Growing geraniums from cuttings is a faster alternative to growing them from seeds. This method of propagation takes only up to eight weeks before you see blooms. The process is relatively simple.
You can grow geraniums from cuttings by rooting them in water or potting medium. Rooting them in water requires frequent replacement of the water to keep it from becoming murky. On the other hand, the potting medium should be constantly moist for a successful propagation.
In this article, I’ll explore these and other tips to help you grow geraniums from cuttings. Following the below guidelines will ensure you’ll be able to bring beautiful, bright geraniums into your garden without purchasing a new plant from your local nursery.
|Propagation Speed||Cuttings bloom in 6-8 weeks, faster than seeds.|
|Rooting Methods||Cuttings can be rooted in water or potting medium.|
|Benefits of Cuttings||Faster growth, identical to the parent plant, and potential for hybrid varieties.|
|Selection of Parent Plants||Choose healthy, mature plants, considering variety and climate.|
|Types of Geraniums||Differentiate between true geraniums and pelargoniums based on climate suitability.|
|Cutting Collection Time||Best in spring or summer, from healthy stems.|
|Cutting Preparation||Cut 4-6 inches long below a leaf node, avoid rooting hormone.|
|Rooting Methods Detailed||Use soilless mix for potting or root in water, maintaining moisture and avoiding direct sunlight.|
|Transplanting Rooted Cuttings||Transplant when roots are established, considering pot size and soil requirements.|
|Outdoor Planting||Acclimatize cuttings, consider sunlight exposure, soil type, and spacing.|
|Fertilization and Watering||Use slow-release fertilizer and water deeply, adjusting frequency based on soil dryness.|
|Mulching||Apply organic mulch for moisture conservation, weed suppression, and root insulation.|
Benefits of Cuttings
Geraniums are popular flowering garden plants because they grow quickly and provide vibrant colors to your garden in spring or summer.
They are easy to grow from seeds but the process can take 13-15 weeks before you see the blooms. Planting the seeds during the cool season can extend the growing time to 20 weeks or so.
In addition, depending on how many types of geraniums you have in your garden, you might end up with hybrids. Hybrids are excellent for gardeners who are open to surprises. Many geranium hybrids belonging to the genus Pelargonium are tolerant to heat and diseases.
Still, many gardeners prefer to grow geraniums from cuttings because the time it takes from rooting to blooming is typically only 6-8 weeks, which is half the time it takes to grow them from seeds.
If you want to grow geraniums that are identical to the mother plant, growing them from cuttings from a healthy, mature plant is the best way to go.
Selecting Healthy Parent Plants
There are several factors to consider when selecting a parent plant to get your cuttings from. These include the geranium variety and your climate, the season for collecting the cuttings, and how to properly cut the plant.
Let’s discuss these in more detail below:
1. Choose Between True Geraniums and Pelargoniums
There are two main types of geraniums: the true geraniums or crane’s bill and the pelargoniums.
The true geraniums are winter-hardy perennials that grow in USDA zones 3-9. They belong to the genus Geranium.
On the other hand, pelargoniums are their tender relatives that thrive as perennials in USDA zones 10-11. These geraniums belong to the genus Pelargonium.
These details are crucial when choosing plants to grow in your region. Choose perennial varieties that are suitable for your climate because it’s best to propagate geraniums from two-year-old plants that had at least one blooming season.
Avoid collecting cuttings from plants older than three years old because they’ll have woodier stems that may lack vigor and have difficulty forming roots or flowers.
You may grow and propagate pelargoniums from cuttings even if you live in a colder region if your area has bright sunlight during the cold season. You’ll need to keep them indoors during this time to control the temperatures, which is essential to successfully root the cuttings.
Ideally, daytime temperatures should be between 70 and 75 °F (21 and 24 °C) and nighttime temperatures range from 60-65 °F (15.6-18 °C).
