Mark the Front AND Back of Your Markers: LABELING YOUR PLANTS - three ways that actually work.

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Mark the Front AND Back of Your Markers

By BookerC1
December 27, 2012

If you use metal plant markers, such as the popular zinc markers, include the plant information on the back of the marker, too. If the front fades or is damaged, the info on the more protected back side will still be readable.

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California (Zone 9b)
Region: California Seller of Garden Stuff
Dec 30, 2012 2:53 PM CST
We've all tried endless ways to label our plants, only to find that infernal sliver of white plastic completely blank a year later. I've found only three ways to write on labels that actually last longer than my memory.

1. Grease pencil/China marker, which smart nurseries use on the pots themselves. It's something like a crayon, comes in white (for black pots), black, and colors. You'll be able to read the plant name years after the plant has gone to garden heaven.

2. Pencil. Not easy to read in bright sunlight, but the writing is still there a year later.

3. Aluminum tags that you write on using a pointy thing like a pen. Ink doesn't matter. The impression will remain as long as the label is intact. Expensive for gardens with lots of plants, but this is how botanical gardens label their plants. You can buy them on thin wire to wrap around a branch - cheaper than the stand-up version.

3.5 Craft pens that contain actual paint also work (paint doesn't fade). This is too complicated for me, but it does work.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Any pen that claims to be permanent. Sharpies are great but they fade in the sun, leaving not a trace of information. Ball point pens won't write on wet surfaces. The list goes on.

An exotic plant grower I know makes two plastic labels for each plant and slides one down between the pot and the soil so it's completely buried. Years later, when the one above ground has been snapped off, stolen by the dog, removed by a customer, etc., he can still dig down and find the original. If you're a collector, this makes a lot of sense.

One last thought: I visited an old garden once owned by collectors of rare plants. The water had been turn off for years, leaving 5 acres of vacant pots, only an occasional survivor. The tags prevailed, however, and most had been written on ... plastic picnic knives. Not glamorous (Martha Stewart would be horrified) but cheap, and clearly they are not biodegradable.

Name: Angie
Mackinaw, IL (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Ideas: Master Level Tip Photographer I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Region: Illinois
Irises Bulbs Daylilies Lilies Herbs Clematis
Dec 30, 2012 6:35 PM CST
I have tried the paint pens, and even those eventually fade if they are in direct sunlight. So far the method that has been most permanent (and most readable) has been the industrial strength adhesive labeling tape that I can get for my brother label-maker. Some of mine have been in the garden for four years so far, and show no signs of fading or peeling. My zinc markers came with a black paint pen supposedly designed specifically for this use, and UV/fade resistant. Within a year, the fronts of those were unreadable. Thankfully, I'd also labeled the backs, so I was still able to read that side and make the printed labels for the fronts. I don't think you'd ever be able to remove the label to reuse the zinc marker plate, though you might be able to apply a new label on top of an old one. I think that would reduce the long-term life of it. I don't recommend these for perennials or plants that you'll replace often. They have been wonderful for my perennials and permanent plants, however!

I do use a regular pencil on my white plastic markers for my vegetable garden, and have to agree, it lasts longer than other markers or writing utensils.

Sep 14, 2018 9:15 PM CST
Grease pencil/China markers work best for me. I make my own tags from the black plastic containers that the plants come in and mark it with white China marker. Holds well in rain and shine without fading.
Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Sep 14, 2018 9:24 PM CST
P-Touch with UV resistant tape
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
[Last edited by crawgarden - Sep 14, 2018 9:26 PM (+)]
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Name: Deb
Pacific NW (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Deer Ferns Herbs Dragonflies
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Sep 14, 2018 9:46 PM CST
I don't normally care for plant tags, they tend to give a cemetery look to me. But, when I do need to keep track of something I go with the P-touch. Lasts well, and depending on what you use as a stake, you can jam it down pretty low to the ground. Sometimes I just peel it off and put it on a flat rock next to the plant, that works as well (clear with black ink).
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Paul
Utah (Zone 5b)
Grandchildren are my greatest joy.
Charter ATP Member Annuals Echinacea Vegetable Grower Hybridizer Tomato Heads
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Sep 14, 2018 10:15 PM CST
Whatever type of label you use I would also recommend drawing maps of the placement of your plants.
Paul Smith Pleasant Grove, Utah

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