How to Make Paper From Plants

Connect with an age-old process and the life cycle of plants to make fragrant, textured paper.

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by Allison Evans
Paper made from local, native plants — here bromegrass, little bluestem, and iris leaves — is different from paper you'd usually encounter, and it's the result of a fun and creative process.

Connect with an age-old process and the life cycle of plants by learning how to make paper from plants.

Many of us are conscious of ways we can use resources sustainably, create things ourselves, and value the objects in our lives by making them with our own hands. But we don’t necessarily think of the paper we use on a daily basis and the huge amounts of energy and water consumed by commercial paper mills. When you make paper by hand with plant fibers from your own backyard, you’ll participate in a long-practiced art and connect with plants around you — just as you grow your own bright, oddly shaped tomatoes and make rich, flavorful sauce from them, savoring every drop.

Tear a piece of commercial, bleach-white paper. It’ll tear easily. The fibers, the stuff from which it’s made, will be barely distinguishable. Handmade paper is stronger, harder to tear; and when you do tear it, you’ll see the long individual fibers that bind it together. You’ll smell the earthy bromegrass or lily leaves that formed its pulp and the chamomile flowers you added to the vat. Handmade paper makes thoughtful stationery, special occasion cards or decorations, and gifts. It’s art; you could even just hang it on a wall.

Learning how to make paper from plants will tune you in to the characteristics of your local, native plants or the ones you’re growing in your own yard. You’ll notice which plants around you might make good paper, and you’ll attend to when their leaves or stalks are ready to be harvested. You can plant milkweed to encourage butterflies, for example, and later harvest its stalks or pods for making paper.

dried iris leaves in bunches on a table
  • Updated on Oct 3, 2023
  • Originally Published on May 25, 2017
Tagged with: arts and crafts, Home and Gardening DIY, Homemade paper, iris leaves, Kristi Quillen, milk thistle, paper, pulp
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