Annuals can add such striking color in our gardens. But like everyone else I am looking for ways to stretch my gardening budget. One way is propagation.
Normally I purchase a couple hanging planters each year to give my patio some color. Our local nursery grows wonderful geraniums that just burst with flowers.
Each basket contains 4 to 5 geranium plants. I brought these planters in for the winter to see how they would fare. Even with a lack of care 2 of the 3 planters are doing okay, although its new growth is leggy due to the lower light available. So I took some cuttings of the plants.
PROPAGATING GERANIUMS IS EASY
At least this is what I’ve read! So I purchased some Jiffy peat pellets I use for seed starting, some rooting compound, and off I went.
It should be noted there are two different kinds of geraniums (Pelargonium). I have an ivy-leaved species known as Pelargonium pelatum. The ones I have are different than the more succulent species. It is good to note which you have as the treatment of these may be different for propagation. Namely a more succulent variety may need 24 hours of drying off before putting into a medium to avoid rot.
Each cutting I used had at least one leaf node that would be buried in the peat. A leaf node is a small swelling along the stem where leaves emerge. Its recommended that you choose cuttings where the leaf nodes are close together, but mine are leggy and so only a single node was planted. When taking the cutting be sure to use a sterilized knife. I used an exacto knife that I sterilized with a lighter.
Cut just below the leaf node making sure to keep the node intact. Err on the side of the stem being longer below the node versus cutting into the node. Remove all leaves towards the bottom of the cutting so that you have a nice stem length and the leaves will not touch the soil.
Rooting compound comes in powder an liquid form. I chose a gel compound ( Clonex ) that users said remained in contact with the cutting. The compound contains hormones to stimulate root growth. Use of this may not be necessary but you will have a higher success rate if it used.
The cuttings are dipped in the gel, then placed in the peat. The next step is to create a nice growing environment for the cuttings. You want high humidity without too much moisture that will promote rot. The cuttings can be covered with plastic bags that are held open by wire cages. In my case, I found 2 liter plastic bottles in the recycle bin. If you cut these 3 -4 inches above the bottom, the two halves form a plastic cloche. To allow a tight fit between the bottom and top, cut an inch long slit in the lower section of bottle. When you fit the upper portion over the lower, the lower can be squeezed together to fit inside of the upper portion of the bottle. Keep the cap on for more humidity, and if some drying is needed remove the cap.
On the right below you can see my finished cloches.
I do worry that the leaves leaning against the sides will cause some rotting, so I will monitor the moisture levels closely until I can get the cuttings to stand upright.
I will keep the cuttings in the front room in a place that does not get direct sunlight but is still bright.
Per my propagation book, I should start to see roots in 7 – 10 days on the fresh young cuttings.
Check back again, for the results of my first attempt at geranium propagation.
UPDATE after 10 Days
No roots showing yet. One of the geraniums in the bottle has gotten some kind of fungus and has lost its leaves. I don’t know if this is from too much humidity. Two plants that were not housed in the plastic cloches died pretty quickly due to lack of humidity to keep the leaves photosynthesizing. What a balancing act it can be. And they say this plant is easy! Maybe its because I’m doing this in the dead of winter that its more difficult.
Signs of roots. Fighting too much moisture.
So far I believe 2 of the 7 cuttings I started with have signs of root growth. By giving a slight tug on the cutting I felt a good amount of resistance. A success rate of 28% isn’t great, but I’m learning!
The cutting with the smallest leaves shown to the right doesn’t look to have much hope as the rot is at the base of the cutting. You can see the stems have darkened to a brownish color and the soil is quite moist. Click here for more on over watering indoor plants.
The cutting with a longer stem is showing signs it might have roots forming via the tug test I did. If you feel resistance after about 10 days of sitting in the medium it is a good sign roots have formed. I won’t be counting my chicks just yet.
The cutting with a single leaf fell out of the peat pot while I was moving it and has no signs of rooting. I don’t think I had enough of a node that would produce a root, so that one is out. So I have 3 still in the running for a new plant.
Here you can see a new leaf bud starting to grow on the healthiest of my cuttings. The hairs are a reminder that these plants can tolerate some dry and should have their soil completely dry before watering again. There is always more to learn with plants. That is why I never tire of caring for them.
After 4 Weeks
Two plants have produced nice healthy roots that have grown beyond the peat pots. Roots are between 1 and 2″ long. Each plants leaves show no signs of mold or rot. I potted each in 4″ plastic pots.
Do not keep the peat or other rooting material overly wet. Each day remove the cap on the plastic cloches to allow excess moisture to escape and air to be exchanged. At the first sign of any rotting issues, try to wash it off. More likely than not, you will lose the cutting, so make sure it does not come into contact with healthier cuttings.
2nd Set of cuttings
2x red = peat pots, 1 per cloche
2x white = inert rooting medium, 2 per cloche. Will look closely for signs of rot.