We put 21 different plant labels made of a variety of materials through our battery of tests to see which ones are the best alternatives to plastic.

Plant labels

Labeling your plants is a necessary step in the gardening process, regardless of whether you are starting from seed, re-potting bulbs, or putting a cherished specimen shrub in the ground outside.

We are all familiar with the basic plastic stick labels that are available in a variety of colours. These labels can occasionally be used again (after the writing has been removed with white spirit or WD-40), but more often than not, they break or get lost in the garden.

Labels crafted from a diverse assortment of non-traditional materials are available for purchase. In light of this, the next time you need new labels, why not experiment with some that aren’t manufactured from plastic?

Additional types of label materials

We put outdoor labels crafted from a variety of diverse materials, such as solid bamboo, blackboard-painted wood, and zinc, through our battery of tests. After six months, both the bamboo and the wood had began to deteriorate, but they may still get the job done if you aren’t looking for anything permanent.

In spite of the fact that they will eventually biodegrade, they continue to be a preferable choice over brand-new plastic. The zinc labels are recyclable and appeared to be in good condition throughout the test; however, the ink from the pen that was provided with the labels washed out in less than two months.

The majority of the seed-tray labels consisted of some type of wood construction. They rapidly turned a different colour as they soaked up the moisture from the seed trays, and then they split apart and rotted.

How we evaluate labels made without plastic

All of the materials that our experts chose to use for the labels—wood, aluminium, slate, bamboo, bamboo resin, copper, and zinc—were easily accessible at garden shops and online. We selected thirteen labels that are appropriate for use in the ground outside, in addition to eight smaller ones that are designed for use in seed trays and inside.

We got a variety of pens and pencils to use as garden markers from the store. Some of the labels came with a pen attached to the package. On the basis of the suggestions made by the suppliers, we decided which pens and pencils would be appropriate for each label.

The same plant name was written on each of the four labels that we used for each type of label. After taking pictures of the fresh labels, we planted three of the outdoor labels in the ground and three of the indoor labels in a seed tray inside of our polytunnel.

In order to facilitate comparisons, the fourth label of each variety was brought inside and stored in a container with a lid. When it came to some of the labels, we experimented with using a variety of pens.

We evaluated the readability of the writing on each label after it had been written on with the various markers, as well as the appearance of the writing when it was still fresh. From April to October, we conducted an evaluation of the labels on a monthly basis by comparing them to the labels that had been stored.

We examined them for durability, making sure to look for any signs that the labels had become damaged or that the text had become less legible over time. Near the end of the experiment, we cleaned and reused the labels whenever it was possible, and then scored how often they could be reused.