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How to Keep Your Plant Tags from Fading in the Garden

How to Keep Your Plant Tags from Fading in the Garden

Have you ever labeled your garden transplants to have the labels fade by the end of summer? I’ve had this happen to me for years. It’s especially frustrating at harvesting time, when you can’t recall the variety name and your plant tag is wiped clean.

How to Keep Your Plant Tags from Fading in the Garden

If this has happened to you, you are not alone. If you think it was because the permanent marker you used wasn’t the correct one, don’t blame yourself, that is not always the case.

In previous years, I have tried a wide assortment of permanent markers on plant tags. Anything from dollar store quality pens, to high quality art store supply types and hardware store recommended permanent markers. The higher quality ones might have lasted a bit longer than the rest, but by the end of summer, most of them had faded!

If you’ve been frustrated like me, I have 6 solutions for you!

Over the years, I’ve experimented with different tricks and techniques and found six different solutions to keeping my plant tags labeled through the summer. Here is what I recommend:

How to Keep Your Plant Tags from Fading in the Garden


How to Keep Your Plant Tags from Fading in the Garden

Notice how the writing below the red line is unfaded, while the section above has started to fade? The section below was below the soil.

  1. Push your freshly labeled plant tags upside down into the soil – This may sound strange, envisioning your plant tags in the soil, sticking pointy side up, but it works! The lack of exposure from the elements, such as summer rains, strong beating sun, winds and garden watering, will keep your labels from washing clean. The soil keeps the writing in place, regardless of the conditions.
  2. Label your plant tags and cover your writing with transparent or matt tape – If you prefer to see your labels in their neat rows, covering your handwriting with tape will protect the ink from washing away or fading. If you only have a few plants to label, this can be a quick and easy solution. However, if your garden is filled with many different crops, this technique may be time consuming.
  3. Laminate seed packet and staple it to a wooden or plastic plant tag or stake – If you have a laminator, this is an easy solution. Simply run the seed packet through the laminator and you have a pretty plant marker ready to be stapled to your plant stake of choice. The seed packet displays the crop name and variety, along with planting details, number of days to maturity and much more. It makes for an easy reference right in the garden. However, if you haven’t used up all the seeds within the packet, this option may not be the best choice. What would you do with the rest of the seeds?
  4. How to Keep Your Plant Tags from Fading in the Garden

  5. Apply lacquer spray over the writing on your plant tags – An easy and inexpensive solution. A typical spray bottle may cost less than $10 and there are one-coat spray cans available that dry quickly. Simply spray the lacquer on your freshly labeled plant tag, wait a few minutes and your plant tag is ready to be popped into the soil. The lacquer will act as a paint and prevent your handwriting from fading or washing away.
  6. Vinyl zipper envelope stapled to a plant tag or stake – A vinyl 4×6 inch clear envelope would make the perfect display for your seed packet. Simply slip your empty seed packet into the vinyl envelope, close the zipper firmly and you have a ready made display for your seed packet. Then staple it to a plant tag or stake and pop it into the soil next to your planting row. These envelopes are a great option, since additional notes may be added to the envelope and accessed as needed. These envelopes are available in boxes of 50 and are quite economical. Store them at the end of the season and reuse them the following year.
  7. Paint clear nail polish over handwriting – Similar to applying tape over your handwriting in option #2, clear nail polish would make an excellent protectant of your labeled plant tags. Although water may penetrate the edges of the tape, clear nail polish would make a complete seal. This option is effective if your garden is small or if you’re only labelling a few plant tags. However, if you’re organized, prepare all your plant tags in advance. Write them out with permanent marker, coat them with clear nail polish and leave them to dry on a flat surface. The next day, sort your plant tags with the corresponding seed packets and pop them in the garden as you plant each crop variety.

Don’t be frustrated again with fading plant labels and tags. Consider using one of the above 6 methods when labeling your plants in the garden. The solutions are simple and effective. Choose the method that works best for you and your garden.

Happy Gardening!


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Julia Dimakos

Hi, I'm Julia from Mono, Ontario, Canada. I began my gardening adventure after having children. Since then, my interest grew into a passion. I love growing vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruit and medicinal herbs. I'm here to show you that growing your own food is not difficult and in fact can be simple.