How to Make Durable Plant Markers




Do you have some overcrowded clumps of spring blooming bulbs around your garden that you need to dig up and divide? Well now (spring) is not the time to divide them, so what you need is some inexpensive but durable markers to mark the spots. Spring blooming bulbs should be divided during the summer after all the foliage has died back and the bulbs have gone dormant but by then it's difficult to remember where the bulbs are and what type or color they are. So let's make some aluminum plant tags so we'll know where to dig.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

To make these plant markers you will need:

- an aluminum can (A bit thicker metal is better, aluminum step flashing is about perfect.)
- heavy gauge wire. I used aluminum clothes line wire because I had some on hand and that worked great.
- needle-nose pliers
- wire cutters
- a hole punch
- scissors
- fine tipped ball point pen or other engraving stylus

Step 2: Cut Up the Can

Cut the aluminum can into small strips using the scissors. The metal is very thin and easy to cut though a little awkward because of the round shape of the can. You can make 18-20 labels from one can if you keep them fairly small. After cutting up all the pieces use the hole punch to make a hole near one edge.

Step 3: Cut and Bend the Wire

Use the wire cutters to cut your wire into 6-8 inch lengths. Bend one end into a loop but leave a gap to slip the label on. Now use the ballpoint pen (or a nail) to engrave your label tab with the name of the plant. Don't worry if the pen doesn't leave much of any ink. You're just trying to engrave the soft aluminum not mark it with the ink. Slip the label onto the wire loop and finish closing the loop with the needle nose pliers.

Step 4: Place the Marker

That's it! Now you just need to take the marker outside and stick it in the ground near your overcrowded clump of bulbs. You may not want to stick the marker right in the middle of the clump since you might damage a bulb by piercing it. That's not so much a concern with cheap crocus or daffodils but with my expensive lilies I'm much more careful to avoid poking into a bulb.



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    13 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I like your instructable. I tried using cans to make strips I put directly in the dirt, but I like your stake idea better, plus it holds the label up higher where it can be seen easier. It's practical and can be art if you sketch an image, doodle, or some other art on the label with the plant name. I sketched the leaves of my thyme plant on my marker. Thanks again for the great instructions and idea.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for this wonderful ideas! I like markers but mostly made by me. I create my plant markers myself using designed and high quality stone. I like your ideas of creating markers.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    this brought to mind a makezine article i had seen on using "dymo" label tool and soda can aluminum -

    Mrs Fixit

    9 years ago on Step 4

    I've been looking for this method for the school garden I help with,
    should save us a fortune, I always try to re-use whenever possible as part of Eco-schools.
    I even have all the tools necessary so no cost outlay.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice instructable and a great idea.  I am always searching for a permanent way to mark my plants and your idea is super!   I painted some small wood plaques, put them on dowels and stuck them in the garden, but they only lasted a couple years.  I'll be gathering up some empty cans and hitting the home improvement store for wire!  Thanks!

    1 reply

    Thanks!  I've been using these for a couple years now and they do hold up against the elements pretty well.   I think that a slightly thicker gauge of aluminum would be preferable, but I also like the idea of reusing aluminum cans even if they aren't quite as heavy gauge as I'd like.   If you want to try something heavier you might look around for scrap aluminum siding.  It would certainly be heavier gauge but would also be a bit harder to cut.


    10 years ago on Step 4

    Wish I had seen this before I went and bought a bunch of metal, somewhat costly ones, from the garden place. Thanks for sharing, and when I run out of those, I will be trying your idea. This ranks up there with cutting up miniblinds for using as white plastic write-on stakes for pots and such, for recycling and frugality.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job, and great job on the photos! They're very clear and nice, what kind of camera do you use? +1 rating.

    1 reply

    Thanks for the compliments! I use a Canon Rebel digital SLR. I often use a standard 50mm lens because it has low f stops and can be used in lower light.