They will grow slowly and may take up to three months to grow long enough roots if daytime temperatures fall below 60 °F (15.6 °C). The cuttings might also lose vigor, resulting in fewer blooms.
That’s why pelargoniums are often grown as annuals in areas with freezing winters and low light levels during the cold season.
2. Take Healthy Cuttings During Spring or Summer
Geraniums don’t go dormant, so you can take cuttings almost any time of the year. I recommend removing cuttings from your geraniums during the warm seasons outside the blooming period, such as in early spring or late summer.
If you live in a frost-free area, you can trim cuttings during the cooler months of the year as long as there’s plenty of sunlight.
When retrieving the cuttings from the plant, avoid taking weak or brown stems. Aim for the healthiest stems. Otherwise, you’ll drastically reduce their chance of growing into a healthy plant.
Avoid stems that are:
- Filled with wilting leaves
While you should avoid taking cuttings from a diseased plant, you must also ensure that you don’t spread diseases to the geranium plant when taking a cutting by using clean tools. Before use, you should clean them with a 10% bleach solution, rinse them well, and let them dry properly.
3. Trim the Stem Below a Leaf Node
Measure the stems you want to get cuttings from. Ideally, the cutting should be 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) long. Avoid making your cutting longer than 6 inches (15 cm). Otherwise, it won’t be able to root properly, and if it grows, it will give you a leggy plant that doesn’t display many leaves.
Snip the cuttings off below the node. Make sure you use sharp pruners so that you can neatly cut through the geranium’s stem. You want to keep the node intact as this is where the plant contains a concentration of hormones that will assist rooting.
Remove the leaf buds, flower buds, dried leaves, and even healthy leaves at the base of the stalks, but leave a couple of healthy leaves at the top.
It’s always good to take several cuttings if possible. This increases your chances of achieving success with your geranium cuttings and allows you to experiment with different growing methods to see which one works.
4. Don’t Add Rooting Hormone
Some plant cuttings require being dipped in rooting hormone to increase their chance of growing when you plant them. This isn’t necessarily the case for geraniums, as they already have a natural root growth hormone that they can use.
Bear in mind that rooting hormone can sometimes cause the ends of your plant cuttings to become soft, which puts them at risk of root rot, a condition that can be fatal to your plants. Rooting hormone can also damage the delicate tissue of the geranium plant, so you have to be mindful before using it.
Two Ways to Root Geranium Cuttings
Depending on the rooting method, you may need to let the cutting form a callous.
I was often successful in rooting my geranium or pelargonium cuttings in water or sterile potting mix or compost without waiting for it to callous over. However, I noticed that there’s a higher risk of root rot when planting them directly in a mix of potting soil and fresh, homemade compost.
A good rule of thumb is to directly stick your cutting into water or sterile potting mix after removing the lower leaves, leaf buds, and flower buds.
On the other hand, let the cutting sit on a dry paper towel in a well-ventilated room away from direct sunlight for 3-5 days to let the tip form a scab. This will reduce the risk of fungal diseases or rot.
Follow the tips below on how to root the cuttings in two different methods:
Rooting in a Potting Mix
A soilless mix helps your plant cuttings grow and thrive without the risk of contamination. It contains sterile ingredients, such as perlite and vermiculite, that promote well-balanced soil drainage and moisture retention. Some mixes also contain sterile compost.
You can also propagate geranium cuttings in standard store-bought potting soil and homemade compost.
Once you’ve selected the potting medium, follow the steps below:
- Prepare plastic pots or a seedling plug tray with each hole 2 inches (5 cm) wide and 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) deep. The container should have drainage holes. I prefer clear plastic cups because I can see the new roots poking out of the potting medium. I just drill 3-5 small holes at the bottom of the cups. Choose a container with a mouth wider than the base.
- Fill the container with your chosen substrate and moisten it.
- Use your finger to make a hole one knuckle deep in the substrate and insert your geranium cutting. Pat around the cutting so that there are no gaps.
