A citrus plant and tag, a Monrovia camellia tag, and the Sun Shrubs section at SummerWinds Nursery.

Why Plant Care Tags Don't Have All The Information You Need

A closeup of a small plant care tag.Plant Care Tags Only Tell Part of the Story

Think back to the last time you bought a plant from a nursery. Did you look closely at the plastic plant care tag that was stuck haphazardly into the dirt? Or did you just pull it out (if it even had one) and toss it aside?

Especially for experienced gardeners, it can be easy to simply throw the plant information tag away. But even if it’s a species you’ve had success with before, new varieties are popping up all the time and their needs can vary wildly. Here’s how to use the plant care tag to your advantage – and why it can be worth it to take a little extra time to do some research of your own or to ask one of our Trusted Garden Advisors for care recommendations specific to where you live.

Plant care tags are designed to speak in generalizations and are not usually designed specifically for the regions in which a plant may be purchased.  As a result, there may be key information that is relevant to successfully growing that plant in your zip code that’s not on the tag.

What You’ll Find on Plant Care Tags

Close up of Vine Lilac plant and plant care tag.Common & Botanical Plant Names

Almost every plant care tag will include both the common and botanical names for your plant. When you look at the Latin (botanical) name on the plant tag, you know exactly what you’re buying. The first word in the plant name is for the genus, and the second is the species, which can vary drastically in color, size and shape from other plants in its group.

EB Stone Organics Sure Start Fertilizers near palm houseplantPlanting Tips

If you’ve ever brought a plant home from the nursery only to have it wilt despite your best efforts, you’re familiar with the idea that what works for one plant won’t work for others. Since planting tips on the tag are general recommendations, we recommend that you speak with one of our Trusted Garden Advisors for local planting recommendations, including ways you can ensure your plant’s success from the beginning by planting it with a high-quality fertilizer like E.B. Stone Organics Sure Start or a fertilizer designed for the specific type of plant you’re purchasing.

Lighting Conditions

Different plants prefer different levels of sunlight exposure. While some ferns are too delicate to thrive in a sunny place, there are other varieties that do quite well in the sun as long as their soil stays moist.

The information you’ll find on plant care tags are general lighting recommendations for that plant and may need to be tweaked to ensure they’ll successfully grow well in our Arizona climate!

Here are some helpful lighting definitions:

  • Full Sun – at least six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight a day. Full sun can also be referred to as “afternoon sun,” since that’s when the sun is hottest and highest.
  • Partial Sun – three hours of direct sunlight, or roughly half of “full sun.” Partial sun, sometimes alternately listed as “partial shade,” can also be referred to as “morning sun.”
  • Full Shade – plants that require shade are often too delicate to tolerate the heat, and need moist roots to thrive. Full shade plants should get less than three hours of direct sunlight, if any.

Ruby Red Grapefruit Plant Care Sign from SummerWinds NurseryHere’s where we can help!  Since the plant care tags are not made for our specific, local climate, some of the recommendations may need to be adjusted.  Plants with tags that boast full sun may actually grow best in Arizona in partial sun and wilt if planted in full sun. When you purchase your plants, speak with one of our associates to learn more. You can even use a permanent marker to update your plant care tag with our local recommendations for success.

When shopping for plants, we recommend keeping an eye out for our in-store nursery signage to help identify local lighting requirements.

Watering Needs

Understanding the watering needs of your plants is very important and recommendations can vary by region.  While some plants prefer to keep their feet wet, others hate feeling soggy and will quickly drown if they get too much water.  Some plant care tags will give you clear watering directions like “twice weekly” or “keep soil moist,” while others use a series of raindrops:

  • One Drop – let the soil dry out between watering
  • Two Drops – water when soil is dry to a depth of one inch deep
  • Three Drops – soil should feel moist to the touch at all times

If the care recommendations are for a time frequency, that timeframe may need to be adjusted seasonally, based on our local climate, so that the plant isn’t unnecessarily too dry or moist.

Other Features

Monrovia Grow Beautifully plant care tag for a Pink-A-Boo Camellia.Size & Shape

Some plant care tags will let you know how high or wide a plant can be when it reaches maturity.  This is important information when determining how far apart to space your plants to avoid crowding and stunted growth.  You also want to plant your garden so that nothing is being shaded out because of an overly-tall neighbor.  Even though you may want your garden to appear full right away, remember your plants will thrive when spaced according to the labels’ recommendations and the plants’ maturity size.

Hardiness Zones

Many plant care tags will include a plant’s hardiness zone.  Plants are rated according to the USDA Hardiness Zones, which is based on the minimum winter temperature they can survive. Hardiness zones are specific almost city by city, depending on your geography, and should be considered carefully when selecting plants.  Simply because a plant has been shipped and stocked at your local nursery doesn’t mean it will be a perfect fit for your hardiness zone – even more so if you have to travel some distance between the nursery and your home.  While we source as many of our plants as we can locally, and bring in plants that are grown for climate, some plants may require additional care in the winter to stay warm, or in the summer to stay cool or receive enough water, for example.

Special Features

Finally, if the plant care tag has any room left it may include information on wildlife and its interaction with it.  For instance, certain flowering plants are known to attract pollinators, while others are resistant to grazers like deer and rabbits.  This information is correct regardless of where the plant is purchased.

A wooden table with SummerWinds Nursery We Guarantee Success logo etched in it and with plants on and below the table.Talk To The Experts At SummerWinds

The next time you’re browsing our aisles, feel free to ask our gardening experts for help deciphering the information on any of the plant care tags.  We’re more than happy to help you determine which plants are right for your yard, and make suggestions on successful combinations and local care requirements to ensure your success!

Much of the year, the care recommendations on houseplant tags are generally accurate. However, you may need to adjust your houseplant care by season—especially in the summer due to hotter temperatures and increased A/C usage.  If you have questions about houseplant care, check out our blog, “Your Guide to Houseplant Lighting and Care Through the Seasons,” or speak with one of SummerWinds’ Trusted Garden Advisors.

At SummerWinds, We Guarantee Your Success!