zinniamama

Ideas for inexpensive plant labels that LAST?

zinniamama
13 years ago

A goal this year is to mark all the perennials in my garden-its an acre of plants though and so far the markers I have used in the past have not worked. The writing always disappears in one season! Visitors ask "what is that?" and I can't remember and each spring I have plant amnesia and end up putting a new plant too close to a perennial that hasn't shown its head yet, so I have to get 'em marked! I like the copper style you impress with a pencil but I can't afford it from the garden supply catalogs.

Also, any Internet resources for identifying plants-some of mine are from the previous gardener and I am not certain of exact cultivars/names.

Thanks!

Brenda

Comments (68)

  • lapageria
    12 years ago

    While the reusing of material that would otherwise go to the dumpster is commendable, it is a good idea to inform ourselves about plastics, and how vinyl releases toxics when exposed to sunlight. Some miniblinds are vinyl. Plastic silverware is polistyrene, which also releases toxins when in contact to heat. I personally don't like the trash look that plastic has, but there are many other reasons you may want to avoid it. I have used bamboo year round around the garden for 8 years now, and it is still there. It rots slowly and mostly in the areas when it touches the ground. I have also used old wire hangers and copper flashing which I found at HD. Please keep in mind that plastic eroding in the soil is not a good idea, specially PVC or styrofoam, as they can alter the chemistry of microorganisms. But don't take my word for it, just do a search and make sure to include the word "toxic". Yes, plastics including PVC and vinyl are cheap, but not in the long run...

    Featured Answer
  • primgal36
    12 years ago

    I like your idea of the terra cotta pots, I have heard that the blinds crack and break after a time, I use copper or I have used some wooden popsicle sticks, but I find sometimes it's better to invest a little now to save headaches later.

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  • tsmith2579
    12 years ago

    Use the mini-blinds. Go to your local thrift store and buy one mini-blind for about $1.00-$2.00. Go to you local discount department store and in the art and school supply section buy a box of China Markers (grease pencils). The tags will last forever and the grease pencil markings will last just as long. When you need to remove and re-use the tag, take a piece of newspaper and some water (spit will do as well) to wipe off the old name. While at the store, buy a scissors action one hole punch like the one used to punch tickets and a roll of the green coated twist tie wire. Punch holes in one end of the plastic tag and put a piece of twist tie material through it. These make great tie-on tags. During the winter when it is too cold to work outside I make tags by punching the holes and threading the wire. I put them in a plastic bag with a marker or in a large coffee can. They are stored on the potting table so I know where to find them. You can use a Sharpie magic marker but they will fade before the grease pencil.

  • zengeos
    12 years ago

    Prim, why buy a cheap miniblind when you can get the leftover vertical louvers from HD and Lowes? They also cut easily with regular shears, but the pvc is about 3x thicker, so nowhere near as flimsy or prone to cracking.

    IMO, letting HD and Lowes just toss the leftover louvers away is a waste of resources, when frugal gardeners can make excellent use of them.

    BTW, for you fruit tree lovers, who paint your tree trunks to prevent borers, HD is coming out with a new 0 VOC paint and primer. not cheap, but much more enviro friendly.

  • primgal36
    12 years ago

    Zengeos, How do you get the left-overs? Do you ask the people working there? I keep hearing people on this forum saying that they barter for most things they purchase from Lowes,and they never pay the price that is being asked. I don't see how they could make money that way. I have never had the courage to ask, although I got some great deals there last fall, carted out 2 wagons overflowing with perennials. Maybe I should have.
    I enjoy this forum, thank you.

  • medontdo
    12 years ago

    i know what your saying (primgal) i never asked about the bucket at the deli in walmart til this weekend, but i finally did, and they did really give us some, i was like ya baby!! LOL and my mom said sams club does too, great for winter sowing!! and other stuff too!!

  • primgal36
    12 years ago

    Well, I guess I'll have to try asking them next time I'm there, it just feels awkward to me.
    I just took a class on w/s, I was thrilled to know I could do this. Winters are so long here, and I just get really stir crazy, at least I have something to do and to look foward too. I have alot to do, but this is something I really love doing.

