how do I mark aluminum tags?

Portland, OR

I finally splurged and bought aluminum tags to permanently ID my plants. Now, here's my first stupid question for the day. What do I use to write on them? Am I supposed to engrave them or etch them with something? Will a Marks-a -lot stay on? The guy at the nursery said to use a pencil, but it doesn't show up.



Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I'd go to Michael's (or other local craft store) and get yourself a paint pen. Or else there are garden markers that look a little like Sharpies that you can use too (don't use Sharpies--the sunlight will fade them pretty quickly). You can buy the garden markers from many online nursery supply catalogs, or you local nurseries may have some. I'd be surprised if Marks a Lot markers would do any better than Sharpies (probably not even as good) so I wouldn't recommend them.

Blue Ridge Mtns, VA(Zone 7a)

Anne, I've never tried a Marks-A-Lot but have tried pencils with awful results and also fat and thin Sharpies. You're right, ecrane3, it's just a matter of time before the sun fades the writing. My personal preference is a P-Touch label maker made by Brother. The replacement tapes aren't cheap but the labels I made last year still look brand new.

Laceys Spring, AL(Zone 7a)

I just saw this thread and would also suggest a labelmaker. Black ink on a clear tape works well.

Covington, LA(Zone 8b)

The p-touch brothers plastic covered lables are still as good as new after 5 yrs in the sun and rain. I even put the date and name of who or where I got it. Kind of expensive but a permanent record. I also drill a hole in every pot to attach the tag with wire. This way if I hire someone to move my plants they can't loose the lable. I have not had any luch with pencils or markers.

Sparta , TN(Zone 7a)

They make a Gardner's pen that is Awesome and is water Proff the writeing last All Season

Bolingbrook, IL(Zone 5a)

I just got some copper tags and I think this method might work on aluminium. I just take a ballpoint pen and write on them what ever I want to know. It embosses onto the copper. No fading or washing away. I have both tags for the big perennials and also marker to put into the dirt by the plant.

Springfield, MO(Zone 6a)

I bought aluminum flashing at Lowe's for about $10. It comes in rolls of about 12x20 so makes lots of labels. Then I type out on computer the plant name to the size and font I want. Using a paper cutter I cut the aluminum to the desired size. Then tape the paper with name to the aluminum to keep it centered and straight. I go over the name with an electric engraver I already owned. Then go over it with a black paint pen I bought at Walmart. I use a paper punch to punch two holes in top center of label. Wire label to plumbing pipe cut to desired length. The pipe I also bought at Lowe's for $10 or $12. It comes in 6 foot length. It's permanent and easily read.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

I'm also a fan of P Touch. I got the one that makes laminated labels. I put the name of the cultivar on the front. On the back I put whatever info I think might be useful- color, height, bloom period- so I can be reminded without having to go in and look it up. I also put the year and where it came from. I usually make them at night while watching TV. Keeps me from falling asleep, lol.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

Quote from mableruth :
I just got some copper tags and I think this method might work on aluminium. I just take a ballpoint pen and write on them what ever I want to know. It embosses onto the copper. No fading or washing away. I have both tags for the big perennials and also marker to put into the dirt by the plant.

Years ago I was able to buy aluminum tags with wire. They were meant for roses. The labels had lightweight cardboard inside between 2 sides of aluminum. A ball point pen would imprint on them whatever you wrote. I still have some on my roses. They don't fade and last forever. It is similare idea as mableruth wrote in the above.

Tulsa, OK(Zone 7a)

Harbor Freight has an inexpensive stencil set that can be used to stamp the metal tags. I have tags that are ten years old that still look like they did when I stamped them.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)


I've been saving this thread because I thought there were some very good ideas...Thank You all!

Well, while culling through some old emails I came across a great idea in one of my Garden Gate Magazine newsletters.

Here's a screen shot from their tip using tags cut from aluminum pie pans or roasting pans. The tags can be hung on whatever type of stand you choose or even tied to the plant with a wire twisty and because they're relatively thin, all it takes is a ball point pen to permanently engrave them.

Edited: Sorry, I thought the shot would come out larger since it's large on my computer. Hope you can read it.

This message was edited Apr 8, 2015 4:52 PM

Thumbnail by nutsaboutnature
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi nutsabout,

I was able to read the article by repeatedly hitting Ctrl + on my computer, which progressively magnified this Dave's Garden web page in my browser (Internet Explorer 11.0.17). I am not a big fan of embossed metal tags for the garden because they are kind of hard to read unless the light is coming from the side. But that Garden Gate magazine article is quite useful in answering the Original Poster's question, "What do I use to write on them?"


Dover AFB, DE(Zone 7a)

Hit Ctrl or Cmd 0 (zero) to go back to regular size after enlarging.

Love that nutsabout! I have an extra oven liner I am going to do this with. I have used the aluminum from soda cans before, but it is much harder to emboss.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

Thanks Zen_Man & JuneyBug! I had actually forgotten about increasing and decreasing the size using Ctrl + or Ctrl - (never tried using a 0).

The Garden Gate idea is so simple I almost feel stupid for not thinking of it on my own.

Wow Juney ~ you're going to get a lot of tags from that oven liner!

Zen_Man ~ if you find embossed tags hard to read, you could probably use a grease pencil or even a Paint Pen on top of the embossing. It would probably stay better in the embossing than on a smooth surface.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi again, nutsabout,

I grow annuals exclusively, so I don't need permanent tags in my garden. I do use commercial white plastic tags, and write on them with pencil, which doesn't fade in the sun or wash off in the rain.

I reuse the tags each year by erasing the pencil marks. That is a little slow when using an ordinary pencil eraser, especially if I used an Ebony pencil to write with, so I "erase" the tags by rubbing them on a very fine grit wet-or-dry sandpaper under running water in the sink. That also cleans them of any "gunk" (algae or whatever) that may have gotten on them in the growing trays or in the garden soil. Refurbishing the tags goes rather rapidly.

I am sure my cleaning method removes a little bit of the white plastic each time, but it apparently isn't a lot, since some of my tags have been in use for ten years. I do lose a few every year due to them being accidentally stepped on and broken, or hit with a hoe or whatever. But they are easy to read in any light.


Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

Hi Zen_Man ~ Sounds like you have a great system for your annuals! Your plant in the pic looks beautiful and very healthy.

I grow both annuals and perennials so many of my tags stay out all year (very hard on the tags in my zone 5 weather).

I splurged for some heavy duty metal tags on stakes from Lee Valley, but I will use them sparingly on special plants since they're not cheap. I'd love to buy more because they're also easy to push deeply into the ground.

I think the Garden Gate idea might work well for me. I'll probably try it out this year. I also kind of like the idea of round flat rocks with the name painted on using a paint least for some plants.

If anyone is interested, here is the search page from Lee Valley Tools for plant tags. They are one of our favorite online sources for tools of all kinds and very reputable.

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