- Place the setup near a bright window but keep it away from direct sunlight. Rotate the container every three days.
- Keep the medium moist but not soggy. Ensure the room has good ventilation and the humidity level remains below 40% to prevent rot.
The cuttings should form roots within 2-3 weeks if they’re planted during the warm season. In my experience, some cuttings even bloomed within eight weeks when I forgot to remove the small flower buds at planting.
To promote faster growth during the cooler seasons, you can put a heating mat underneath the pots or tray and keep it between 65 and 75 °F (18 and 24 °C). Keep an eye on the substrate and water it accordingly, as it will dry out faster with a heating mat.
Rooting in Water
This is a great alternative to rooting geraniums in soil because you can easily see the roots growing and whether or not your plant is ready to be transplanted into the garden soil or a larger container.
Follow these steps to root your cutting in water:
- Put a geranium cutting in a small jar of fresh water.
- Don’t let any leaves touch the water.
- Place the setup near a bright window but not under direct sunlight.
- Keep the humidity levels low (below 40%) to prevent rot.
- Replace the water every 3-5 days or as soon as it gets murky.
When roots form and reach at least 2 inches (5 cm) long with a few new leaf buds, the cutting is ready to be planted in the soil.
Transplanting Rooted Cuttings
Within 3-4 weeks of planting under suitable conditions, you will see the geranium cuttings growing some roots and new foliage or leaf buds. This is a good indication that they can be planted in a pot that’s filled with potting soil.
Avoid tugging the roots of the cutting grown in a potting medium, as this can damage them. You can slide the potting medium out of the container and gently rub it off with your fingers to inspect the roots. Healthy roots should be white and at least 2 inches (5 cm) long.
If the plant is ready, transplant it using the following steps:
1. Prepare a Pot and Potting Soil
The pot should only be about 4 inches (10 cm) wide and 4 inches (10 cm) deep, as the cuttings want to be potbound before they’re planted in a larger pot or garden soil. I recommend using a breathable terracotta pot with drainage holes.
If you’ve acquired your geranium cuttings during autumn, they’ll be in this pot during winter, then you’ll be able to plant them in their permanent pot or spot in the garden once spring comes.
Growing geraniums in planter boxes may have other size requirements. Read my complete guide on how deep your planter box should be for flowers, including geraniums: How Deep Does a Planter Box Need to Be for Flowers?
When purchasing potting soil, I’d recommend pre-mixed and ready-to-use organic potting soil. I look for potting soil with ingredients such as coco coir, worm castings, kelp, perlite, and mycorrhizae. If you don’t want to worry about chemicals, be sure that it’s OMRI-listed as organic.
Here are the steps to repot the rooted cutting:
- Fill half the pot with damp potting soil.
- Place the plant over the soil and spread the roots carefully.
- Cover the roots with about an inch (2.5 cm) of soil.
- Top the soil with a tablespoon of slow-release or granular geranium plant food with a 10-20-10 NPK ratio.
- Water the pot deeply as soon as the top inch (2.5 cm) dries out.
2. Harden Off for Outdoor Planting
Note that it’s a good idea to harden them off before they’re planted in the garden. This is when you acclimatize the cuttings to the outdoor conditions. To harden off geraniums, you should put your young plants outside for a few hours per day, ideally when the temperature is at its warmest.
Choose a spot that receives bright, filtered light. Then, move them back inside the home to prevent them from being exposed to harsh temperatures later in the evening.
Start with one hour and increase the number of hours every two days. Do this for a few weeks until the geranium cuttings can stay outside for the whole day.
3. Transplant Them in the Garden
In spring, you should remove the cuttings from their small pots so you can plant them in larger pots or garden soil.
When repotting to an outdoor planter, increase the pot size by 2 inches (5 cm) every time you repot your plant. The largest pot for geraniums at maturity is 12 inches (30 cm) wide and deep.