  • infiniteohms
    12 years ago

    I got a bunch of cut off plexi-glass from a frame shop and cut it into plant tags and scratched the name of the plant into it. They look fine, but i dont really know how well they will last.

  • zengeos
    12 years ago

    Prim, if your Home dfepot is relatively busy, they should have a reasonable supply of louvers being trimmed down. longer leftovers are more difficult to come by, but believe me, they dO get them. Just go in one day and ask them to save a couple packs of longer cut offs from the vertical louvers they cut. They should be more than happy to give them to you. I got 20 packs once, which i shared with my sister. I just went back to my depot and asked them to set a couple aside for me to pick up. They'll likely hold them for a couple days, then toss them, so check a couple times weekly.

    MUch easier to deal with than faux blind slats, though they may not look quite so nice as I tend to cut them in 1/2 (1 1/2-2" wide stakes that way.

  • zengeos
    12 years ago

    Prim, if your local HD associate is not willing to give the leftovers away at your request to you, please let me know....

    My store makes a point of offering leftovers to the customers, letting them know what they might be used for...roller shade ends, when over 8" wide make great little *scrolls8 for kids to color on and do their artwork on. The louvers are great for plant stakes, as I mentioned.

  • primgal36
    12 years ago

    Zengeos, thanks for the tip. I will do that.

  • blueberrier1
    12 years ago

    When a friend asked about used mini-blinds (about 3 years ago)at a charity shop, she was told they could not accept them to resell as there was evidence of toxicity...esp those made in China. Did see a related article in a magazine. Imagine the materials have changed.

    Those ends from the vertical blinds are great for many uses...esp annuals.

    For perennials and woody plants/grafts I prefer copper sheeting-carefully cut and attached to bush/tree, or nearby stake with a strand of # 10-14 g copper wire. I saved all the copper wire left from electrical work. I use an engraving tool on the copper sheeting -listing the genus species, variety and the nursery/source. Have also used leftover soffit material (aluminum) for the tags-but prefer the copper. My oldest homemade copper tags are 20+years old, still legible with lovely patina.

  • bencjedi
    12 years ago

    The spoons that come in the McDonald's McFlurries® seem to work well as plant labels. I just took a Sharpie, wrote on one side and stabbed the spoon in the ground. The handle of the spoon is very durable, the tip is flimsy, but once you get it pushed down deep enough, it stays put.

  • medontdo
    12 years ago

    we went to a second hand store and bought a LONG one of a mini blind, and it was really cheap, i only did that cuz it was hubby's friend, and we've been using them. and i cut them in half. lenghth wise too. so i have soooo many!! i just don't like that they are the kinda almost metal one's. so i know they will last a long time!! LOL

  • thecitychicken
    12 years ago

    I used the plastic from yogurt, margarine tub, etc. lids and sides. I cut them into vaguely plant-tag shape, then poke two holes in them, and then thread a bamboo skewer thru those holes, then write on it in permanent Sharpie ink.

  • glad2garden
    12 years ago

    I also use a grease pencil/china marker as someone else suggested. I get the leftover cutoff blinds at lowes. Works great for me.

  • caavonldy
    12 years ago

    I use the fine-tipped paint pens that I buy in the craft store. They last forever. It won't fade from the sun.

  • billie_ladybug
    12 years ago

    If you look in the door and window dept of a real lumber yard, they should stock cedar door shims. They are about 1' long and should last just about forever. Cost here about $4 for 100.

