How to Make Plant Labels from Recycled Plastic Containers


Plant labels are an item that gardeners use aplenty, but there’s no need to ever run out when you can make your own by recycling polypropylene plastic food grade containers.

A white plastic container can be cut with a pair of scissors to produce around a dozen labels in a few minutes. The bottom of the container can also be cut deep enough to be used as a pot plant saucer if desired.

The procedure is explained in the following four steps:

  1. Cut the top and bottom off the container to create a large plastic tube. If it’s difficult to start the cut, carefully use a craft knife (box cutter, stanley knife) to begin the cut that the scissors can fit into.
  2. Make one straight cut along the length of plastic tube so it can be opened into a sheet.
  3. Cut the sheet into strips, using an old label as a cutting guide to make them all then same width.
  4. Make one end of the strips pointed by cutting off the corners.
plant labels made from plastic container

What is the Best Way to Write on Plastic Garden Labels

Plastic garden labels, both the store-bought and home-made varieties, are quite shiny, and can only be written on using a pencil, a permanent marker, a wax pencil, or a fine paint marker.

  • Use a soft 2B graphite pencil on plastic labels, as a common HB pencil is too hard and doesn’t work properly on shiny plastic. Erase with a regular pencil eraser.
  • Permanent markers such as “Sharpie” markers will fade after a year or two, and are better suited for temporary labeling. Erase using a cloth dampened with methylated spirits or isopropyl alcohol.
  • Paint markers are very resistant to fading, will last for years, and can also be erased with methylated spirits or isopropyl alcohol.
  • A wax pencil (grease pencil, chinagraph pencil) can be erased using anything that can remove wax stains, such as oil (cooking oil, citrus oil, WD40), degreasers, sticky label remover (such as the citrus oil based ones). Wash with soap and water afterwards to remove any residue.

We can all produce less waste by practicing the “3 Rs” – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. By reducing the amount of disposable materials we buy, reusing what we have, and recycling existing materials, we reduce demand on non-renewable resources. Every little bit counts, including what we use in the garden!


15 thoughts on “How to Make Plant Labels from Recycled Plastic Containers

  1. hi angelo…
    i am visiting your site after a long time and gasp at the size and depth it is now!
    i have a couple as long term interns at pointReturn and i am introducing them to your work. they are dropouts from the corporate world and full of enthusiasm.
    they may be getting in touch with your for your advise and wisdom. trust you will have the time.
    keep goin’, growin’, angelo
    warm regards

    1. Hi DV,
      Thanks, glad you like the site! There’s still plenty more to come! There’s so much to write about…
      Your interns are welcome to get in touch with me at any time, I’m more than happy to share any knowledge, experience and wisdom that I can.
      I really admire and respect the scale and extent of the permaculture work you’re doing on pointReturn, it’s impressive stuff!
      warm regards

  2. dear angelo – this is one half the long term interns from point return with DV.
    my email has been appended along with this reply.
    will be in touch.
    best – sriram

  3. Have been used the wooden lollipop sticks written with ball pen for labelling which dispersed after rain or other reasons, & thinking of buying the aluminium labels from Bunnings which I don’t like.

    Now I will use yogurt or ice cream containers to make labels!

    Thanks. 😉

    1. Thanks, it’s a great way to recycle household plastic, to make plant labels from them. You can use permanent markers on icecream sticks, they last OK as long as they are dry when you write on them, if they have taken up a bit of humidity, the ink spreads too much and they become hard to read.

    2. So adding to more pollution. You could create a small plan of your garden on computer instead or just rewrite on new paddle pop sticks.

      1. Thanks for your comment, a further explanation may be needed here.

        The labels are more often used for pots, especially when propagating plants or raising seedlings. Rather than throwing used plastic containers into the recycle bin, they can be repurposed and last almost indefinitely, reducing demand on new plastic labels, therefore conserving non-renewable fossil fuel resources. Permanent markers used to write on then can be wiped of with methylated spirits or rubbing alcohol, so they can be used again. You’re not adding to any pollution unless you litter with the recycled plastic labels. If they’re no longer usable, dispose of them in the plastic recycle bin for a new lease of life! 🙂

        Unless you eat a lot of ice creams or icy poles on a stick, then paddle pop sticks have to be purchased, putting demand on industries that cut down trees. Being made of wood, they eventually break down, and you can only write on each side once as they can’t be erased.

        Hope this helps!

  4. Hi all,
    I live in Amsterdam and here a lot of our garbage ends up on the street near the place where the garbage-men (thanks guys) pick it all up the next day or so.
    I find lots of useful stuff there,
    Also old (or not so old) luxaflex.
    Luxaflex you use in stet of a curtain, its all small slips of plastic and a fancy system to open en close it.
    These slips are also wonderful for making plant-name-tags
    from down-under Toos

  5. I’m passionate about repurposing everyday items to reduce our personal footprint on the planet and teach others how to make their own garden supplies from household ‘waste’. A few of these are plant labels and watering cans from milk bottles, seed raisers from plastic meat trays, egg cartons and toilet rolls and organic fertiliser spray bottles. Happy to share the instructions with you at

  6. I make mine out of old plastic mini blinds. They are perfect for plant markers and you can make them as short or tall as you want then.

  7. So another idea – I had thought the white jar was going to be a planter at first. Once you cut the bottom off, leave the lid screwed on & punch a hole in it for drainage, turn it upside down and place in the bottom as the watering tray. The tapered top will fit nicely into the bottom as the tray I think!

  8. Hi, the top could be used to put around squash plants to keep the stem from contacting the soil as it grows and thwarting squash bug larvae. Or, to wrap around landscape plants to prevent mulch from resting close to the stem, especially in winter.

  9. I thought the top could be used as a snail guard around seedlings planted in situ. Use copper tape to make a ring around the outside of the wide end, and place narrow end around the seeded patch…
    I though about doing it up the other way, but thought watering would be tricky, however it would create a little hot house for those seedlings, would just need to ensure water was getting into the edges.

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