Plant Labels: Do I Really Need Them?

plant labels

Do you remember your first crush? We all do, you probably wanted to know their name, where they worked, and what they did. Well, with plants, it’s the same. First impressions matter. When someone walks into your garden, your plant labels offer some kind of familiarity about your plants. Your plant labels are vital to the organization, space-saving, and curation of your garden’s collection.

As a gardener, you are more likely to visit a garden and ask, “What is the name of that plant?” Sometimes, you will receive a blank stare from the garden owner. The problem with plant labels is that gardeners view them as a strenuous or tedious activity. However, plant labeling is important, especially for your vertical garden where your plants are closer together. While you might not want your garden cataloged like a high school yearbook, your plant labels provide your garden with a history of what is planted shared with others.

​What Is a Plant Label?

Plant labels are exactly what they sound like: labels with the names of your plants on them. You might be wondering why you need to label your plant in your garden. Well, most gardeners have plant labels in their gardens so that they can remember all the names of their plants. Also, plant labels are important so that you can give your plants the correct care that they need. It is important to note that this kind of labeling is different from labeling in public gardens, which is for the benefit of the visitor than the gardener.

Do your garden visitors need to know the names of your plants? As silly as this question might sound, they always want to know. In case they know what, it is, they are usually more than happy to have their knowledge confirmed. In case they have no idea, well, they need to know.

The main purpose of plant labels in your home garden is to keep track of the different species of plants that are decorating your garden. Plant labels are great for all seasons, but particularly important after winter when spring creeps up on us. This is the time plant swill sprout simultaneously between weeds.

Staring down at littering plants not being able to distinguish between weeds and perennials can be very irritating. And while it could be easy to separate the hyacinths from the daffodils, you will soon discover that other plants that you had planned to divide in spring are not as easy to identify.


Problems with plant labeling

Although labeling your plants is generally a great idea, there are some annoying things about doing it. For instance, labeling is time-consuming. A lot of time is spent checking the plants, producing the labels desired, and attaching it, not to mention regular replacement of broken, missing and moved tags.

It’s also an expensive affair, especially if you are going to get a labeler and the label tape. Additionally, labels often get confused and can be moved from one area to another during clean up. And, of course, if you don't place them in a decent spot, they can detract the beauty of a garden.

​What Makes a Good Plant Label?

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One of the most obvious attributes that you need to get out of your plant labels is that they are noticeable. There is no use in anchoring tags everywhere if you cannot locate them easily. You will notice that commercially obtained plant labels are often brightly colored. It’s vital that the gardener color codes them separately in a notebook with the specific plant that is right next to them. A popular method used by gardeners included in their plant label masterplan is making a garden map with colored labels upon it. It's better to be safe than sorry.

An alternative method is to use a blank label and mark the plant details by yourself. However, one of the reasons why this might not be a long-lasting solution is smudging may occur. While the best quality plant label is weatherproof, some of them are not. Meaning after a heavy pour, your scripted plant labels will be turned into indecipherable gibberish. This is very frustrating, and, as such, it is essential to use plant labels that are weatherproof or at least permanent ink.

You need to ensure that your plant labels are hardy. Sunny, frosty and wet conditions are likely to knock them down. If they are as frail as a breadstick, they will be pretty much useless in hardy weather.

​Types of Plant Labels

Types of Plant Labels
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The first step in identifying the plant label that will work best in your garden is determining what your identification goals are. Are you looking to get color coordination, write on the tag yourself or sequentially number your plants? Are you looking for a polished high end or a simple look? Another factor that gardeners need to keep in mind is their environment.

You need to find out if your labels will be temporary or you wish them to last a year where your tags will most likely be subjected to severe weather. Here are a few plant labels that will help you meet your identification goals.

Some gardeners feel that keeping a seed packet might act as a reminder, and it may, but when you spend a lot of time flickering through seed packets splattered across your clothes, an actual label is ideal. Most labels are in the form of white plastic, the reason being, it can easily be spotted and read. However, they are a bit of an eyesore, especially if you have them dotted everywhere.

Black labels, on the other hand, are a good alternative. However, you will need to use a special white pen for marking, which defeats the point. In case you write in pencil, you can bury the label. Ink often fades in the sun and gets worn when in contact with soil. Just make sure you bury it behind the plant so that you can always dig a bit and find it.

