How to make embossed metal plant labels

Ros Badger / 15 March 2016

Find out how to easily stamp copper sheeting to make embossed metal plant labels.



I have always wanted to find an attractive way to label my plants, whether it’s to remind me where my perennials are placed or to mark where and when I sowed my seeds.

I love the aged zinc and galvanised metal tallies the National Trust uses in its gardens. Nearly always embossed with both plant and house name, they peek out through the undergrowth as pleasing to the eye as everything else in the garden.

A few years ago, I visited the Lost Gardens of Heligan and noted the wonderful slate board of ‘Gardener’s Notes’ attached to the wall in Melon Yard. An old roof tile had been framed and onto this the names of the seedlings being grown in the greenhouse and cold frames had been written in chalk. With this in mind, I decided to have a go at making my own labels; the idea was to paint wooden sticks with blackboard paint and write on each in chalk, but then this would work only under cover, so on to plan B.

Inspired by the etched tags from old country house gardens, I invested in a metal embossing kit and also bought some 0.1mm and 0.3mm copper sheets (available from craft and model shops, as well as online stores). Even a small sheet will yield masses of tags, so I suggest you try different shapes to suit individual plants, some to hang onto shrubs and some to stick into the soil. I am sure that, once you start, you will soon come up with some variations of your own.

Related: turn a colander into a hanging basket.

You will need

  • Card scraps for templates
  • Copper sheet, 0.1mm or 0.3mm (from craft shops or online)
  • Sharp Chinese or kitchen scissors or a craft knife
  • Cutting board or a flat cutting surface
  • Indelible black marker pen
  • Metal embossing or stamp kit (from craft shops or online), bradawl or old ballpoint pen
  • Hammer
  • Fine wire wool or pan scrub
  • String or fine copper wire (for hanging labels) or metal coat hangers for a stake
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Hole punch

How to make

Step 1

Make a card template for each label shape you wish to make. Place the templates onto the copper and draw around them with a pencil.

Step 2

Cut out your shapes. For this I used a pair of Chinese scissors that are very sharp; kitchen scissors work well although they may not be good for much else after cutting copper! Alternatively, work on a cutting board using a craft knife but take great care that the blade doesn’t slip as the two metal surfaces (copper and blade) can be unpredictable.

Step 3

To mark out your words or dates, use an indelible pen and mark a dot where each letter is to be stamped. Now use your stamp kit and hammer-stamp a letter onto a dot. If you prefer not to invest in the kit, a bradawl or an old ballpoint pen (that has run out of ink) can be used to indent the letters onto the copper, either as dots or joined up.

Step 4

Use the indelible black marker pen to scribble over the words. Then, with the fine wire wool or coarse pan scrub, rub away the pen marks; the ink will remain in the letters, making them stand out.

Step 5

Use a hole punch to make a hole then, for hanging labels, thread this with string or fine copper wire. For using in the ground, cut a wire coat hanger with wire cutters into roughly 15cm (6in) strips, bend one end into a hook with pliers and hang your labels from them.

Visit our gardening section for more great garden ideas.

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