How to Grow Geraniums from Cuttings
Successful geranium propagation, or how to grow geraniums from cuttings, has always eluded me....until this year. As part of my studies for my Virginia Master Gardener certificate, I attended a class on plant propagation - and the light dawned on me why my geranium propagation attempts in the past hadn't been successful. The secret was selecting the proper part of the geranium plant to use for the cutting and using the right ingredients to encourage the cutting to develop strong roots. You too can grow geraniums from cuttings. Geranium propagation is fun, and with a bit of time, effort and luck, you may be able to grow more lovely geraniums for your garden or window boxes this spring.
Growing Geraniums from Cuttings
About Growing Geraniums and Wintering Geraniums Over Indoors
There are two major types of geraniums: perennial geraniums and annual geraniums. Perennial geraniums can be grown outdoors using varieties adapted for your gardening zone. They tend to have smaller flowers and foliage than their showy annual counterparts.
Annual geraniums have larger flowers and leaves. Most people think of 'geraniums' as the kind they see at the garden center each spring: white, light pink, salmon pink, hot pink or red flowers, solid green or variegated green leaves, and a strong telltale scent. Annual geraniums are often killed with the first frosts of fall and rarely survive the winter cold except in the very warmest parts of the United States. Each fall, I dig up the geraniums from the window boxes and planters on my deck, and plant them in sterile potting soil and containers. I move the containers indoors into a bright southeastern-facing room. While they grow tall and lanky, and develop extra-large leaves to compensate for the dwindling winter sunlight, they winter over fine and adapt quickly once moved outside again after the spring frost-free date.
Wintering over your geraniums ensures that parent plants live for another generation. If you bring the pots inside for the winter, take special precautions to avoid unpleasant hitchhikers on your plants such as insects and diseases.
Plants that survive one or more winters indoors often grow to very large sizes. At this point, your geraniums may no longer fit into your window boxes or planters. That's where growing geraniums from cuttings comes in.
Growing Geraniums from Seeds
Geraniums can be grown from seeds or from cuttings. Seeds purchased from a reputable gardening catalog or nursery can be started indoors under lights several weeks before the frost free date. Follow the package directions for the optimum temperature and light requirements for germination.
Geranium Propagation from Cuttings
An easier way to start new annual geraniums plants is through a propagation technique called starting plants from cuttings. In this method, you will need:
- A mature annual geranium plant, preferably one with many stems
- A clean plastic container
- Sterile potting soil (bagged) - do not use garden soil dug directly from the ground. It can contain unhealthy microorganisms and insects larvae.
- Root hormone - root hormone is a powder sold at the garden center that encourages root development
- Watering can
- Sterile pruners - to sterilize your pruners, dip them in Listerine or rubbing alcohol before use
Steps to Growing Geraniums from Cuttings
- Place potting soil in the container of your choice. Make sure the container has drainage holes in the bottom. A small container or plastic pot is fine. Fill to about a quarter inch from the top.
- Select a stem from the parent plant that has several knobs along the stem. Cut the stem with at least two sets of knobs near the end. The new roots will grow from the knobs. Choose new growth rather than an old stem.
- Don't cut your stem too long. The entire stem will be inserted into the soil, with the knobs buried into the soil and the leaves above the rim of the container.
- Open your container of rooting hormone. Be careful and follow any safety precautions on the container. Dip the end of the geranium and the stem in the container. If you can't dip it, spread a paper towel on the ground, sprinkle rooting hormone on the paper towel, and roll the stem on the powder on the paper towel. Be sure to coat the little knobs on the stem with rooting hormone.
- Insert the stem coated with rooting powder or hormone into the soil.
- Water well.
- Place in a bright, sunny area outside or under lights indoors.
- Add a plant marker identifying the cutting.
- Continue to water daily or whenever the soil dries out. Some gardeners suggest placing a clear plastic bag over the pot to keep the soil moist, but I've had success just watering it.
- When new leaves begin to develop, your geranium cutting is ready to transplant. I wait until I have several large, mature new leaves before declaring my cutting a success and moving it into a planter, container or window box.
I plant my window boxes with geraniums and add white alyssum or trailing white bacopa to the design. Plant pink, red or any color geranium in the center and add a pair of white alyssum or bacopa to either side of the window box. I also use geraniums in my patio planters and add similar annual flowers or petunias to the boxes for a beautiful combination.
Annual geraniums require full sunshine but will still do well with partial shade. They attract hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden and offer the home gardener an easy, fairly carefree annual plant. By propagating geraniums from cuttings, you can easily add more plants at relatively little cost.
© 2012 Jeanne Grunert