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How to Make Long Lasting Plant Markers

Category: Gardening Tricks & Extras | Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 2:42 am

Marking seeds is important, and I try every year, but they seem to
disappear, get separated from their plant or wear off. Well, my
best advice is SHARPIE!

Sharpie is permanent--more so on porous material. I have also
learned the sun can bleach anything. So, if you use regular plastic
labels that you can buy, I would write in sharpie, and when you push
into the soil, face the writing away from the sun--maybe even tip the
tag at an angle so the writing is facing the ground somewhat.

My daughter made some wood ones with sharpie--it lasted a while
because the marker could sink in, but they would need to be touched
up once or twice during the season to insure they stay all the way

My favorite method that seems to last the longest also uses
sharpie. It may last the longest because the ink almost becomes
part of the plastic.

I took m kids to the Plastics Museum in MA, and the told us #6
plastic can be used with Sharpie markers to make "Shrinky Dinks"
(anyone remember those?) I figured it would work great for labelling
because the Spongebob ones we made never faded--even after being in
the window for a year!

If you'd like to try:
Materials--#6 PLASTIC (don't go buy the expensive Shrinky Dink
refills, the #6 cupcake or bakery boxes work fine, as long as it is
flat and clear).
A small piece of SANDPAPER. ou doin't want to gouge, just get the
shine off the surface, so something fine is good.
SHARPIES--the Plastics people said SHARPIES.

1. Cut out the shape you wish to make your label into--BE SURE to
make it about 4 times as big as you need it (the really do shrink
right up).

2. Sand one side of the label (only where you will write) until it
is cloud, and the shine is gone.

3. Write your label in Sharpie ink.

4. Place your labels on a piece of foil with a good amount of space
between them (the move when heated).

5. Place in 325*F oven, DO NOT WALK AWAY! I use a toaster oven for

6. STAND RIGHT THERE while it does its thing. AT first, the will la
there. In a minute the will start to move a little. Then the curl
up, and look as if the are going to get stuck to themselves and the
whole thing is going to be a failure....IT ISN'T. WAIT--this all
happens rather quickly. The will start to unfurl, and they the will
lay fairly flat. Once they get to fairly flat (If you wait for
completely flat, it will be too long). If it has a slight lift on
the ends, I turn it over immediately upon taking them out, and press
them flat. Most of the time it isn't necessary.

You may wish to do only one the first time to get the idea of how
things in the oven go.

For us, the have not wiped off or bleached out in the window, so
maybe this will be good for some of you.

Hopefully, I have given all the details. Feel free to e-mail me
directly with any questions.

Second Post:
#6 refers to the recycling designation. Milk jugs and liquid laundry
containers are #2. Pancake syrup and some shampoo bottles are #3. #1
is abundant on cups as well as #6. Find the recycling triangle with
the number in the middle. We were told by the scientists at the
Plastics Museum to use #6 (maybe other numbers just melt instead of
Where I live, the best suppl of #6 is through baked goods--even the
ones on the shelf. Oreos have a plastic tray inside the bag to hold
the cookies--these were #6 when I checked them. Stuff from our store
bakery that has a plastic box--cakes, croissants, etc. come in #6
plastic. The plastic is rigid--unlike the squeeze bottles for
ketchup and laundry soap.

I have not used colored plastic for this, but you can experiment.
Because of the contraction, the colors become concentrated, and I do
not know if this would obscure your writing. I do not know if the
plastic is somewhat rounded if it will keep that rounded shape after
unfurling...another experiment.

I made some last night, and I find neat, block letters work best. If
your writing is fairly "stylized" like mine (messy!) it will only
get worse shrunk down, and you won't be able to read it!

I recommend doing one first, just to get a feel for the process. It
is fairly straightforward, and one you see it, you'll know all you
need to...

Yes, when they shrink down, they observe that law of nature they
tried to teach us back in school: Conservation of Matter: Matter can
neither be created or destroyed. They still have the same volume of
plastic, it is just shrunk down, and more tightly compacted; they
are thicker, much shorter, and inflexible. However, the ink ends up
as a part of the plastic in a way, and that is why it doesn't rub
off or fade in a couple of months. They can become brittle in
winter like most plastics, but they have hung in there the best for

You must stay right by the oven! The time will vary depending on the
size and thickness of what you start with...
I use a toaster oven, and I don't bother to preheat, and it takes
less than 2 minutes.

You'll know it's done when it lays back down.

Hope you find this helpful. I made mine as stick labels to push
into the ground, but someone else used a hole punch and tied them to
the planter. If you do punch a hole, put it far enough in...the
melting will case a close-to-the-edge one to open.

Good Luck!

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eileen wrote on Mon Feb 25, 2008 11:57 am:

No matter what kind of labels I use in the garden here the magpies pull them up and redistribute them all for me.
I like your ideas though so I'll maybe give them a try.

Robin282 wrote on Mon Feb 25, 2008 3:12 pm:

Wow. I never had birds take labels! But then again... I do not have Magpies!

Good Luck,


Frank wrote on Mon Feb 25, 2008 7:46 pm:

Great tips Robin and a comprehensive tutorial. Thanks!

Robin282 wrote on Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:34 am:

The field trip to that plastics museum was very informative!


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