Determine if a plant needs staking by observation. Is it top heavy? Does it move too much when the wind blows? Are the flowers or fruit laying on the ground? Not all plants need staking.
Select sturdy, straight stakes free from splinters. The proper stake should fit the size of the plant. In other words, not too long, not too short and not too thick. You wouldn't stake a dahlia, for example, with a grape stake, nor a young tree with a bamboo flower stake.
Stand the stake beside the plant to determine if it is the proper size. The stake should be at least 1 foot higher than the plant before it is set into the ground, longer if you are staking a tree.
Use a hammer or a sledge to drive the stake into the ground outside of the drip line of the plant (the imaginary circle on the ground that corresponds to the leaf canopy). If you place the stake inside the drip line, you will damage the roots.
Drive the stake into the soil so that it is slightly lower than the height of the plant. By placing the stake low, it will not be as obvious and you will be able to enjoy the beauty of the plant rather than the support structure.
Use covered wire or strips of used nylon stockings to secure the plant to the stake. Coated plant ties are available in garden supply stores. The tie should be attached loosely so that it doesn't cut into the bark or stem of the plant.
Secure the tie to the stake, not the plant. The tie material should begin at the stake, make the form of a figure 8 and be tied securely to the stake with a knot or twist. Again, the tie begins at the stake, loops around the plant, crosses over itself and ties to the stake.
Use a section of hose to cover the wire when staking young trees. The hose only needs to be as long as the area of the trunk that the tie comes in contact with. Thread the wire through the hose before attaching the tie.