Name that plant
Andrea Bellamy |

herb tags

Nickel herb markers from Nina Gibson Designs. $28 for four.

There’s nothing worse than a garden littered with nursery plant labels. Where each plant has a little plastic tombstone. Sure, labels might come in handy if you’ve forgotten whether it was Euphorbia ‘Blue Lagoon’ or ‘Blue Haze’ you planted, but does every pansy need to carry its own ID?

Still, there are some cases where a plant label is entirely appropriate. With perennials, I usually just slightly bury the nursery label at the same time I’m putting the plant in the ground, so if I need to replace the plant or for some reason am just desperate to remember the name, I can poke around in the dirt and (usually) find it.


Write-and-erase plant tags from Allsop Home and Garden. $16 for six.

But with vegetables, plant labels are a necessity. They’re a place holder, so that a week after you do your sowing you can distinguish among the nearly-identical little green seedlings. And even though I swear I’ll remember which tomatoes I’m growing, at the end of the summer it’s hard to tell a Purple Calabash from a Purple Brandywine.

bird plant markers

Birdie plant markers from The Modern Gardener. About $9 for 10.

There are a million kinds of plant labels on the market, from the most basic – white plastic tags and wooden tongue depressor types – to the clever, the cute and the Betty Boop.

So what makes a great plant marker? For me, it’s gotta be one you write on yourself. Although some herb marker sets are lovely, inevitably they don’t include all the herbs you plan on growing, leaving your herb garden haphazardly labelled. The horror!

hairpin plant markers

Hairpin-style rose markers from Lee Valley. $16.80 for 25.

Ask a bunch of gardeners about their favourite labels and the talk turns to permanence and DIY pride. Which type of Sharpie to use, how to clear coat a rock so that your Latin is legible next year – that sort of thing. I’m less concerned with longevity because I buy or make ’em cheap, don’t need that many, and because I’ll be planting something different next year anyway. And if I can make ’em myself? Awesome.

Herb markers

Set of metal herb stakes from Spoon Sisters. $22.50 for nine.

Homemade plant markers range from the utilitarian – such as cut-up Venetian (aka “mini”) blinds, milk cartons and pop cans – to the kitschy cool – such as these Shrinky Dink markers – to the truly artful – such as these quilted plant markers. I still like the old stone plant markers a la Martha, and I’m quite happy with the hand-stamped wooden ones I just whipped up the other day (see below).

plant labels

Wooden markers stamped with permanent ink. $1 for 100 extra-large popsicle sticks. $6 for the alphabet stamps. $10 for the ink.

What’s your take on plant labels? Any favourites I’ve missed?

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