    Billie

  • medontdo
    12 years ago

    i brought up this in the ws forum, and alot of the people like the elmers markers!! which i have found at micheals hobby store, so i imagine you can at hobby lobby. and china markers. those two have lasted the longest they say, then the paint markers. the elmers markers are 2-3 dollars i think. i didn't get to get one yet **boo hoo** but that's what i have so far. i got the 99 cent one, so i'm sure its gonna fade now that its outside!! errrrr!!! i din't think about it. but i just wanted something and not a sharpie, cuz i seen what that did, its all gone!! and it was outside 1 month! that was it. so now i don't know what i winter sowed. how frusterating, wished i had asked that BEFOR i planted the stuff!! LOL

  • yellowhair
    12 years ago

    I have tried the metal can cut up into rectangles and used nail polish to write the name and it worked pretty well. Also, you can use the round metal thingy at the end/bottom of juice cans - use a marking pen (or bright red nailpolish -- haha) and then staple this to a popsicle stick or wooden shim. And, you don't have to worry about cutting your fingers on a cut-up can. Kinda cute, too!

    I have not tried the rocks, but also like this idea. I have tried the mini blinds and they worked well for plantings in pots, but seem to lose them out in the gardening area.

  • marinewife
    12 years ago

    Those of you in farm country will understand this...use the tags and tag marker pens that are used on the cattle's ears. That ink won't be leaving soon!

  • arjo_reich
    12 years ago

    Here's one for you...

    When I had my vertical blinds cut to length there was about 8-12" of "scrap" that the guy was going to toss out. I quickly snatched those up and have been using them ever since. Cut horizontally they make great little 5" labels for seed-starters indoors and cut vertically they make great 8-12" labels for outdoor gardens.

    So far, after a season's worth of weathering outdoors, the sharpie ink has only slightly faded and the plastic seems eternal...

    I'm sure you could probably even go up to the local Home Depot or Lowes and scout out their blinds department and rummage through their scraps freely if you asked them. They'd just be landfilling them anyways.

  • hosta4susan
    12 years ago

    The best thing I've found to use is cut up pieces of vinyl siding written on with china marker/grease pencil. The vinyl siding stays flexible, lasts forever, can be cut to any size you need, etc. Call a company that does siding and they will welcome the chance to get rid of their scraps. The only catch is the pencil will fade in several years and will need to be renewed. I also use smaller pieces of siding written on with #1 pencil to mark cups that I've planted my seeds in. At the end of the seedling season I can erase and reuse next season.

  • kandm
    12 years ago

    Type up a sheet with the plant names, print it and take it to FedexKinkos to be laminated. They charge 2 bucks to laminate an 8 by 11" sheet. Cut out the names and tape them to sticks. Or you could buy some clear contact paper, the kind you use to cover textbooks, and use cut up index cards.

  • hostahabitgg
    12 years ago

    I use the smooth metal can lids found on frozen juices and then use an engraver to label the name of the plant, punch a hole and then hang from a metal skewer which I bend to hold the lid. On the downside, some of the metal lids will rust from time to time -- thought I might try spraying with a sealer to see if this would keep the lid from rusting. I was able to buy at season's end a large quantity of metal skewers, but could use as mentioned in a previous posting, bamboo stakes and wire the lid to it.
    I have a problem with "critters" stealing my plant stakes, so I like to secure them deep in the ground and the plant lid is sizable enough to still be able to read. Placing the label in the ground at the 3:00 o'clock position to the plant helps me locate when the plants become taller.
    Good luck!

  • queuetue
    12 years ago

    This isn't as frugal as most of the choices here, but my wife and I just finished a few and I thought we'd show them off. We buy cheap plant tags where we find them and decorate them with acrylic paints, then apply a few layers of sealer or varnish. It helps me get over my pre-planting obsession - letting me work with the garden even when the garden isn't workable, and giving us an excuse to play with paint. :) It also makes the garden a little more fun for visitors, and sometimes guests may join in the fun, and make a few themselves.

    {{gwi:51212}}

    {{gwi:51213}}

  • luckygal
    12 years ago

    Nice plant markers queuetue!

    Just found this thread and forum and think I qualify for frugal gardening as well a lot of other "frugal" topics! I've tried different methods of marking plants but was never too pleased with them until last year when I used old china and porcelain plates. I love yard saling and have long collected plates which are very inexpensive at YS's. Last spring I used a porcelain marker pen (bot at Michaels) and wrote plant names on plates. Then baked them per instructions and buried them in front of the appropriate plant about 1/3 in the ground. They have a cottagey look, are easy to read, and decorative. I tried to match the color of the plate design to the plant flower but that wasn't always possible.

