Why plant tags suck!

Plant Tag

I have a love hate relationship with plant tags.  Yeah plant tags, those annoying plastic, push-in-pot plant tags that seem to come attached to every plant you buy at the garden center. Growers use them to brand their wares, and provide basic information like names, prices, characteristics, and growing requirements.  Garden centers like them because they help sell plants, make customers more self sufficient, and reduce labor costs.

Despite all the value plant tags have in the garden center, I seldom refer to them after the plant goes in the ground.  Still, for some reason I cannot bring myself to throw them away.  The ever growing pile of plastic plants tags in my garage symbolizes both my desire to catalog the plants in my garden, and that fact that plant tags are the wrong tool for the job. Looks like I am not alone in this compulsion.  Check out this blog post.

So why do plant tags suck?

Let me count the ways …

  1. Plant tags are ugly. Plant tags are first and foremost sales tools designed to capture your attention, and communicate a core value proposition –  “Long Blooming” anyone? Now you are listening!  Good for the garden center, bad for the garden. The last thing I want is a garden full of plastic sticks. Maybe someone could design a plant tag that is flush to the ground like a thumbtack, just a thought.
  2. Plant tags are hard to read. Seriously. Why is the print so small? Considering most avid gardeners are well past middle age, you think more of an effort would be made to make the print large enough to read.  Increasingly, QR codes are being added to plant tags allowing supplemental information to be moved to websites.  I hope they use the extra space to increase the size of the type.
  3. Plant tags are wrong 80% of the time. Evergreens and conifers aside, the images used on plant tags typically show mature plants at the peak of their life cycle, whether that be flowers in full bloom, or fruit trees loaded with fruit. This means that 80% of the time the plant you purchased will not look like the image on the plant tag.  This can make identification difficult once the plant tag is removed from the plant.
  4. Plant tags don’t tell you where you purchased the plant. There was a time when garden centers were responsible for labeling the plants they stocked.  As the industry evolved, and the growing side of the business became separated from the retail side of the business (think Monrovia and Lowe’s) this responsibility was assumed by the grower.  Some garden centers still grow their own stock, and print their own plant tags, but they are the minority.  As someone that purchases plants from many different sources, remembering where a specific plant came from can be challenging to say the least.  Unfortunately, plant tags are usually of little help in this regard.

I feel better now that I have gotten that off my chest.  I would love to hear your perspective on plants tags.  What is your opinion of them, and how can they be improved? Safe to say we are a working on a solution we hope will address many of the shortcomings I listed above.

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