Rooting Geraniums and Houseplants

Geranium Root CuttingQuestion: I dug up two of my favorite geranium plants and put them in pots in a south facing window. Can I take cuttings now and grow new plants for next spring? I would also like to root some of my house plants. What do you recommend for best success?

Answer: Yes, you can successfully overwinter geraniums in a sunny window. If you have not cut them back, I would do so now. This will stimulate new growth which makes better cuttings than old stems from last summer and fall. I would fertilize them and let them grow for a month or six weeks until they have new stems at least 4 inches long.

Cut the stems off just above a leaf with at least 4 leaves above where you cut. Then trim off the stub of the cutting just below the bottom leaf and then remove that leaf. The area right where the leaf is attached develops the best roots. Cuttings will root best if dipped in rooting hormone (either liquid or powder). Stick cuttings up to the lowest remaining leaf in potting soil or a mixture of peat moss and perlite (often referred to as peatlite mix). Several cuttings can be stuck in a 6 inch pot.

Wet soil thoroughly and place pots in a well lighted location but not in direct sunlight. Cover with a clear plastic bag. The bag keeps the humidity at 100% so that the leaves do not wilt. If possible place a heating mat or pad under the pots to maintain a temperature of 70 to 75 degrees. If the soil temperature is kept at 70 degrees, roots will form in about half the time they would otherwise. Soil heating mats are available which have built-in thermostats set at 70 degrees.

When cuttings have several roots, transplant them to individual 3 to 4 inch pots and place them where they will get as much direct sunlight as possible. After new plants have developed several new leaves, the tips of stems can be cut off to stimulate branching. If you let the stems grow until they have 4 or 5 new leaves, you can use the cut tips to make additional cuttings. You actually have enough time to make cuttings from the first set of new plants and have the second set of plants ready to set outside in late May or early June.

The same procedure can be used to propagate indoor plants. Most of them will root from stem cuttings with 3 to 5 leaves. Tip cuttings will root the best, but other parts of vine-like stems can also be rooted. Some vine plants like philodendron and pothos will form roots on stems which touch the soil. You can push a stem into the soil and hold it in place with a paper clip. As soon as the stem is rooted it can be cut off from the mother plant and placed in its own pot.

East, west and south facing windows are best for starting new plants. If you do not have windows with enough sunlight you can supplement with grow lights. Metal halide and high pressure sodium lights are now available which are higher intensity and more economical to operate. For more information on lights, google “plant grow lights”.

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