    This type of marker is breakable but unless I hit them with my shovel they'll be OK. I did take them in last fall, washed, and put away, but I think I know where most plants are so I can find them to label again. In a warmer climate they could stay out all year.

    I'd post a pic but that seems to be more complicated on this forum.

    Anyhow hope this may help other frugal garden decorators!

  • theogardner
    12 years ago

    I have over 1000 plants to mark and therefore look for markers that are easy to prepare and economical. My experience with plant labels that work is as follows:

    The first is "Inpress-o-tags" by Amekron. These are 1" x 3¼" aluminum tags that can be impressed with a pencil or pen on both sides and have 2 small holes for a aluminum wire. These are a nice size, easy to write on and hold up well in Wisconsin winters. However, they are attractive to varmints and some birds and occasionally are carried off. Also, for non-woody plants they require a stake. I continue to use these for woody plants.

    Next I used pieces of venetian blinds. I found a dusty rose color which shows up but doesn't standout like the aluminum tags. I tried various inks and all suffered from uv rays. I now use pencil with a coating of clear finger nail polish. This has held up well for 2 Wisconsin winters. However, the blinds tend to be a bit flimsy and difficult to push into dry or heavy ground.

    I am now planning to try plastic knives with the pencil and clear nail polish. They are easier to insert in the ground. The writing surface is quite small so I will be limited to the plant name and a reference number to my plant database. I will update in a couple of years when I have results of this test.

  • johnmc
    11 years ago

    Little late to this party but being a geek I use old CD-ROM disks. Just mark them up with a permanent marker and stick them in the ground. A little spray sealer might make the print last longer. I have had no problem with a permanent marker lasting 2-3 seasons.

    Anybody who has ever been targeted by AOL has plenty of free disks to use!

  • ilene_in_neok
    11 years ago

    Wow, I hadn't thought of old CD's! I hang old CD's in my fruit trees with fishing line to scare away the birds.

    For marking, if you use a china marker, you don't have to spray on any sealer. They are also called "grease pencils". You can get them at office supply stores for a dollar or two and they last a long time. They don't fade. They might wipe off if they're on something as slick as a CD, though. When I mark my plastic freezer container lids with them, I have to use cleanser to get the marking cleaned off, so it lasts pretty well on those.

    I was thinking about this thread the other day when I noticed a clothespin still attached to one of my wire tomato cages that is around a pepper plant. I had used clothespins to attach a cloth "shield" around the pepper plant one day last spring when the cold wind was just beating the daylights out of everything.

    But anyway, I noticed this year that my plant markers got kind of hard to find after the tomato plants got big. I was having to reach down under the plant like I was trying to get an egg out from under a chicken. I don't know about the rest of you, but tomato vines make me itchy all day, and they get green stuff on my clothes. I thought about maybe marking on a clothespin (the kind with the spring) and attaching that to the wire cage.

    Glad you resurrected this thread, John, you must've been reading my mind! --Ilene

  • angelady777 (Angela) - Zone 6
    11 years ago

    That's hilarious as I was just thinking about buying a bag of the old-fashioned wood clothespins and woodburning the name in as a prior poster brought up. You could just clip the clothespin anywhere you wanted. Some clips would be on the top of stakes in the ground by their plant, others on cages and trellises....

    I tried making the homemade aluminum foil labels and they do work well, but they are time-consuming. But, I guess woodburning will be time-consuming as well! LOL

    ~Angela

  • ilene_in_neok
    11 years ago

    How about getting one of those label makers that people use to mark things at the office? The version I'm thinking of comes with a heavy plastic tape that is sticky on the back. The label maker has a kind of a dial that you pick the letters, one at a time and then squeeze the trigger. It impresses the letter into the tape each time. I don't know how well the tape would stick to something, over time, in the hot sun. You could stick it to a small piece of thin wood, kind of like paneling, and make a "luggage tag", or you could stick it onto one of those clothespins.

