The No-Fail Garden Label

If you're a gardener, you most likely use plant labels, especially for vegetable plants or perennials.

Sure, you might know what they are at maturity, but what about when they're seedlings and you're  trying to decide where best to put them? Or what about when perennials go dormant, looking more like scruffy weeds than a plant worth keeping?

You need labels.

And therein lies the problem.

Labels are ethereal subject to the ravages of weather and UV rays.

For years, I've tried all manner of ink and paint to mark up my labels. Yet before the season was over, they long since faded away.

The Ink

A permanent marker is the handiest. Most of us have some sort of indelible ink rattling around in our junk drawers, but it has the shortest lifespan in the world of UV rays and weather.

It has a relatively long life indoors away from harsh light and I sometimes use them when starting seeds. But there's no point in moving that label outdoors. I'd just be wasting my time.

Paint markers have a little more durability, but they too will wear away after a few months. I've never been particularly fond of paint markers because they do dry up quicker. At least that's been my experience.

Embossing or burning the name of your plant onto metal or wood slats is definitely a more permanent solution, but it's time consuming and expensive to get the tools to embed your message.

My go-to solution are china markers. You might know them as wax pencils. They are cheap and easy to find. 

I've experimented with every sort of writing tool, but a china marker is the only thing to withstand Texas sun and harsh weather.

They don't have a nice fine tip like permanent markers, but unless you have gorilla penmanship, it's good enough to be legible.

The Label

When it comes to a writing surface, I like plastic. While you can buy perfectly shaped plastic stakes you can also make them from trash.

Some people make them from plastic empties like butter tubs. I don't like having to cut around difficult shapes, so I use plastic window blinds. You might be able to clip off a few from the bottom of an existing blind (where the missing slats won't be noticed. You can also find them at garage sales for next to nothing.

I actually scored four large blinds for free at a garage sale. They'll probably keep me in labels for the rest of my life.

If neither of these options are good for you, you can always buy them ready made. 

Garden markers are generally made of plastic, wood, or metal, but I've also seen them in ceramic and stone.

Some people are creative and make plant labels from stones, shards of  pottery, and canning lids.

I'm too practical lazy for that.

That said, I like to make the effort if it's a perennial that takes center stage. For plants that are out in the open for anyone to see, I'll use metal stakes.

I still write on it with a china marker, but the metal stake looks more aesthetically pleasing.

Do you label your plants or are you a free spirit?

Oh, and if you're a free spirit with a sense of humor, might I suggest these funny markers. Check them out. They're hilarious!


And I almost forgot! It's my birthday. This one's kind of a milestone year. I feel blessed to still have working parts despite being out of warranty.  😏



Mike Keyton said…
I like to be surprised
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: Anarchy in the garden!
Mike Keyton said…
Kropotkin rules! (If that’s not a contradiction in terms)
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: My knowledge of Socialists is slim so I had to look him up. From what little I've gleaned, I can only agree with his stance on self sufficiency.

But I'll bet his followers still used labels in their greenhouses.
Jackie said…
We do not label when Karl plants anything Maria and yes sometimes regret it.

Happ Birthday to you and many more!🥳😛🎂🫖🍽😋
Maria Zannini said…
Jackie: Thanks!

I must be the only one who's obsessive-compulsive about garden labels. LOL!
nightsmusic said…
Happy Birthday!!

I label some of my plants, others, I don't bother. And those I do label don't stay labeled for long. While I use a China marker, nothing withstands the brutal sun we have here and yes, it can be really brutal in the summer in Michigan and then the below zero winters. Plastic cracks immediately and crumples to pieces, metal only shines and attracts the crows which for whatever reason here are the biggest crows I've ever seen in my life. I thought they were ravens when we moved here but no, just crows. But the buggers steal everything! And if they're wood, the skunks and woodchucks take them though I've seen the occasional fox playing with one or two as well. So while I've tried to label my peppers in the past, they're all just a surprise now and unless I recognize flowers and other plants in the flowerbeds, those are a surprise as well.

You adjust.
Jenny Schwartz said…
Happy Birthday!!!!!

LOL Happy birthday from a gardening free spirit :)
Maria Zannini said…
Nightmusic: I thought your comment about the crows was funny. We love the crows despite their theiving ways. We leave them a tribute of quail eggs so they see us as the good guys.

Re: labels
The bitter cold is hard on plastic. I only use metal for my perennials.

Maria Zannini said…
Dru: Thanks, Dru! It was a good day.
Maria Zannini said…
Jenny: Free spirit for sure. Thanks!
nightsmusic said…
Maria: I used metal. The crows loved them. They'd pull them out and toss them around like a game. The plastic ones I left in the little dirt squares when I planted the different peppers? They pulled those out and left them all over the garden. Almost all the peppers were a surprise. I tied the labels the next year to the plants and the crows pulled them off. *sigh* They're a family of seven now that lives in one of the 40 foot pines on the west side of the property. Stinkers...
Maria Zannini said…
nightmusic: Those crows sound like thugs. LOL!