Plastic labels are the most popular, and it’s because they are easy to reuse and clean. However, there are numerous other alternatives to plastic plant labels. Wood, metal, slate all make perfect labels that will last for years.


Plastic plant labels

Plastic plant labels are perhaps the most common types of labels. They are helpful when you want to have bright, colorful plant labels or if you wish to color code. You can mark the labels with a sharpie or an all-weather marker. You could also customize them with a laser. Plastic plant labels come in a variety of sizes. You could get them for your small potted plant to a bush or shrub.

They are also versatile and can work both for your home garden or even a retail store garden. These tags are great for both temporary and long-term outdoor use and could last more than a year.


Write-on plant labels

Write-on plant labels are made from thin metal mostly copper or aluminum. You can engrave them by yourself using a sharp object or a pen. They usually have a biodegradable card at the back that helps the gardener engrave. These types of plant labels are best labels that need to last long outdoors.


Metal labels

Metal plant labels are helpful when a gardener wants to get a lot of information about one plant on a single tag. These tags, while made in a variety of materials, using black aluminum that is UV stable is a good way to go. This is beneficial if the gardener wants the tags to last for years outdoors. QR codes could also be laser etched onto the metal tags especially for gardeners who want a walking trail.

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Wood labels

Both plain and treated wood pot labels are available in a variety of sizes depending on the plant a gardener wishes to label. Wood pot plant labels are perfect for marking plants for sale. Wood stakes, on the other hand, are great for trees and plots of land. You could either use an all-weather marker or a sharpie to mark them.

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​Handy Information to Include on Plant Labels

​Handy Information to Include on Plant Labels
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Plant labels are essentially the key to success when it comes to growing and choosing plants. In case you don’t have a clue about all the things that you see on the label, don’t panic, you are not alone. Plant labels can be different, but they often contain the same information.

Here are some common terms you can include in your plant label to better organize your garden. It’s important to note that some of the information on the tag may not be useful if you intend on keeping the plants at home. However, this information could still be important to the domestic gardener if they constantly trade or share plant in a gardening club.


Common name

This is ideally the name that most gardeners will use to refer or name a specific plant. For example, the Arizona Sun Blanket Flower. This information is vital on a plant label since other farmers can quickly identify to your plants.


Botanical name

Horticultural professionals and growers use the botanical name to define specific plants. An example of the plant above will be (Gaillardia X Grandiflora Arizona Sun). You would use Arizona Sun on the plant label to identify the cultivator or rather the cultivated variety of the blanket flower.


Zone

Plant and garden experts divide the world into hardiness zones. For example, in the United States, there are 13 different zones. Each of these zones is 10-degrees Fahrenheit (F) warmer than its previous. They are divided further into an (a) and (b) base that is on 5 degrees F difference. The plant label here will show the warmest or the coldest zones the specific plant can survive. This information might not.


Size

The size is the maximum space or portion the plant will achieve in ideal growing conditions. Depending on the plant label, you may write it down as height or spread.

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Spacing

The spacing on the label is the amount of space that should leave between plants in a specific garden.


Exposure to light

This plant label will normally detail the amount of sunlight that a specific plant needs to thrive. It’s important to note that this specific part of the plant label can be confusing.

For example, full sun means the plant will need at least six hours of direct sunlight on a daily basis. Part sun, on the other hand, means the plant should receive between three to six hours of direct sunlight in a day.

Meanwhile, part shade means plants will thrive in three to six hours of sunlight but need some shed when the sun is too hot. Full shade, on the other hand, means the plants require less than three hours of direct sunlight in a day. They will also need some light shed for the rest of the day.


Care

This part of the plant label gives information about how to keep a specific plant looking at its best. You can include suggestions such as pruning, fertilizer program, and deadheading.

​Have Fun Labeling!

​Have Fun Labeling!
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Ultimately having plant labels in your garden is the starting point for learning about plants. You will soon begin to discover more detailed information about your plants as you continue gathering information about them. They also help in organizing your garden, knowing what grows where and when is essential when it comes to gardening. Lastly, you will track and monitor your plants better with a plant label than without. We hope this information helps save you some time energy and frustration. Happy gardening!

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