I’m sure you know how it is. Eventually the plastic tags that come with plants get brittle and crumble.
Or they just vanish into thin air without a trace. For some reason, this always seems to happen with plants I can’t identify 100% without that tag. Is it Dyckia ‘Cherry Cola’ or something else? Agave utahensis ssp. utahensis or ssp. nevadensis?
Whenever I’m at a botanical garden I longingly gaze at their metal plant tags. Somebody asked me a while ago why I don’t use tags like that, and I said “because they look dorky in a private garden.” Plus, professional metal tags are expensive! Heck, a tag can cost as much as a small plant!
However, confronted in recent weeks with several lost and broken plastic tags in our front yard desert bed that’s just a year old, I decided to look for a more permanent solution. I knew I wanted aluminum tags you emboss with a ballpoint pen because any writing—even with permanent markers—quickly fades in our relentless summer sun.
I came across this eBay listing that promised to fit the bill at a price far more reasonable than anything else I’d come across on the Interwebs. Here is my first assembled batch:
The tags are made from aluminum soda cans and offer enough room for two or three lines of text, depending on the size of your handwriting.
The wire stakes are made from 14-gauge electric fence wire. You can buy it by the spool at any feed store. Aluminum wire is more durable than wire made of galvanized steel, which corrodes over the years.
Writing on the tags is easy enough. You need to push relatively hard to emboss the text into the aluminum, but otherwise it’s child’s play.
Here’s what the staked tags look like in the ground:
Now I’ll always know that the plant on the left is Agave utahensis ssp. utahensis and the one on the right a dwarf form of Agave palmeri grown from seed collected near Sonoita, Arizona.
The tags flutter in the breeze and make a pleasant tinkling sound. I don’t know if that would scare away hummingbirds or butterflies. I hope not.
I have no intention of labeling every plant in my garden. Far from it since I know what about 90% of my plants are. But for those plants that you’re never sure about—or small agaves like the two above that would be fairly difficult to ID—permanent tags are a great solution.
And now that I know how the “secret” behind the aluminum tags and stakes I bought on eBay, I can make my own.
Do you label your plants? What tags or markers do you use?