How do you mark your seedlings?

I use plastic labels and a “permanent” marker. The labels last about a year, maybe two and the “permanent” markings fade away after about a year also. I have some thick plastic labels also that I could fasten with some wire to the seedling. But the markings also fade away.

I’d love to hear how you mark your seedlings. I’d want a practical solution to mark my (bigger) seedlings and not eventually be left with “mystery seedlings” of which all reference is lost.


I struggle too… I use plastic labels and “permeant” markers as well when I pot them up in containers. When I plant them in the ground I use thermal labels. I helped pay for a thermal printer where I work and I can use it for the breeding work as I personally purchase the labels. I get the strongest plastic for permanency and then I use a paper hole punch and put it on a plastic stake. The stake holds it up nicely/horizontally so I can read it. When I put new seedlings in the ground I group them by family and have one label for the whole cross. When I make a selection I give it a unique code and make a specific label just for that rose. The plastic stakes are a bit of a challenge for me to get in the US in recent years. There is a French company that makes them. Years ago they had a US distributor I would purchase them from. That relationship is no longer in place. I had to navigate getting some boxes of stakes and it was challenging, but eventually worked out. The Euro/US dollar conversions were challenging and shipping was as expensive as the stakes… Perhaps there are other stakes that would be a good substitute. I love the somewhat rounded tips and bit of a constricted spot the label can snap in and stay. The company is Signe Nature. Hopefully there may be a way to access their wider range of produces with you being there in Europe Karel if it seems like a possible option (labels and stakes).

Anyways, I’m sooo grateful for these labels. They last several years out in the elements. The printer burns the ink into the plastic and they are UV resistant. Without them, I would have a mess and many many mystery roses… Maybe someday someone on the forum would be able/willing to purchase a thermal label printer personally and make a business out of generating affordable durable plant labels of some sort for people. Maybe someone with a small mail order rose nursery that could benefit from a label printer already could consider it as an extra service available to customers and have an online way people can cut and paste names/codes into??



I gave up on all of the “permanent” garden markers years ago; they all fade. Now I use a black grease pencil on plastic tags. I tend to use yogurt tubs cut into slices, as they last for years in the environment.
I used to use those aluminum tie-on tags years ago, and while the tags themselves are nearly indestructible, the wire ties degrade and let go, and so the tag dissociates from the plant. Also, if you tie one on a branch of the rose, that branch will inevitably die and fall away, and again, the plant and the tag go separate ways.
No method is perfect, as far as I can see. But some are clearly inferior to others.


I have some plastic labels with die cut holes so they can be tied on with twist tie wire and I have the aluminum labels with aluminum wires. I also have white plastic push-in labels to be slid into the pot between the root ball and pot sides. I write on all of them with #2 pencil. The graphite remains on the plastic well past the time the plastic eventually breaks up due to weather exposure and requires replacement. The pencil embosses the aluminum label which lasts until the wire breaks and requires replacement. “Permanent markers” are only “permanent” on textiles. If you get their ink on your clothing or upholstery, it lasts forever. Only graphite remains on a label when exposed to the weather and sunlight. Clair Martin, former Curator of Roses at The Huntington Library, used to tell stories about how roses were “an expensive proposition” during The Depression, so the rose garden was removed as the Library was unsure of its funding. Once The Depression subsided and the gardens were replanted, labels with #2 pencil writing were put in the planting holes in hopes of providing identification should the above ground labels go missing. He uncovered them when replacing plants decades later and found them still legible. I have plastic labels in my reuse pile with pencil writing on them EASILY 20 years old. I use a large eraser and erase what isn’t desired then re write in pencil. It’s the best method I’ve used.


For those outside the USA, #2 Pencil seems to be equal to a HB pencil.

I personally use a 6B pencil because they are softer so generally easier to write with them and pigment density is higher so darker writing. But yes, graphite (pencil lead) won’t fade from light exposure within our lifetimes so that should eliminate that part of the issue.


Pencil also works for me on first year seedling labels. If they make the cut after that, I use old window blinds and a P-touch label maker. The blinds last for years and the label never comes off.


I also use a graphite pencil on plastic tags (mechanical pencils are particularly convenient since there is never any need to sharpen them) and find that the writing lasts as long as the tag does. Pencils can also be used to write on cut vinyl window blinds, although they would probably last longer if they are made into hanging tags using a hole punch. However, I understand that graphite writing can wear off and become difficult to read in a few years through the action of snow and ice in the long, cold winters of the Upper Midwest (although frost heave and malevolent deer that love to pull out plant tags cause far more trouble).

Where I work, a large planting of shrubs was labeled by the breeder using some form of white plastic in the 1940s; the material was painted, cut into small strips and punched with a small hole punch, and then the codes were scratched through the paint. Whatever that plastic was, and whatever paint was used, those tags are still perfectly intact and probably just as legible today as they were when they were first made. They’ve outlasted the plants in many cases, and only came off when the wires failed or the branches were cut or died.

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I am wondering if Kim taught me the techniques I use, namely graphite on plastic or embossed aluminum cut from pie tins.
The dyes in ink markers fade rather quickly, and the grease pencils (china markers) I have tried likewise fade (which I find odd since they should incorporate a pigment and not a dye, it seems to me.) Pigments such as those in paint pens, or simple graphite, invariably endure longer in sunlight than dyes.


I gave up on labels for seedlings decades ago. I write directly on the containers holding seedlings. Early on these are three ounce cups, then soda bottles with the top cut off then three gallon nursery containers. The cups are temporary so a regular sharpie works. I use Sharpie paint based markers for the bottles and nursery containers which lasts for many years. If a seedling ever makes it into the ground then I rely on a bed map but do use a wooden stake in the ground with the plant number on it that gets replaced as needed.

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I’ve been struggling with a better solution for awhile now so it’s good to hear everyone else has the same problem. Only thing that seems to work is the good ol’ #2 pencil so I’ll stick with it. Thanks everyone for the testimonials!


A permanent marker (for plants) someone recommended on here has worked for a while before fading, on plastic markers.
My problem has been that markers disappear once the plant is in the ground.
Underground varmints playing a sick game? No clue, markers just disappear.
So I also have gone to a map of the bed. Unfortunately I have to actually remember to update the map as I remove seedlings, but at least it is there in the file to look back at.
My wife had the idea of labeling the maps with the year and keeping old ones.
I think it will be like looking back at crosses in my books to see what I have done, as I can’t possibly remember them. But this would be better, in that only the better ones (those that make it to ground trials) will be there to look at: more like a quick overview of the best seedlings over the years.

Use grease pen, works and stays, when rose dies can reuse by wiping with solvent but thoroughly. Markers another story.

Thought had the greatest going, an all metal 6 inch high stake, with labelling surface spray painted high gloss white. Unfortunately metal corroded too fast on labelling surface-paint contact from water, I resorted to putting auto body Klear Kote acrylic spray on all painted surfaces and clear metal contacts after marking. Will see how long it lasts.

Another vendor offered all metal no paint, but Amazon put a kibosh on purchase for some reason.

Going back to cut metal white Venetian blind and grease pen. Got lots of blind to replace due to large dog damage.

Just came across this. This is a pretty solid way of marking your seedlings :grin:. A bit pricy probably. 'RSM N5 ' Rose Photo

For newly emerged seedlings in my home, I use 5 inch plastic labels with a 4B soft pencil. For my permanent labels outside, I use the same pencil on labels made on plastic mini-blinds. The labels are attached to 1 inch wide by 18 inch stakes made of cedar fence boards.

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