Saturday, March 12, 2016

Step-by-Step Propagation

My rose-scented geraniums are doing very well, ticking over under lights for the winter.  In fact, they are doing a bit too well and have set a lot of leafy growth.  It's never a good idea to let a ticking-over plant get too vigorous when there's still weeks and weeks ahead before they can be put outdoors for the summer, so it's time to take a whole lot of cuttings.

The wonderful thing about taking cuttings is that you can propagate additional plants.  Too many for your porch?  Oh what a dreadful problem.  I guess you'll have to pass them along to friends...horrors.

Propagating is very easy (and scented geraniums love to grow, so they are really easy to get to "take" on new roots.  All you need are a few simple items:
The only challenging thing to find is a small tub of rooting hormone (that's the thing with the purple top).  You can make your own rooting hormone by either crushing an aspirin tablet in tap water and making a solution, or peeling the bark off willow trimmings and soaking those to make a solution.  I'm allergic to aspirin so have none in the house, and I don't have any willow growing in my yard (yet) so I rounded up a container of rooting hormone.  I've had this tub for a couple years, and while they say it expires, I've never noticed an issue with its effectiveness even if it is a year out of date.  In addition to a rooting hormone of your choosing, you'll need a pair of sanitized sharp scissors or a pocket knife, an old lettuce tub with lid, seed starting mixture, a chopstick or skewer, and of course cuttings from your scented geranium keeping in a mug of water.
Step 1: Trim the stem, make sure it is damp, and dip it into the rooting hormone.
Step 2: Shake off the excess rooting hormone powder by gently tapping the cutting.
Step 3: Using the chopstick, make a small planting hole in the dampened seed compost.
Step 4: Firm the compost around the cutting, making sure its placed firmly with no air gap around the stem.
Continue until you've used up all your cuttings, inserting first around the edge and then adding into the center of the container as needed.  As you can see, I had a lot of cuttings so hopefully at least half will take and I'll have plenty of baby scented geranium plants to keep and to share.  Some of my leaves were very large, so to encourage root growth and reduce moisture loss, I trimmed the larger leaves by about half (it doesn't hurt them at all) which also had the side benefit to making them easier to fit into the container.  Make sure the seed compost is nice and moist, and then...
Pop on the lid.  This will help keep the moisture in the container, which is important because drying out will slow root growth.
Then its just a matter of placing the container under lights or on a sunny windowsill, and waiting until you see the start of new growth.  This means that there's roots growing and your baby plants are ready for potting on.
I started a few cuttings a couple weeks ago, and they are doing well.  As you can see, I reused old yogurt/bulk food tubs and covered them with a simple plastic baggie.  This is a great technique for starting smaller batches of cuttings (it's particularly good for starting cuttings of rosemary or sage!)
No new top growth yet, but peeking through the clear tub, it looks like some little rootlets are making their way out into the soil!

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