These DIY plant markers are the longest lasting option I have found. They are completely weather-resistant and will last year-round outdoors indefinitely.
Also see Best (Cheap & Easy) DIY Tags for Indoor Seedlings for other options.
Plant Tags that Last for Years
If you are looking for a durable, reliable plant marker and label system, this may be the answer.
Both the markers and adhesive labels will endure the seasons indefinitely and, dare I say, they may outlast us all.
I discovered these plant markers through Betty Fretz of Floral and Hardy near Moorefield, Ontario where they used to sell zillions of gorgeous plants starting with the letter H (hostas, heleborus, heucheras, heucherellas) and more.
In Betty’s situation, she had to keep track of hundreds+ of plants outdoors through the hot and humid Canadian summers and wickedly cold Canadian winters. I knew if they work for her, it’s a system I could rely on.
I’ll show you exactly what Betty used and how I adapted it for my garden.
If you just want a super reliable marking pen and don’t want to print labels, paint pens will not fade or wear off outdoors.
Supplies and Instructions
- Look for 10-gauge stainless steel plant markers. They are available in a variety of styles and sizes (10″, 15″, 20″ heights).
Zinc markers are not as durable but an affordable alternative.
- Check the plate size. I like 1 1/8″ x 3.5″ which allows oodles of room for your plant labels.
For shopping options, check your favorite seed catalog, Amazon, or Kincaid Gardens (US) at kindcaidplantmarkers.com.
Labels and Label Maker
- The labels are made using a Brother P Touch Label Maker with Brother Laminated Tape (waterproof). If you don’t buy a kit, be sure to get the right labels for your Brother (or whatever brand) label maker. If properly applied (see below), they will last for years.
- Depending on the settings you choose, you can print up to 3 lines of text on one label.
- Newer label makers also integrate with computers to allow desktop editing—something that was not available when I bought mine.
If you want a plant label printer like they use at plant nurseries, there are also options like .
If you’d rather handwrite the tags, use oil-based paint pens (also marketed as “garden markers”). They are available in all sorts of colors and tip sizes although you may prefer a basic black one like this. If oil-based, they will not fade in the sun (ever) or come off in four-season weather. Check the product details: some say “paint pen” but are water-based which will not hold up outdoors.
To ensure proper adhesion:
1. Clean the plates of the plant markers with methyl hydrate and allow to dry. This will remove any grease or residue on the markers.
Methyl hydrate (also known as Methonal – see Wikipedia) is commonly found in the paint section of stores and used as a paint thinner or glass cleaner. Mine cost $3.69.
2. Apply the labels as directed making sure your fingers do not touch the sticky backing of the label or the cleaned marker plate. Grease and oil are the enemy of good adhesion.
Soft Metal Tags
- Pen tip and paint pen
These metal tags are popular with some gardeners. Made from soft metals like aluminum (see them here at Amazon), you can take a pen tip and emboss the plant name into the surface.
If you want the tag visible from a distance, follow up by tracing the letters with a dark paint pen as well.
Black Metal Tags
- White paint pen
Start with these black metal plant markers. Mine came with a nice white paint pen but colorful paint pens would work nicely too.
If you use paint pens (not other water-based marking pens), these markers should last outdoors for many years.
Choices And Considerations
- Think about how tall you want the garden markers and which way you want the plates to face. I like to be able to read the labels without having to bend over.
- Consider the size of the plate when deciding how you will label them. My zinc plates are 2.5″ wide. Betty’s are 3.5″ wide.
- The label makers allow you to choose different fonts and font sizes, plus upper and lower case, and a variety of signs and symbols.
- For a good overall look, choose one style and stick with it. For example, left-justified text in one upper case font.
- Decide whether you want to use botanical names or common names. I use markers on a lot of vegetable seed tests so I use common names from the seed packets with additional codes written with a grease pencil or HB 2 pencil on the back of the marker indicating where I got the seeds, when I started them, and the anticipated harvest date (if a food crop).
While not the most artful plant markers like these ones, these are definitely long-lasting even through Canadian winters.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