  • angelady777 (Angela) - Zone 6
    11 years ago

    Hmmmm... I'm gonna have to try this last idea. I do have a label maker, though I've never used it. I'm too busy right now to give it a whirl, but I will try to remember to come back and post how I feel about it after I've tried it. That certainly would take care of doing several very quickly.

    ~Angela

  • joyful_garden
    11 years ago

    If you were going to use the label maker, I would suggest stapling it instead of sticking it. I have one of those and it sticks ok but I can't imagine it holding up in the sun. Over time the color on the plastic label will fade but I imagine it would las a season or two depending on where you are. I'm in Florida so I know it would fade after the first few months with our 10 hours of hot sun per day.

  • concretenprimroses
    11 years ago

    Clothes pins have so many uses, and the new ones aren't made really well, so its worth picking up old heavy duty ones at yard sales when ever you see them, in my opinion. Love the idea of using them as plant labels. Some of the old ones actually have pretty shapes and would add a rustic antique feel to the flower garden.
    kathy

  • angelady777 (Angela) - Zone 6
    11 years ago

    Absolutely! I totally agree about the rustic, country look! I'm also in Texas so heat is an issue for me as mentioned by Joyful. You could clip the side with the label facing toward the plant (away from the sun), unclip it to double-check what it is when needed, then put it back... just a thought to make them last longer before fading...

    Blessings,
    Angela

  • macthayer
    11 years ago

    I know this answer has nothing to do with cheap labels, but it is a solution to your problem of identifying plants. I happen to have two "puppies" who love to chew up the markers in my gardens. Like Barbara (whtros), I push my markers underground so that only about 1/2" is showing, although I use commercially produced plastic markers, not mini-blinds. I picked up a ton of these markers for a song on eBay. After I write on a permanent marker, I also spray them with varnish. Because they are underground, and protected by the varnish, I haven't had any problem with fading (AND my dogs can't get to them! A big plus!) But before I thought of this method, I had a problem because one of the dogs snatched a tag off a daylily I was trying to hybridize, and there I was with a ripe seed pod and no idea who the parent plant was! I was just using 'open pollination' at the time, so I didn't have the pollen plant on any of them, which made it even more important to know the pod parent. So I had to dig up the parent plant and check the root tag (all my daylilies have root tags, just in case I lose the above ground tag). So what I did then was to sketch out all of my gardens, and then carefully fill in all of the names of all of the plants. Now I can tell at a glance what is planted where. This is especially nice when giving tours because I can carry my diagrams with me (they're in a notebook), and if someone asks about a plant, I have that information right at my fingertips. I don't even need to check the tag! I have found this to be very convenient. And since I do the diagrams in pencil, if I move or change a plant, it's easy to change the diagram. This year, I rearranged two of the beds, and just made new diagrams. These diagrams sure have saved me a lot of headaches over the last couple of years! I only wish I'd thought of it sooner! Anyway, just a thought if you're interested in an approach such as this. MacThayer

  • tomatobob_va7
    11 years ago

    For staked plants and perennials I use plastic transparency sheets from a school or office supply store. I type up a few pages of the tomato varieties I'm planting that season, using a fairly large type size, say 18 or 24. Do this in two columns to get more out of a sheet. Then print the pages on a laser printer. Next take a strip of duct tape and stick it to the transparency so that it wraps around the margin, not covering your printing. Now punch a hole through duct tape and transparency. A twist tie will fasten your tag to a stake or loosely to a branch. These last two or three seasons outside in my region (Virginia).

  • kyrsyan
    11 years ago

    Ok, I saw this thread and had to share. I don't know where I got this idea from but it has proved to be wonderful. First I use metal window blinds cut to my preferred size, but with this idea "the stake" can be whatever you want it to be. Then use aluminum tape. Put a piece where you would write the name. Then using a pen or pencil, write the name in the tape. It "engraves" it. I've used this method for years, and while the tape might get other scratches over time, I can always read the original name. And when I need to reuse a marker, I just put a new piece of tape on. You can find aluminum tape at your hardware store with the tapes or in the heating supply section. One roll goes a loooonnngg ways.