When transplanting into the ground, do this when the risk of frost has passed in your region. Choose a spot that receives about 6 hours of morning sunlight and partial shade in the afternoon.
Ensure that the soil is loose, rich in organic matter, and has a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Sandy loam soil with around 2-3 inches (5.7.6 cm) of compost in the upper 6 inches (15 cm) is ideal for geraniums.
In frost-free regions, you can plant the rooted cuttings in the garden when the soil temperature is safely between 60 and 75 °F (15.6 and 24 °C).
4. Leave Enough Space Between New Plants
When planting the cuttings in the ground, you want to ensure you leave enough space between them so that when the geranium plants are mature, they won’t touch each other or become overcrowded.
Consider how large your geranium plants will grow. Geraniums tend to reach a height of between 6 and 48 inches (15 and 122 cm) and a width of 6-36 inches (15-90 cm), depending on the variety.
For example, zonal varieties of geranium reach up to 2 feet (60 cm) in height and width. By comparison, regal geraniums grow 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 m) tall and 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8 m) wide.
The consensus is to leave a space equal to the expected width at maturity on every side of the plant. For instance, if your plant is expected to spread 2 feet (60 cm) wide, the next plant should also be 2 feet (60 cm) away.
5. Fertilize Your Plants
Once the cuttings have been transplanted, wait a week before applying a slow-release 10-20-10 fertilizer. Geraniums can bloom several times all year round so they will need a slow-release fertilizer once a month in spring and summer.
You can also use liquid fertilizer to ensure you give the cuttings a gentle feeding when you see flower buds form. To do this, mix two tablespoons of water-soluble fertilizer into one gallon (3.8 l) of water. You can apply this mixture to your geraniums once every three weeks during the active flowering season.
Allow the plant to rest in winter by topping the soil up with 2 inches (5 cm) of compost as mulch and slow-release fertilizer.
6. Water the Transplant Deeply
After you’ve planted the geranium cuttings in the ground, it’s essential to water them deeply. You should give them enough water to soak the ground around the plant 6 inches (15 cm) deep. This encourages the geranium’s roots to grow deeper and become more drought-tolerant.
Once the cuttings have been planted, you should water them about once or twice a week, depending on how quickly the upper 2 inches (5 cm) of soil dries out. Let the surface feel a bit dry between waterings so that you don’t give your geranium plant too much water.
7. Add Mulch to Your Plants
A good tip for looking after the geranium cuttings you’ve planted in your garden is to apply some mulch to them.
Apply a 2-inch (5 cm) layer of organic mulch like straw or sawdust around the geraniums. Avoid putting it too close to the plant crown, especially if the weather is excessively humid, as doing so will encourage mold growth and rot.
Mulch also has various benefits for plants, including the following:
Mulch prevents weeds from competing with your plants for nutrients, oxygen, and water. Moreover, if weeds do grow in the mulch, they’re much easier to pull out of the ground and eliminate.
Reduced Moisture Loss
Mulch reduces how much water evaporates from the soil, so you don’t have to water your plants as frequently or heavily.
Improved Soil Quality
By encouraging better air and water movement throughout the soil, mulch encourages roots to better access nutrients, water, and oxygen in the soil, resulting in better soil quality.
Mulch helps the soil stay cool during summer and warm in winter. It also prevents plants from becoming dehydrated in very hot conditions.
Growing geranium cuttings is usually a pretty straightforward process, but you have to ensure you follow some specific tips.
- Collecting cuttings from a healthy plant
- Planting the cuttings during spring or summer
- Keeping the potting medium moist or replacing the water substrate every 3-5 days
- Keeping your cuttings in a sunny area of the home
- Ensuring they are not exposed to high humidity
- Acclimatizing them to outdoor conditions before moving them outdoors
- Feeding them fertilizers for continuous growth
Try propagating your geraniums in water or potting medium and see which one works best for you. Remember the tips outlined in this article for successful propagation. Happy gardening!