I highly recommend labeling your plants, and this article will teach you why. My hope is that you’ll see the benefits, and decide you’d like to give it a shot with your collection as well. Now, let’s get nerdy!

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Why You Should Label Your Plants (Benefits!)

Overall, plant labeling is useful for:

  • Managing a large collection of plants
  • Propagating, cultivating, hybridizing, or otherwise growing plants for a specific purpose
  • Selling or trading plants or seeds
  • Research and documentation
  • Tracking plants which you don’t have a sure ID on
  • Trying to learn and remember plant information

Specific types of info, and their benefits

Here are some things you can add to your labels, and what’s good about each.

Identification information

Identification information can be very basic, or very specific. Some examples are: The plant’s scientific or latin name, the plant’s common name, a cultivar name (if applicable), hybrid information, and so on.

Useful for:

  • Large collections of plants
  • Identifying special forms and varieties, such as uniquely shaped leaves, within one species
  • Identifying cultivars and hybrids

Origination information

Origination information is data about where the plant naturally grows. It can be as basic as a country, or as specific as GPS coordinates.

Useful for:

  • Creating a biotope collection or display tank
  • Research purposes
  • Identifying slight differences within the same species, from different origins
  • Growing plants which are unidentified, since the origin is the next best thing if you don’t have the genus or exact species

Source information

Source information is data about how you obtained the plant. A couple of examples are: A nursery or website name, or a specific person’s name and contact information.

Useful for:

  • Contacting the source for more information or assistance
  • Obtaining more of the plant or something similar
  • Telling other people where you got it from

Date information

Date information is data about specific events, such as when you obtained the plant, when you sowed seeds, or anything else you want to track.

Helpful for:

  • General information and record keeping
  • Estimating expected milestones in growth, such as germination or blooming
  • Tracking data, when doing experiments
  • Gauging how fast a species grows, on average

Culture information

Culture information is data about a plant’s requirements for optimum growth. It can include specifics about things like: lighting, temperature, water, substrate, pH, fertilization, and growth habit (such as trailing, vining, aquatic, epiphytic, and so forth)

Helpful for:

  • Reminding yourself about the optimal conditions for each plant
  • Notifying other people about this information

Catalog information

Catalog information is an identification code, which you can use to reference more information that is stored elsewhere. For example, you might have a computer program or spreadsheet, with very detailed records about your plants, and each record has an associated code. The code goes on the plant label, and you can then refer back to your catalog of data at any point.

If you want to get fancy, you could put a barcode or QR Code on the plant label

Useful for:

  • Keeping extensive amounts of information for each plant
  • Tracking information when cultivating, hybridizing, and so forth
  • Keeping the labels small, unobtrusive, and legible

What Information I Have On My Plant Tags

Scientific name

The binomial / latin name of the plant

Special Identifiers

Trade name, form name, etc. (if any, for example “fma. standleyi”)

Origin

Country where the plant natively grows

Source

Name of the business, website, or seller, who sent me the plant

Date

Year-Month in which I obtained the plant

What makes a great plant label?

In most cases, these are the characteristics we want in a plant label:

  • Waterproof
  • Easy to read
  • Relatively long-lasting
  • Easy and quick to make
  • Inexpensive

Attaching labels to your plants

There are many different ways you can attach labels to your plants. The most common are:

Inserting in the substrate

Place the label directly into the substrate inside the plant’s growing pot or container

Attaching to the container

Staple, rubber band, glue, or otherwise attach the label to the outside of the growing container. By putting the label on the back of the container, you can hide it from view.

Hanging

Create a hole in the label, and use string to form a loop around the plant stem, plant stake, or hanging mount

Plant Label Problems (and Solutions)

Contamination

To avoid cross-contamination with diseases, pests, or mold, I’d suggest disinfecting your labels if you plan to reuse them for different plants, or transfer them to other growing areas.

Text fading

Make sure you use a waterproof printing process and materials which can withstand growing conditions and UV light.

Breakdown

Use high quality materials that will last a reasonably long time

Obtrusive

Attach the label in a way that it is hidden or less prominent, such as rubber banding it to the back of the pot.

Tips for labeling your plant collection

Start Early

It’s best to start labeling your plants while your collection is still small, to avoid a time-consuming ordeal later on. This has the added benefit of allowing you to experiment and adjust which information you put on the labels, as you discover what works best for you.

Start Small

Don’t get overwhelmed by thinking about labeling your entire collection at once. Make it easy, and fun, to label your plants, by first making only one plant label. That’s right, I said ONE label. Get the supplies, gather the information for one plant, and make one label. If you like it, make a couple more. Gradually, over time, label all of your plants.

A note about display tanks:

You probably won’t want to use plant labels inside of a display tank, such as a terrarium, vivarium, or paludarium, because they will be an eyesore, but you should still track the information about the plants it contains.

One way to track plant information for a display tank, without damaging the aesthetics of the tank, is to create the printed labels for the plants and store them in a ziploc bag or other container. Keep the bag near the tank, but out of sight. I sometimes use masking tape to attach the bag to the back of the tank, or store it underneath a shelf. As you add or remove species, keep the label bag up to date.

Build 1 - 29 Gallon Paludarium - Finished Tank - ©Matthew Schwartz - www.AnotherWorldTerraria.com

Recap

There are tons of reasons why you should label your plants, and thankfully it is inexpensive and easy to do. If you’re a plant nerd, it’s kind of fun, too. The specific information to be printed on the label can be selected and customized depending on your needs, making them even more ideal.