How to Read a Plant Tag

Understand the marker that comes with your plant using this handy guide from HGTV Magazine.

begonia plant tag

Begonia Plant Tag

Learn how to read a plant tag correctly

Photo by: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

Marko Metzinger/Studio D

1. Common Name

This is what the plant is generally called. If you want a certain color or shape, you’ll need more specifics.

2. Scientific Name

Every plant has a scientific name. The first part is Latin and usually italicized on the tag. It describes the genus, or group, the plant belongs to and its species. The scientific name also includes the cultivar, which is in single quote marks and classifies the plant even further in terms of color and leaf and petal shape.

3. Mature Height and Spread

This is the maximum height and width the plant is likely to reach when fully grown.

4. Hardiness Zone

These numbers let you know the region a plant grows best in. Zones are established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture based on temperatures. You can still grow plants that aren’t in your hardiness zone, but you’ll have to treat them as annuals. To find your zone, go to garden.org/zipzone.

5. Sun Exposure

You’ll see this info written out or as an icon. When a tag indicates a plant needs full sun, it should get at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Partial sun/shade, shown here, means it needs about half that amount. If a tag says a plant needs full shade, it should get less than three hours of sun per day.

6. Water Needs and Animal Resistance

If a tag doesn’t say how often to water the plant, look for the number of raindrops. One means you should let soil dry out between waterings. Two means soil should be dry an inch below the surface. Three means you should keep soil moist constantly. An icon with a crossed-out rabbit or deer, like this one, means that animal won’t nibble the plant.

Next Up

Lawn Fertilizing: Learn the Basics

Not all lawns are the same. Find out what fertilizing program is best for your grass so you can get on the fast track to a lush lawn.

How to Plant, Grow and Care for Poppy Flowers

An iconic flower, there are actually several types of poppies. Get expert tips and advice for growing and harvesting them all.

How to Plant a Kitchen Herb Garden

Herbs are easy to grow, they don’t take up a lot of space and they are a healthy way to add more flavor to your cooking. Whether you’re a beginning gardener or looking to elevate your culinary skills, an herb garden is the way to go.

Planting and Caring for Moonflowers

Our garden experts offer moonflower planting, growing and care tips for this blooming vine.

How to Grow Daylilies

With some advance planning, you can have glorious daylilies for spring by planting in the fall with this advice from HGTV gardening experts.

How to Plant and Grow Marigold Flowers

Easy-to-grow marigolds add bright yellow, gold, orange and creamy-white color to gardens and containers from spring into fall.

Growing Sunflowers: When to Plant and How to Grow Sunflowers

Learn the ins and outs of growing sunflowers. Planting these bright and breezy bloomers is a snap. Growing them is even easier.

How to Plant, Grow and Care for Hydrangeas

No garden’s complete without this old-fashioned favorite, and new varieties make hydrangeas easier than ever to grow.

How to Plant Dahlias

Learn the basics of planting dahlias — including simple tips to improve your success.

How to Grow Bleeding Heart

Find out how to grow bleeding heart, a low-maintenance perennial for shade, and how to care for it in your garden.

More from:

Growing 101

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.