I’m still a gardening newb, but I’ve heard it can be easy to forget what’s planted where. So, our family is using these fun DIY painted river rock garden markers to help us tell our beet sprouts and our carrot seedlings apart. Here are step-by-step instructions to help you paint your own river rock garden markers in just a few hours.

What you’ll need:

River rocks

  • Choose at least one for each type of plant.
  • If you don’t have a river nearby, you can buy a bag of river rocks at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Acrylic paint

Paint brush that works well for fine details

Water (to rinse the rocks and to clean off your paint brush)

How to create your garden markers:

Step 1

Choose your river rocks! I went the Lowe’s route, and I picked ones that had nice, smooth surfaces for painting. I also tried to find rocks that mimicked the shape of plants and could fit long names like “Brandywine Tomato” if necessary.


Step 2

Rinse and clean off your rocks to remove any dirt, algae or dust.


(This is a good step for your little ones to help with!)


Step 3

After you’ve washed your river rocks off, let ’em dry!


Step 4

Now it’s time to paint!

You have options here. I waited until my kids went to bed, and then I put on a good Audrey Hepburn movie (Sabrina). It took me about two hours to paint the first layer on my 14 rocks.

If you’re a little braver and more patient, you can get your kids involved. Or, get some friends together and make a fun activity out of it.

Your designs can be as detailed or as simple as you’d like. I wanted mine to be somewhat realistic, so I did a fair amount of Google image-searching. Especially for fennel. I’d never painted fennel before…


Step 5

Again, this is your call. I wanted to give my garden markers a little more “pop,” so I painted a white outline around the shape of each one. I painted the name of each plant, too.


Step 6*

Admire your work!

Then place the rocks in their respective areas of your garden. Bravo!


*Some people like to seal their garden marker designs with a non-toxic shellac or finishing spray. I decided against it because all of the labels I read had interesting warnings on them. I’m hoping the paintings on my little river rocks withstand the elements. If not, I still haven’t seen Roman Holiday or Charade, so I’m happy to sit and take care of any necessary touch-ups.

Happy gardening!