Whilst the propagation of Geraniums (Pelargoniums) is increasingly being done by seed sowing, the traditional way of taking cuttings of Geraniums is a good way of ensuring that you get a supply of plants which are in all ways identical to the parent.
This is not the case with saved seed where the young seedlings are often inferior, and not always true to type.
In this section we are talking of the plants that are commonly called Geraniums - but are in reality Pelargoniums. This method of propagation does not apply to the true hardy geraniums which are normally found in herbaceous borders and other permanent year- round planting schemes.
The Zonal Pelargoniums - seen left - and the Ivy Leaf Pelargoniums - seen below left - are the the commonly named Geraniums that are normally sold in garden centres during the late spring and early summer bedding plant season. As with most bedding plants, they are not frost hardy, so can either be disposed of at the end of the summer flowering period, or dug up and over-wintered in a cool frost free shed or greenhouse.
There are another group of Pelargoniums - increasingly popular known as Regal Pelargoniums. These do best as indoor plants though they are increasingly being sold as bedding plants. This group is normally known by its proper name - Regal Pelargoniums, rather than Regal Geraniums!
Cuttings can be taken over a long period of time - depending upon whether you can bring them into growth in a warm greenhouse in the spring. Otherwise, any time during the normal growing season. Being softwood cuttings early in the season or semi-ripe cuttings later in the season. It is also possible to take softwood cuttings of Geraniums later in the season.
Late Summer is the traditional time for taking cuttings from Geraniums - either in late August or in September before the frosts and as the old plants are being lifted either for the compost heap, or to be potted up and bought indoors for the winter.
It is possible to obtain both semi ripe cuttings and softwood cuttings at this time. the traditional way of taking softwood cuttings is the better, and more likely to succeed.
The best cuttings - found on the side of the plants, are those which have not yet flowered, or are simply showing a flower bud which can be rubbed off. Tip cuttings are also suitable - preferably from un-flowered shoots.
The cuttings should be taken by cutting the shoot from the Geranium near to the main stem. They can then be trimmed to a suitable size - which is normally around 4in long - but may be smaller - depending upon the variety of Geranium.
The geranium cutting should be prepared after removing from the parent plant, by making a clean cut with a sharp knife, just below a leaf joint. The lower leaves of the cutting should be removed - leaving just a pair of full leaves at the top of the cutting. make sure that any small flower buds are removed.
Before inserting into either individual small peat pots or deep seed trays, the cuttings can either be plunged in a container of made-up fungicide or alternatively, drenched with fungicide one inserted into the compost.
Hormone rooting powder will help, but is not essential.
An open-textured multi-purpose compost is suitable, and better if Vermiculite or Perlite is added making a 50/50 mix. Sharp Washed sand will also be suitable. Don't force the cuttings into the compost, but ease them in after a suitable hole has be made with a dibber. Then gently firm the compost around the geranium cutting.
Geraniums can also be rooted in small propagating gel pots. I have heard success stories of geraniums being rooted in a made-up mixture of wallpaper paste gel!
If cuttings are placed in individual small pots, they can be stood in tray or propagator for the rooting process. A heated propagator will ensure quicker rooting, but the cutting can simply be placed on a light widow sill, where rooting will probably take place in 4 - 6 weeks. If not in a covered propagator, then make sure that the cuttings are covered - and airtight - with a light clear polythene sheet. A freezer bag is suitable for this! Avoid direct sunlight, though dappled sunlight will not cause problems. If in a greenhouse where the light intensity is more, then a thin milky white light polythene sheet should be used.
As an alternative to placing into individual pots, the geranium cuttings can be inserted into a deep seed tray - around twenty to a full sized tray, and also covered with a polythene bag.
Inspect the cuttings regularly, and remove all yellowing leaves that fall (It happens - especially to the bottom leaves). Keep a close watch for the Blackleg fungus - easily recognised in that the lower part of the stem literally turns black. If found, remove the affected cuttings and dispose.
See also | Taking Fuchsia Cuttings
By David Hughes - email@example.com