More resilient labelling of outdoor crosses

I’m looking for suggestions on how to label my crosses next season in a more resilient manner. I’ve started collecting hips and am annoyed that a very large % of the labels are now illegible. I’ve been using small string tags and initially I wrote on these with permanent markers of the Sharpie variety. That was good for a while but that started to fade and required re-writing a few times throughout the season and this got old real quick once I had to redo a few hundred at a time. Then I tried pencil and that worked great but I was brought unstuck by the local snail/slug population who thought it would be funny to eat the surface off my labels… regardless of what I used to write with. I now have a very large number of crosses that are unidentified because the labels were eaten off and have been forced to just collect all the ones with strings and tag remnants on them and put them all together into one big batch and will have to hope for the best and forget about parentage for these… I’m annoyed with this because there were a lot of interesting crosses such as ‘Temple Bells’ x ‘Anemone’ which I now can’t distinguish from the ‘Temple Bells’ x anything else. I’ve tried aluminium tags that you write the cross onto to form an impression… and these are great but they are heavy and large and I think putting a heavy tag on a thin branch contributed to a lot of aborted hips. I tried plastic plant labels but again, they are too big. I tried writing the cross onto budding tape and tying that around the stem but that faded very quickly. I don’t want to have to make my own by cutting things down because quite frankly I don’t have the time to mess around like this and I don’t want to reach the point where I have to dig up and pot everything I want to breed with and keep them in greenhouses away from the critters because they are part of my garden as well. There are too many different crosses to use things like a colour coded system of strings or pipe-cleaners etc. I also tried using one of those dyno labellers… that worked well for a while but it started to become real expensive when I had to keep buying new roles of tape and one role didn’t do that many labels. I’d print them out and then taped them around the stem and in the end it wasn’t practical. So I’m wondering what else to try or what others do that seems to last the distance?

Simon - We prefer to use a 4-inch piece of telephone wire looped around the stem below the emasculated flower and twisted lightly. Lasts the season! There are many different pairs of colors in a large cable. We got pieces of cable from the telephone installers, but I suppose with all the copper stealing going on nowadays they might have to turn it back in. We use the wire to identify the different pollens, and record the wire color and variety in a small notebook. We used 39 different colors last year, and there are many more to choose from in one of those large industrial cables. We know what the seed parent is, and as we typically make our outdoor crosses between the middle of June to early July, we are not to fussy about the exact date. When we harvest the hips long about late Oct/early Nov or when they turn color on the peduncle, we write the cross on a tag that goes with the hip for processing.


I make my own labels from yellow vinyl report covers that I get at Walmart. These are cut into strips about 1/2 inch wide and 2 inches long and a sheet-rock screw is used to punch a hole for the wire. I use 24 gauge wire from the flower arranging department at the local craft store. I use Sharpie markers to note the cross on one side and the date on the other.

I use plastic pot sticks and a #2 pencil. I cut them down in size, punch a small hole and slit in one end and hang them. I wish my crosses worked as well as the labels.


I use the same method as John. I get mine from the wire intended for thermostat controls. There are a lot more colors to choose from. It works great. Sometimes, I do find some fading with the pinks, I also use small colored zip ties used to control computer wiring.

For marking tags, etc. one of our consulting rosarians told me about using paint pens. These are available at art supply stores, and work very well. They do not wash off in the elements.


Hey Simon!

I persist in using the string tags because they work well in context of my work environment. Yes, I occasionally lose data because a slug has eaten the pencil marks off it, but I lose maybe a dozen tags out of 4000-5000 in a year. I consider that an acceptable loss. (Making 5000 tags a year means I have to use the most economical tag I can, and that means the premade string tags for me) Sharpie is absolutely unacceptable: it fades badly in a very short time. There is one brand of marker I used to buy called Garden Marker (hows that for a no brainer?!) that looked and acted very much like a Sharpie, but proved very permanent for at least three years under outdoor conditions. Even at the five year mark, some of the plastic tags have faded only 50%. Usually the plastic tags degrade before the Garden Marker writing does!

