How to Propagate Geraniums from Stem Cuttings

Vibrant geranium flowers are favorites of home gardeners, adding color to window boxes, borders, and beds.

A vertical close up image of pink flowers growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

There are three types: the hardy cranesbill (Geranium spp.), the hanging ivy type (Pelargonium peltatum), and the garden geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum).

In this brief article, we zero in on how to start new plants by taking stem cuttings from existing ones.

Here’s what’s in store:

Read on to learn how easy it is.

Preparing a Stem Cutting

The best time to take a cutting is when a plant has a flush of new growth, and before it sets buds, at any time during the growing season.

If you are growing garden geraniums as annuals, taking cuttings in fall before the plants fade means you’ll have fresh new ones to plant out in spring.

Here’s how to do it:

Choose a sturdy stem with healthy leaves. Try to avoid the flimsy newest growth and the older, woodiest stems, as well as any with discolored or damaged foliage.

A close up horizontal image of two hands from the left of the frame holding scissors and taking a cutting from a plant, pictured on a light gray background.

Use clean, sharp pruners, or a fine blade to slice through a stem.

Make the cut just below a leaf node and four to six inches down from the stem tip.

A close up horizontal image of hand from the left of the frame holding up a stem cutting taken from a geranium plant on a gray background.

Snip off the lower foliage, leaving two or three leaves at the top, so you have three to four inches of bare stem. Remove any flower or leaf buds, as they might direct energy away from root formation.

Rooting Stems in Water

Place the stem in a clean, clear glass or jar that is four to  six inches deep.

A close up horizontal image of a small plant growing in a glass of water set on a white surface with a tiled wall in the background.

Fill the jar with enough water to cover the main stem, but not enough to touch the leaves.

Place on a sunny windowsill in a location that maintains an average temperature of 65-75°F.

Change the water daily to keep it fresh. After about four weeks, you should see roots developing at the bottom of the stem.

Rooting in Potting Medium

An alternative method is to use a sterile potting medium instead of water.

Choose a clean container with good drainage holes that is four to six inches deep.

A close up horizontal image of hands demonstrating how to plant stem cuttings in small plastic pots.

Fill the container with potting medium, to about one-half inch below the rim. If desired, you can dip the cut end of the stem into powdered rooting hormone.

Make a hole and place the stem into the potting medium, pushing it down far enough to cover all the places where leaves were removed, as roots will form from these leaf nodes.

A close up horizontal image of two hands from the bottom of the frame planting small cuttings into plastic pots on a white surface.

Firm the potting medium around the stem to anchor it firmly.

Water thoroughly and place in a location with an average temperature of 65-75°F and bright sunlight. You can use a heat mat and grow light if you wish.

Keep the potting medium lightly moist but never allow it to become soggy or to completely dry out.

Some folks like to create a mini greenhouse for a cutting by placing a clear plastic bag over the pot. This is a clever way to maintain the appropriate ambient temperature and moisture required.

If you choose this method, be sure not to seal the bag or expose the plant to direct sunlight or it may become overheated.

Transplanting

Once you see roots through the clear container, or new shoots on the stems growing in the potting medium, you’ll know that your cuttings are thriving.

A close up horizontal image of two hands holding plastic pots with newly propagated stems on a white surface.

When the roots are one or two inches long, or you see new foliar growth in your potted cuttings, you can start the process of acclimating them to the outdoors, a process called hardening off.

If you took your cuttings in fall, make sure you wait until all risk of frost has passed.

Set the plants outside for a few hours each day for a week. Place them in a sheltered location at first, and gradually out in the open. Skip any days with inclement weather in the forecast.

At the end of the week, it’s time to complete the propagation process by planting your rooted and sprouted cuttings out into the garden.

Geraniums Galore

For those of us in the Northeast, like me, it’s economical to take cuttings from plants that we can only grow as annuals, thanks to our freezing winter temperatures.

And it’s really fun to have a plant nursery indoors while the ground outside is frozen solid.

A close up horizontal image showing new growth forming on a geranium cutting planted in a small glass jar pictured in light filtered sunshine.

Give geranium propagation a try, and don’t be surprised when you can’t find enough sunny spots for all of your little plant babies!

Have you tried taking cuttings from your geraniums? Let us know in the comments below.

If you think you’d like to try your hand at plant propagation, you’ll enjoy reading these articles next:

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About Nan Schiller

Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!

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