Shelf Life

Shelf Life is a collection of plants growing in the packaging of foods, drinks, cosmetics and medicines.

Examples include a tomato plant growing from a bottle of tomato ketchup, wheat from a bag of bread, an orange plant from a carton of orange juice or a willow sapling from an aspirin bottle.

It is a reminder of our reliance upon nature and prompts you to ask the question:

How many plants have I used today?



15 years ago, Shelf Life was devised by Chelsea Physic Garden’s Education Department to illustrate the diversity of the plant kingdom and also to make the link between our everyday products and their plant origins.

Many of the younger visitors to Chelsea Physic Garden (around 2,500 per year) are very surprised – and often quite disgusted – that their meals may have come from plants. When they see tomatoes in a ketchup bottle, potatoes growing in a crisp packet and mint in a toothpaste tube, the message sinks in.

Our new Shelf Life Resource Pack
has arrived and includes:

  • Information about 22 plants in our everyday lives - with plant profiles and tips on how to grow them and create your very own display
  • Games to try out
  • Curriculum-linked ideas and activities (e.g. the history of slavery and the evolution of packaging)
  • An extensive bibliography of links and suggested reading

We have split the pack into 5 volumes as such:-

We welcome your feedback on these.


We also have a useful archive of newsletters/fact sheets that, in the past, have been sent to and used by teachers and students.

We supply them online here in text only format as a useful resource for teachers today: