Plant labels are used for a range of purposes. You may wish to give technical information to other professionals or growers, or less technical information to the public viewing your plants. Labels can be permanent or temporary, made of a variety of materials and affixed to the plant or the pot in different ways. In this article, find out how to use plant labels.
Information on labels
Tags and labels
The labeller may be a nursery worker/ grower identifying specific plants, and s/he must use the ICBN code (International Code for Botanical Nomenclature). This locates the plant in its taxonomical category. You do not need to note higher categories, but if you take the example of the name Hydrangea quercifolia "nigra", you will see that it has a capitalised first name, which marks the genus (group of related species) and a second non-capitalised name, which identifies the species. These labels are often temporary and are only used until the plant is sold
Growers, though, need to identify lower categories. You might see "var." after species, which indicates a naturally occurring variety. In the example above, "nigra"- Latin word for black - denotes a cultivar or a variety, developed by humans and sustained by a breeding programme.
You might also see form after species, which indicates a variety in a variety. Another Latin name after the species will denote a subspecies - a locally occurring variety. For plants on display to the public, growers may use common names such as "Love in a Mist".
Materials to use
For professional purposes, labels and plant tags are made of plastic and placed in the plant pot. On the label, the grower might write the information given the taxonomical information, but s/he might write the date of planting. Often growers use indelible ink, especially if the label is to be used outdoors.
If a tag is to be tied to a plant, which would be the case in the open, a lightweight plant marker may be affixed by means of a figure 8 knot, which is not fastened too closely to the stem as the string can damage it.
Garden labels could be larger, especially, if they are to identify the flowers in a bed or in a garden open to the public. These can be little posts placed in the ground with a painted identification, ideally in paint that does not wash off easily. In Victorian times, gardens often had copper plant tags, which are sometimes found by garden archaeologists. In an arboretum, metal tags are sometimes affixed to the bark of trees. These are permanent labels.