locust formed dense thickets of this very thorny, forbidding plant. [He had a very small yard. that is pretty much the only thing there now.]
I love their scent and my bees love its nectar, haphazardly. I prefer it on my neighbors'property though. Word to the wise!




I hear you...Black Locust does suck, but it nitrogen fixes too.

Every state has its evasive species, like I cringe when I hear about "currants". here it is so badly banned that the Maine Forest Service can come onto your property and eradicate it at will because it kills the White Pine tree, a staple of our forest product industry. It is illegal NOT to eradicate it, it is that loathed here.

That one is the worst, but we have other evasive species as well. My forest ranger gets cranked up because I do not spray for an evasive holly, but it bothers her more than me. It is wrong on my part because I am a Certified Tree Farm, but I never saw much reason to invest money in trying to eradicate evasive species because it eventually takes over regardless of the money and time spent on it. Like the Emerald Ash Borer; it is not here yet, but I am working on clearing all of my ash trees before it hits. It is in New Hampshire so it is knocking on our door.
 
Daron Williams
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Shawn – I have not tried growing apples that way. Interesting! I might give it a try 😊

Ellendra – I responded to you on the blog post but just to repeat some people have had issues with seaberry live stakes. But at my place they seem to work really well!

Yeah, I have run into the issue with sticks leafing out but not rooting. I always feel like if they make it through the summer then they are good to go. But until then I don’t count on them being successful.

Priscilla – Nice! I want to try to get moringas to grow at my place. Really pushing the zone but I’m hopeful I can get some to grow. Good to know that live staking works with moringa! That would make it easy to clone any that survive in my climate. Thanks for sharing!

Mk – Yeah, it’s a very easy way to cultivate red currants! 😊

Dale – Yeah, good point. I hope to try growing a bunch of moringa from seed and see if any can make it through the winter. Doubtful but I want to experiment. Live staking would be a good way to then quickly clone any plants that do survive.

Tyler – Let us know if it works for you!

K Eilander – It would depend on the species. I know people have cultivated redwoods from cuttings but not from live staking. Not sure which evergreen species would live stake… time to experiment!

William – I’m not sure… seaberry does fairly well in my area and currants and gooseberries can live stake. Elderberry does but I have had trouble getting them to root. But I was focused on the native types in my area. Sounds like we should get a list together! 😊

Julie – Yeah, I suspect a lot of evergreens won’t grow well this way. But there are likely ones that will—especially non-conifer evergreens. Thanks for sharing!

Michael – Thanks for sharing! That is a good way to do it too—sometimes helping them out a little bit can increase success a fair bit.

Travis – Interesting, I did not know black locust works with live staking but I should not be surprised!

Mick – Thanks for sharing! I will have to try grapes—there is a grape growing wild at a nearby property that I would love to grow on my place. Yeah, wholesale is a great way to get a bunch of trees like that.

Diane – Let us know how your mulberries turn out! I want to try pollarding them in my food forest later on. I have a dwarf variety right now that will only get up to about 10 feet at most. One day I want to grow the big ones and pollard them.

Conner – Nice, Thanks for sharing! I’m less familiar with the tropical plants that live stake. Though fig will grow here and I have one growing that I need to prune… might have to stick one of them in the ground and see how it does!

Beth – There are a number of groups that sale trees at wholesale rates. I tend to use WA state Conservation District Association. But there should be a similar group in most states. Might check with some local master gardeners and see if they know.

As far as native plants go I recommend experimenting. A lot of hardwoods will live stake to various degrees of success. I just try taking cuttings and see what happens. Sometimes I will get cuttings from the edges of trails or roads where they will be cut back anyways. Nice way to try it out.

Cécile – Thanks for mentioning layering! That is a great option too and I have used it on some plants on my homestead. The place I learned how to coppice would use that method to expand their coppice grove. Worked well!

Sorry for the late reply all… I got sick ☹ But great conversation and thanks all for sharing and chatting with each other! I always enjoy the conversations that happen on these threads!
 
Diane Kistner
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Location: Athens, GA Zone 8a
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Feel better, Daron!
 
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Location: South Central Oklahoma, North Central Texas
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I have had success with desert willow and perennial flowers like salvia and lantana. I have to discipline myself to avoid staking entire lantanas stem by stem as they die to the ground here each year anyway... I do have to use the native variety as the "improved" ones die completely each winter.

I use 5 gallon nursery pots for staking as we have dry winters, and they need occasional watering which is easier if they are all in one place. Also, I can decide their final location later.

I had no success with deciduous holly or mulberry bushes, but I may give it another shot.
 
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