  • farmer_deb
    11 years ago

    Here's what I'm now using for plant labels:

    I cut off lengths of 1/2" or 3/4" pvc pipe (left overs from contruction job)about 12" long, wrote the name of the veggie along the side with a permanent ink marker, then varnished over it. It has been on for 3 years and no fading. They are large enough, and tall enough that I don't loose them. They don't look that great - but could be painted better in the future.

    I tried the mini blinds, but didn't like them.

    I had a piece of Lucabond - plastic sandwiched with aluminum. Cut it into strips w/a bandsaw. Used a permenant ink marker to write the veggie name, and varnished over it. These made great permanent markers for my seedlings, too.

    My winter project was to find rocks to paint for lables. I'm trying that this year.

    Deb

  • yuliana
    11 years ago

    Thanks for the aluminum can tip! I love free!
    You might want to round off the edges as they are sharp, otherwise it works great:

    {{gwi:51214}}


    {{gwi:51215}}

  • jshwartzer
    7 years ago

    I forget where I read the idea, but for potted plants, WHITE electrical tape makes a good label you can stick onto a pot, then peel & re-stick later; the fine tipped paint pen is better than Sharpies which tend to fade over time...

  • barnhardt9999
    7 years ago

    I use left over touch up car paint on a rock.

  • sewobsessed
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    I use cut up mini blinds with plain old lead pencil.

    But really, I just wanted to bump this back to the top because it has so many fantastic, frugal ideas!

  • John Donovan
    4 years ago

    Dollar store clothes pins. If there is not something to clip it to then I just split them and push them in like stakes.

  • whtros
    4 years ago

    I know the purpose of this topic and forum is to find frugal ways of doing things. But sometimes frugal is more work and/or less than satisfactory. Several years ago, I bit the bullet and bought a Brother P-Touch labeler. They have several products and some are reasonably priced. But I went "whole hog" and bought the most expensive one which cost me $100 at the time. The current similar model is much cheaper now - around $50, I think. You might try eBay. I bought it to make labels for my perennials. Everything else I have tried which have been mentioned here have to be redone frequently and each time time you lose much of the original plant info. The beauty of this printer is that it hooks up to your computer! I make the labels on the computer, same the label to a file on my computer, then print them out. These labels stay perfect in any weather and sun Forever! If you lose the label, you can look up the label in the computer and print out another one anytime. So you never lose all the original info for your plant. I know this isn't a frugal idea but our time is valuable too and saving time is as important as saving money. I still use mini-blinds but when you break them or your chickens run off with them, its so easy and quick to print up another one. You can make the type size as large or small as you want which is great for me now that I am older and I can't read the old labels with the smaller type size so make another and enlarge the type. Its an investment just like all your other good garden tools and worth it in the long run. Its handy to make labels for everything and they even have iron-on labels. Think about it, Barbara

  • sewobsessed
    4 years ago

    It's crappy out, so today was a good day to play with very small pots and some leftover exterior paint. I'll fashion little shephard's hooks from wire hangers. I think they'll look quite charming hanging like small bells in the garden.

  • billie_ladybug
    4 years ago

    Oh!!! those are cute. and what a great idea for some of those little guys I have hanging around with no use. My daughter bought one of those plant your own kits with the terra cotta pots the size of a thimble.

  • PaperFinch
    3 years ago

    I am a fine artist/illustrator, so anytime I have leftover paint, I paint a rock from my creek bed, then write the name of a plant on it in a contrasting color, and seal it with a clear-coat varnish spray paint.

  • calamondindave
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    I use an IDENTI PEN, permanent marker on all my T-labels. It's truly permanent. You can find then in art stores or online. It's the only permanent marker I've had where the ink never fades. Even on labels which have been outside for several years, in the rain, the ink hasn't faded on them.