What’s on a plant label? If it’s a good one, just about everything you need to know to take good care of the plant you just bought: information on its growth habit (how tall and wide it’ll get and what shape it could take), what light the plant needs, fertility requirements, hardiness zones and even its proper names.

Succulent tags

You don’t have to search for plant tags – most often they’re prominently displayed so customers can quickly identify plants.

Photo Credit: Maureen Gilmer

Learn2Grow Plant Database

Need to learn more about a particular plant? In search of a flowering tree or shrub that would grow well in your region? The Learn2Grow Plant Database has thousands of plants (with more added daily)!

Labeled hydrangeas

Some gardeners prefer to keep the labels attached to their plants so they don’t lose the helpful information.

Photo Credit: Dr. David L. Morgan

Garden tag in botanic garden

See a plant you like in a public garden? Look for the plant label in the planting bed – most public gardens tag their plants with the botanical and often the common name. Write down the ones of the plants you like, then read more about them on the Learn2Grow Plant Database.

Photo Credit: Jessie Keith

Garden scrapbook

The valuable information found on plant tags can be used in more than just gardening. Scrapbook-loving gardeners use the plant stats and their own garden pictures to create attractive journals as a personal landscape reference.

Photo Credit: Jenny Hooks

Some plant tags don’t stop there. They include pictures, info on how far a plant should be spaced, how often it should be watered, what type of drainage and soil it needs, and the plant’s pest tolerance. Some even include a nursery’s Website.

Nursery and garden center professionals take a lot of pride and put a great deal of thought into creating these plant labels – and with good reason: They want home gardeners to use each plant appropriately…and then hopefully return to the store to buy more. Of course, that’s no big surprise – it’s really all about “branding,” that great marketing tool intended to get us interested in a plant and then let us know which nursery grew it.

But for home gardeners, it’s just about growing a healthy, beautiful, thriving garden.

While plant tags act as one big advertisement, they are informative. Consider this creative verbiage on a tag about the lovely ‘Regina’ iris (Neomarica caerulea ‘Regina’): “‘Regina’ is a new discovery from Brazil that has the iris world talking. This exciting new bearded iris has lovely, deep-blue flowers. It’s a repeat bloomer, continuing to flower from late fall to early winter. ‘Regina’ stands 3 feet tall, thriving in sun to partial shade. ‘Regina’ should be in every iris lover’s garden!” This mix of dazzling words and solid gardening information on the label can get almost any iris fan to want to at least try this fantastic new plant in the garden.

And don’t overlook the photos, too. Sure, they help growers sell their product, but they also help home gardeners envision the plant in their own landscapes. Does the bloom color fit into your planting scheme? Will the plant’s overall look fit into your formal garden design, or is it too reserved for your natural garden? Photos help you “try before you buy” – at least in your mind’s eye.

How you use a plant tag is really up to you. Some home gardeners read the care instructions one time at the garden center, buy the plant and never really look at the tag again. Others stick each one directly into the soil alongside their recent transplants and hope that the plastic markers don’t fade, crack or blow away over the course of the season. Avid green thumbs have been known to keep plant tags in their garden journals or nearby for quick reference. Whether you commit (or try to commit) the information to memory or you keep the tags on a shelf in the garage, knowing a plant’s basic care requirements – and having that info on hand – is an important part of gardening success.

The next time your green thumb leads you into a garden center, take a good look at the plant tags. Learn from them and consider if the plants should truly work with your garden: Note how much sun and water the plants require, how far apart they should be spaced, and how they’re best used in the garden (as edging, a feature plant, etc.).

When you get your plants home, hold on to the tags as a reference – if not as a source of how to plant and care for them, as a reminder for the next growing season as to what you tried planting the year before.

And if you need any other information about your plant that’s not on the tag (as most gardeners do) – or if you’ve lost the tag altogether or inherited a “no tag” existing landscape when you moved into your home – visit the Learn2Grow Plant Database. Featuring more than 12,000 plants (with more added daily), this extensive (and free!) online resource includes more information than what you could ever find on one plant tag, including a general description of each plant, growing requirements, planting instructions, care and maintenance tips, and more! You can look up a plant based on Latin or common name, or you can search for plants based on type, function, region, sun exposure or drought tolerance (among other options). The Database is an amazing online reference that’s right at your fingertips – check it out!

So no matter where you buy your plants, be sure to take the time to read the label, then go online to learn more. These informative, gardener-friendly tools can help you make wise gardening decisions!