Sunday 18 November 2012

Propagating pelargoniums primitively

I call it primitive propagation when I use no special facilities such as propagating cases and frames to root cuttings. I use no special made-up compost, rooting hormone or sprays. Nor do I prepare cuttings in the conventional way, I rarely remove lower leaves. All I need is pots, multipurpose compost, felco secateurs and space on my unheated  greenhouse floor.

Unprepared cuttings. It will be best to remove flowers
Prepared cutting
The best time to propagate ‘bedding geraniums’ is late August. They have time to make sturdy plants before winter. In practice I wait until after my early September open-day. This does have the advantage that by then, there is no need to use polythene to reduce transpiration of the rootless cuttings.

Cuttings inserted and well watered in.

On this occasion I did remove lower leaves. It won’t improve rooting but old leaves will eventually die. It’s quicker and healthier to remove them now. I deeply insert the cuttings into multi-purpose compost and very thoroughly water them in. It is essential for the rootless cuttings to make capillary contact with the surrounding compost. To make sure, I water them twice. They will not be watered again for another two weeks.  For the record, now in mid November, they have been watered four times. Now it is important to let them get quite dry.

After ten weeks 95% of them have rooted

And why all this bother when I can buy plants cheaply in spring.
  • There is immense satisfaction in propagating your own plants.
  • I can maintain stock of my favourite plants.
  • With some dodgy accounting I can persuade myself it’s economic.
  • Every time you buy new plants there is danger of bringing in pests such as whitefly and red spider mite. Together with brown scale and mealy bug, these are completely banned from my garden and if they come in on new plants, my ruthless method of control is to bin them!

I love to inspect the lovely new white roots

Now that it’s mid November penetrating frost threatens. I over-winter rooted cuttings on a south-facing bedroom windowsill, but that’s another story. I now need to work up sufficient courage to tell Brenda that they need to come in.

Now somewhat scruffy the original bedding remains outside. With luck it will survive until Christmas.


  1. That's the problem isn't it - over-wintering - heating a greenhouse is a thing of the past!

  2. Yes,I might do a post later on this
    I have found the bedroom windowsill very successful for many years and many of the cuttings have grown sufficiently to root the tops in Spring to increase my stock further.
    Unfortunately using the bedroom is becoming a family 'issue' and like last year I felt obliged to use a frost free double glazed porch. Unfortunately it is not ventilated and faces north. Not good, but I did manage to get through with not too many losses!
    PS I brought them in this morning!

  3. I would love to bring my cutting doors but the wife thinks it is a way of bringing insects into our very sterile and contemporary house. She says what lives outside stays outside. I have a shed but little light, no greenhouse either.

  4. Timbob has left a new comment on your post "Propagating pelargoniums primitively":

    I would love to bring my cutting indoors but the wife thinks it is a way of bringing insects into our very sterile and contemporary house. She says what lives outside stays outside. I have a shed but little light, no greenhouse either.
    Sorry Timbob google seems to have filtered you out!

    You have a problem Timbo. I hate sterile houses where people think they can keep them free of bacteria and all life. Your wife would not like it here where we have a love bird flying all around and as I write is squeaking on my shoulder.
    I think the problem with geraniums brought inside is not so much insects although I do agree under poor conditions in the house they tend to get aphid. The problem in my case is spilling water and leaves and debris and Brenda used to give me a bad time and now I am banned!
    Sheds have the same problem as cold greenhouses and are often not frost free. My own garage is well insulated and has quite a large window and I do keep some tender plants in there, . My African agapanthus survived very happily there last Winter.
    Some people hang up their geraniums overwinter in sheds and it is surprising how a proportion survive.
    Trouble is you don't have a greenhouse to rescue them to in March!
    Better buy some at a good garden centre!


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