How do you label plants in your garden? Plant markers are quick and easy to make by repurposing everyday items like pebbles, bamboo skewers, corks, containers, shells, cans and even broken terracotta pots … there are loads of creative ideas and I’ve rounded up 20 low cost and decorative DIY options to inspire you to make your own.
My husband however … let’s just say (kindly) that he gets somewhat ‘confused’ when so many plants look similar in the garden!
So if you are growing food (and are reliant on family members to pick your produce!); have UFOs (Unidentified Food Objects) in your garden; are learning to identify plants or save seeds; share an allotment; or want to avoid losing your bulbs every year, then plant labels are a must!
Labelling Tips & Techniques
1) What do you want the label to look like?
- Do you prefer a decorative label for a special plant that doubles as garden art?
- Or just something functional and cheap? No fuss + no frills!
2) Do you need a temporary or permanent solution?
- Is the label only needed for the short term? (e.g. if you are raising seeds, using indoors or just one season)
- Or do you want it to last long term? (e.g. multiple seasons, outdoors, or for a particular species in your garden)
Short Term Solutions: include wood (eventually breaks down) and metal (e.g. can lids will rust).
Long Term Solutions: include plastic, painted or sealed surfaces, china or clay, tiles, stone, concrete, laminated labels, glass, stainless steel or galvanised items. Try repurposing plastic containers, paint stirrers, smooth rocks and bricks/pavers.
Love DIY Projects? Click for more ideas
Decorative Labels & Markers
Add a personal touch to your garden with some of these creative ideas (they also make practical gifts):
1. Blackboard Paint & Chalk … long lasting & easily changed.
2. Hand Painted Rocks … these are long lasting & there are so many creative options!
Here’s another stencil idea.
This is a fun project for the kids too.
These classy rock markers would make a great gift.
3. Metal Spoons – garden art in themselves! These are made using letter stamps – check out the tutorial via Bunny Hill Blog.
Recycled Spoon Garden Marker tutorial from Domestic Simplicity.
4. Decoupage a pot – use paper, contact, magazine pictures or even the image from your seed packet.
Cheap & Cheerful Markers
Now for some free and low cost ideas you can make with all sorts of materials easily upcycled into plant labels.
5. Terracotta/Clay Pots & China – sometimes pots and crockery break … relabel the broken shards or whole plates/pots. Here are some creative ways to use them.
6. Glass Jar + Seed Packet – I save seeds from my garden and there’s nothing worse than having an incredibly high yielding food crop and not remembering where I sourced the seed or which variety it was! Here’s a neat solution.
7. Cork – save wine bottle corks or offcuts for repurposed labels like these:
8. Tin or Plastic Lids – next time you open a can or container, save the lid … here are some ways to reuse them.
9. Corflute – this is the material real estate signs are made from and can be recycled into weatherproof plant markers. These are some I made with the kids at school.
10. Print & Cover with Contact – Design your own labels on the computer, print off & cover in clear contact.
11. Ceramic Tile – Use up old tiles to make weatherproof markers.
12. Seed Packets & Popsicle Sticks – these markers provide you with all the plant info you need and are waterproof.
13. Popsicle Stick Stencils – cute & colourful!
14. Wooden Peg Markers – so convenient to use and can be pegged easily onto seed raising trays and seedling pots.
15. Adhesive Aluminium Duct Tape – quick & easy to make.
16. Plastic Plant Labels – recycle whatever materials you have access to. Milk and juice bottles or just about any plastic container with straight sides can be cut and used for labels (ice cream lids etc) or even old plastic picnic cutlery – just poke in the soil. Follow my tutorial to make your own labels from plastic bottles plus other money saving garden supplies.
17. Painted Wood – reuse timber off cuts & use up leftover external paint to fashion some simple plant labels.
18. Wooden Spoons
19. Twig Labels – Prune some straight twigs and use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to slice a flat surface … use as a temporary label.
20. Shell Labels – save your shells and add a little creative flair.
For identifying plants that I want to save seed from, I use a bamboo stake right next to the plant stalk. I tie my reusable label with string to the stake for easy identification.
All surface solution – One of the best tips I can share from personal experience is to use Chinagraph, wax or grease pencils – a little known secret in the horticulture and design industries. These wax pencils can be used on just about any surface including plastic, glass, stone and metal and come in a variety of colours. The brand I use is called Lumocolor. I’ve found yellow and white are easily visible on black surfaces while black or blue work well on pale coloured pots and terracotta. They’re cheap (especially if you buy from a wholesale art supplies store – cost me A$1.55 rather than the garden nursery – around A$3.95!) and they last a very long time so are great value.
Permanent Marking – I’ve tried using permanent markers and whilst they work well in dry situations (under cover or short term), it can be a struggle to stop them fading in the weather. Try coating with a clear spray varnish or a coat of clear nail varnish to seal the label.
Snap It – Keep a digital photo record of your plant labels that come with plants you buy. Store them on your computer or print off & laminate for a permanent weatherproof plant label that won’t fade. A cheaper alternative is to buy a roll of sticky clear contact paper that you use to cover books with and “laminate” your plant labels both sides – just leave a good seal around the edges when cutting to size.
DIY Printable Templates
I hope these ideas helped inspire you with some cheap and decorative solutions. More plant marker inspiration in DIY Repurposed Garden Projects. What’s your favourite plant label idea?
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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2010-2013 – http://www.themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.
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