When the number of plants in your garden starts increasing, it becomes easy to forget who is who. Plant tags and labels become an important garden tool especially when you have multiple varieties of the same type of plant. I mean it’s easy to tell a fig from a citrus tree, but identifying an Ischia fig tree versus a Magnolia fig is nearly impossible. We try to keep our plant label system as simple and cost effective as possible.
We live in a hot subtropical climate. With our climate comes pretty intense sunshine which causes any sort of plastic plant labeling using ink to fade. I have used all kinds of tags and special fade resistant markers through the years, but very few can endure a full year let alone longer. Because of this, I sought out something that would endure that didn’t require me to buy some expensive printing system. My approach in labeling our plants is to create two different types of tags depending on the use. One type of plant labels are for short-term or annual plants and the other is for long-term perennial application.
Temporary/Seasonal Plant Tags
The majority of the plants we grow are annual vegetables. These are grown from seed and vary from year to year. For these plant tags, we tend to make them ourselves. Growing up, I used popsicle sticks, but anything made of wood, paper, or cardboard soaks up the water and the text bleeds out. Leftover plastic is the way to go. I like to cut up plastic Solo cups or containers like the larger yogurt cups.
To make my short-term plant tags, I cut the plastic containers into strips about ¾” wide and trim their height to fit whatever I am planting in. Then, I use a Sharpie marker to label my plantings and stick them in the ground.
For these seasonal tags, I try to keep it simple by writing just the common name of the plant. If I am growing more than one variety of something, I will usually just write the variety. I can always figure it out from there.
Permanent/Perennial Plant Tags
For some time, I had been searching for a solution to the fading plant tags on trees and shrubs that I intended to keep for many years. Recently, I made the jump when I came across aluminum and copper plant tags that allow you to indent the tag as you write. These wonderful plant tags will last years and years. Plus, they cost less than 25 cents a tag.
Using a ball point pen, you simply write on the plant tag impressing your writing in the tag. The ink from the pen should wipe away giving you a clean engraving of your plant name. These tags even allow you to write on both sides without the imprint going all the way through.
To attach these to the plant, they come with a metal wire. The wire gets looped through the double holes in the plant tag and wrapped around a branch. The end of the wire gets twisted to close up the wire into a loop. It’s durable, but I do worry that the wire is thin enough to possibly damage some plants. On less woody plants, I tuck the tags down in the side of the pots.
My system with our perennial plant tags is to label with the common name, cultivar, and year planted on one side. On the backside, I like to write where I purchased the plant from. Some growers are far superior to others and it’s nice to remember who started that blueberry that is extra vigorous or tastes better than the others.
Once we begin to develop a property more permanently, we will likely invest in higher end tags or make more beautiful ones particularly in gardens that are more focused on beauty than function. There are all kinds of beautiful styles of plant labels and tags to choose from. From recycled cutlery to custom copper markers, there are endless choices on sites like etsy and ebay.