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Volume xviii, Issue 6 ~ February 11 - February 17, 2010

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More Fun with Geraniums

The Bay Gardener

by Dr. Frank Gouin

If you have some, you can have more

You can do much more with geraniums in winter beyond making them flower. Now is the time to take cuttings from your indoor plants.

I have been growing and propagating my favorite geranium, Bridget, for many years. Bridget is an ivy-leaf geranium with purplish-red flowers with white centers. I like it because it blooms all summer long, producing the greatest amount of flowers in late summer and fall until the frost kills it. Bridget is a self-cleaning cultivar, which means that as soon as the flower petals die, the heads dry and shatter, eliminating the need to pick off or dead-head flowers to keep the plant looking attractive and flowering. Self-cleaning geraniums are the way to go.

If you brought your geraniums in this fall and have been caring for them properly, you should be noticing new growth emerging from the stems. (If not, fertilize them with a high-nitrogen 10-6-4 lawn fertilizer at the rate of a teaspoon full per six-inch pot. Water only once weekly. Geraniums should never be watered daily. Allow the growing medium to become very dry to the touch. Then water well until water drips from the bottom of the container.)

Allow the new growth to grow three to four inches long before taking cuttings. At this time of year, the cuttings are soft and succulent and can often be snapped from the mother plant. If the cuttings will not snap, cut them just above a leaf petiole using a sharp knife.

Geraniums can be rooted without rooting hormone. I stick the cuttings into three-inch pots in a potting blend of two parts by volume compost and one part peat moss. To this blend, I add one-fourth cup of garden limestone per five-gallon pail of mix.

Next, place the pots on a tray filled with sand. If you have a small heating cable, place it in the bottom of the tray and cover with about one inch of sand. Use only a plastic or wooden tray. Do not use a metal tray if you are going to use a heating cable.

Geraniums root best with a bottom heat temperature of 80 degrees. Crowd the tray with pots and water well. Cover the pots with clear plastic to create a high-humidity chamber. Croquet wickets make an ideal frame for covering with clear plastic. The propagating unit should receive only indirect sunlight.

Check the pots daily to make certain that the rooting medium does not dry out. This is especially important if bottom heating. With bottom heat, geraniums will generally initiate roots in about two weeks. Without bottom heat, they may require four weeks to root.

Come summer, you’ll have plenty of new geraniums to plant.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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