How to Label Garden Plants

Thought I’d post another gardening tip here. Let me know if you have any questions you need answering related to gardening. If I don’t know the answer, I know people who do.

So here are some thoughts on labeling gardening plants:

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Wait. Is that begonia or ranunculus? Phlox or stonecrop?

Have you ever had one of those moments where you stand looking at your garden and wonder which plant is what? If you aren’t one of those nifty planners who maintains a constantly updated, precise schematic, you might want to think about labeling your garden plants. The question, then, becomes how do you label garden plants?

Can you write on their leaves? What about planting them in the shape of their name? So your daisies spell ‘Daisy,’ your corn spells ‘Corn,’ and your ranunculus just runs out of space.

Since you don’t really want to try one of these terrible ideas, you are better off trying one or several of the following four common and effective methods for labeling your garden plants.

1. Popsicle Sticks/Tongue Depressors

If you use a sharpie, or other indelible marker, on a clean popsicle stick, the ink will not run too badly. You can insert the popsicle stick into the dirt just at the base of the plant and you are in business. In fact, the plant’s leaves will protect the popsicle stick somewhat from the weather. Problems with this include the fact that it’s just so small that you have to crouch in the dirt to read the label! And ground water and runoff will seep up into the stick and mold it fairly quickly.

So the pro tip is to use tongue depressors and spray-on protectant. You can buy tongue depressors or craft-sized popsicle sticks by the box and cheap at most craft stores. Write in tall letters with a dark marker. Then use the same spray-on protectant that you use on pencil drawings so that they don’t smudge.

Alternatively, wrap plastic wrap around the stick, or enclose it in a small plastic baggie, before inserting it into the ground.

2. Plastic Labels

You can buy blank plastic plant labels at many nurseries and garden stores. They’re very cheap and are easy to use. You just write on them with a sharpie and stick them in the ground next to your plant. Easy enough! Of course, maybe you think those are too small as well. Read on; much advice remains.

You can make your own plastic labels, and make them as big as you like, from old plastic blinds. If you have some old blinds you can destroy, great. If not, go to your local thrift shop and pick some up. You really only need a few slats, too.

When you’ve got your slats, clean and dry them, then cut them to size. Use an indelible marker to write your plant labels and you are good to go!

3. Waterproof Flags

If you want to make labels that are bigger and perhaps more aesthetically appealing, you can make some waterproof flag labels. For these, you need some kind of small flagpole, such as a garden stakes, popsicle sticks, or any other straight stick. You also need paper and either plastic baggies or clear contact paper. Of course, if you have a laminator, you’re in the money.

So cut your paper to a nice size, decorate and label the ‘flags’ however you want, then waterproof them. Plastic baggies work fine, but will not look wonderful. Contact paper works well as long as you put contact paper on both sides of the flags and trim the contact paper to about a half-centimeter on all edges. If you have a laminator, simply laminate the flags.

Then use a stapler or push pins and stick the ‘flags’ to the ‘flagpoles.’ When they’re done, you are ready to stick them in the ground.

4. Garden Art

If your garden always has the same items every year, you can invest in some attractive garden art to label your plants. You might find a fun toadstool with a fairy on it and arrange a sign that says ‘Petunias’ on the fairy’s lap. You could also have some nice, flat rocks engraved with the names of your plants. This type of garden art is portable, so you should have no problem labeling your oregano, no matter where it is.

Garden art is probably the nicest way to label your garden plants, but it can sometimes quash creativity and experimentation. So be yourself, plant what you want, and maybe stick to the simpler garden plant labels. And have a blast!

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I’d love to know if you have any other cool methods for labeling YOUR garden plants. Post them in the comments!

About jaredgarrett

Jared Garrett is the author of Beat, a YA scifi thriller, and its forthcoming sequel, both published by Future House Publishing. A new series, debuting in January 2016 and also published by Future House, kicks off with Lakhoni, a fast-paced rescue adventure in a world reminiscent of Aztec culture, to be released in January 2016. He self-published Beyond the Cabin, a novelization of his childhood in a cult, in December 2014. Both Beat and Beyond the Cabin were Whitney Award nominees, and his story Song of the Wind, received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. In addition to writing, he's spent fifteen years in adult education and is an accomplished public speaker and workshop leader.
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