Propagating Pelargoniums (Geraniums) from Cuttings
Zonal pelargonium cuttings normally root very easily in a free draining compost made with plenty of sharp grit, horticultural sand or vermiculite. I prefer to use a mixture of one part silver sand (sharp, lime free sand) to one part seed compost.
The general method for taking pelargonium cuttings is as follows:
- Select a donor plant that has good strong healthy growing shoots. You will also need a sharp knife or sharp secateurs, a clean 3½ in (8 cm) pot (or larger) filled a mixture of free draining compost (made with sharp sand or grit), plus a pot of rooting compound or rooting gel and a small dibber.
- Choose a healthy tip or side shoot between 5 to 7 cm (2 or 3 in) long and cut it cleanly with a sharp knife or secateurs just below a leaf joint.
- Sever the lower leaves from the shoot with a sharp knife. If the stem has a flower head, then remove that too.
- Dip the cut end of the stem in hormone rooting powder or use a hormone rooting gel.
Note: hormone rooting powders and gels should be applied in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, guidance and safety information.
- Make deep holes around the edge of your pot of compost mix with a dibber (a pencil is ideal). Place no more than four cuttings in a 3½ in (8 cm) pot, to allow room for air to circulate. The cuttings can also be set in a seed tray, in rows spaced at 5 cm (2 in) intervals.
- Insert the cuttings, firming the soil around them. Remember to leave plenty of space between the cuttings, as overcrowding can prevent airflow which encourages grey mould to form.
Note: geraniums do not usually need the high levels of humidity provided by a plastic covering and are often better without it.
As a personal preference I like to add a couple of canes to provide support and protect the cuttings from being knocked about, especially if I am not using a plastic covering.
- Water well but do not let the cuttings get waterlogged. Do not feed the cuttings at this stage, as this encourages the cutting to form roots in order to seek out sustenance.
- The cuttings should root in a couple of weeks, if placed in a warm shaded position in the greenhouse or on a windowsill that is shaded from direct sunlight. To root the cuttings faster you can use a heated propagator.
- Keep an eye on progress and snip off any flower buds that form while the cuttings are rooting. If any one of the cuttings develops grey mould or mildew then remove it to prevent it spreading to the others cuttings.
- After about three weeks, once the cutting has produced new leaves, give it a gentle tug to see if roots have formed. If the cutting resists then this will indicate it has grown roots.
- Once the cuttings have rooted they should be gradually weaned off their protected environment by increasing the ventilation.
- To strengthen the cuttings and develop the roots further, add a feed of dilute liquid fertilizer.
- Once the cuttings have developed a strong root system, they can be transferred to individual pots, filled with a good quality potting compost.
When transferring the cuttings use a widger or small trowel, to gently ease the cutting out of the soil, so as not to damage the newly formed roots.
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