I can’t get these from the local garden centers anymore (dunno why) but apparently you can buy 'em online. I may have to order a half dozen this Spring. It is a five star product. IMO.

See URL for more info:


PS: its available in Australia…


Also available through Amazon:


I settled on a black fine tipped paint marker, see:


I have been using pipe cleaners. I do not use high number of pollen parents yet so between the single colors and ones I twist together I have enough color combinations to represent every pollen parent. It does not work well for really small hips that like to droop down. On these plants they tend to fall off.

Ordinary HB graphite wood pencil markings last for years.

I just use simple old twist ties of different colors and I don’t need many colors becasue probably the most colors I would need for any one rose bush is 2. for example if the cross is Gemini X Elina I would use green twist tie if the cross is Gemini X moonstone I would use red twist tie and keep the crosses on a master sheet. That way you can use the same colors on different bushes becasue you have the master sheet with all the crosses matching the colors for that bush. I don’t need dates because dates do not make a hip mature, I just use the color of the hip or what ever system you want to use. Maybe this is too simple but I ususally use the KISS system in everything I do. It is so much easier than all those pencils and tags.


Another way to color code your crosses is to use Curling Ribbon. Cheap and in a lot of colors available.

I use electrical insulation tape it comes in different colours but its main feature is that you can write on the roll then simply tear it off(about 70mm) put it round the stem and stick it to itself

That is a complete tag that will stay on the stem until cut off I can throw mixed hips in a bucket and sort them later

Actually I tag very few hips as I try to use all the bush for a single cross to get the no. off hips needed to get a reasonable no. of seedlings


I have done somewhat like John Moe but with nursery tagging tape which costs money, not free like the wire. I assign one per pollen donor and with 20 color varieties I have enough. No markers at all. Just a pollen key. I’ve been using the same batch for 20 yr because I sit and untie all those strips during the winter and reuse them 2-4 times, maybe more (depending on the color and brand). You can do the math on a 50 yd roll giving 450 tags. Paul’s way is cheaper for mass production. I’ve had great luck with nursery pens of really indelible black ink. You can write directly on the hip if you want. Not so good for minis or polyanthas.

For my tags it doesn’t seem to matter what I use to write on them… the slugs seem to acquire a taste for it and eat them all off… this was my biggest year so far with soemthing like two hundred differernt crosses and over a thousand different pollinations (my roses look like Christmas trees). I estimate I’ve lost about 50% of all my tags to these radula-weilding pests. Pencil lasts forever until the slugs eat it… I really don’t want to have to make my own because as I mentioned above I am time poor (really time poor). I like the sound of your idea Larry… I used about 60 different pollen parents and about 20 different seed parents… can you get this stuff in up to 60 different colours? Maybe just one colour and use the garden marker to write a number or letter code on it??? I was toying with the idea of just using the string tags again and carrying some water proof tape with me and just stick a cover over it once I had written on it… clear waterproof tape is hard to find though… at one stage I was getting some frustrated with it I started carrying a cup of melted candle wax with me and once I’d written on it I’d dip the tag in it but the dammed slugs liked that too.

Hmmmm found this too… says’s it’s waterproof! Might be all I need to do!


Bought 8 rolls of this to try. Comes with a dispenser so I can just whip a small amount off and stick it over the tag:


Good thread! This is what I enjoy about reading the forum. You can really read about a wide variety of ways to basically do the same task. Really shows that there are more ways than we realized, and I know that we haven’t had them all posted and never will!

I think you need to start sprinkling coffee grounds (don’t you have Starbucks there?) in the areas you keep your roses. It doesn’t kill the snails/slugs, but it sure drives them to other (insert neighbor’s names here) places on the property fast. And it is good for the plants. I stop into starbucks at least once a week, rarely get a cup of coffee, but almost always pick up two or three bags–nicely sealed in their heavy bags. I reapply approximately every two months, and they haven’t been a real problem at all, where I used to pick up a bucket of them(the snails-very gross) almost every week. Now if there aren’t any Starbucks, any brand works, and the expresso grounds are the best-I have one shop that I pass about once a month that separates out the expresso. And it smells so good!