What's the secret to rooting cuttings?

fieldofflowers(3 or 4a)November 2, 2013

I've been trying to take cuttings of the geraniums I brought in before the freeze. I tried rooting in both water and soil. I've tried large cuttings and small ones. I've tried keeping them in bags or left in the open uncovered. The situation is the same: They all rot. The stem turns black and the plant dies from the ground up.

I've also tried drier soil: They wilt...dry up or still rot. I'm getting worried because I am running out of plant material. And plus I have to keep the larger outdoor/indoor plants away from my main houseplants (my show African violets), which means they don't get the best light. It's nearly impossible to do isolation in a 1 bedroom apartment situation, but I do try. They've all been treated. If I can get a smaller portion to root, I can keep it in a bag isolated and directly under the plant lights. A small cutting would be easier to keep over the winter than something too large to put under my lights. So far I've been having issues with rot. It also happened with the begonias I tried to save.

These are scented geraniums btw and about 2-3 different varieties. I'm not sure if those are harder than the norm or not. I have had a few successes in past years, but I can't see what I've done differently.

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Hi. The scented can be more sensitive to rooting. Exception in my experience has been the very robust citrosa geranium (commonly called the mosquito geranium in my area because it's supposed to repel them).

Last year a kind neighbor offered to me some clippings off her "old spice" geranium. I had never met this geranium before and viewed it as delicate because of it's small, soft, velvety leaves. I took 3 tip ends, avoiding the variegated ones since they can also present problems (less chlorophyll) and hoped for the best. She had been keeping the potted plant in her unheated garage, as we have our killing frost by the end of September. 2 rooted, one in water and one in peat based potting mix, but I babied them! I stuck them under my kitchen cabinet light during the day to give them more light, and on a heating pad (meant for people) during the evenings. I think it was over 3 weeks before the first root nub showed up!

This year I took cuttings before the end of August (before evening temps drop below 10C since cool evenings play a part in how quickly they'll root) and I still had rot! I did some in soil, and some in water which I changed every 2nd or 3rd day, the bottoms of the stems turned black, but the cut base was still healthy and the stem was firm. Ended up the first roots broke thru the darkened part of the stems and appeared healthy. They are all growing in soil now under my fluorescent grow lights. I have no explanation for the darkening of the stem tips, was a first for me (in which the cutting roots fine). If I remember right, once the tips darkened I dipped them in rubbing alcohol with the hopes any fungus they might have would die. I did this knowing I might kill the cutting, but it was okay.

Another option to do if all your cuttings fail is to cut back the mother plant, trim back roots to fit in a smaller pot, clean off bugs and strip some of the older leaves off. Grow that thru the winter and take cuttings off in the spring. Cutting it back and having it under lights should encourage new branching for your cutting material.

I hope this helps and good luck! What variety are your geraniums?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 11:06AM
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fieldofflowers(3 or 4a)

I did take in some of the mother plants. One of them I gave away (they got huge and I honestly can't keep them all in my puny 1 bedroom space. Plus she wanted it badly so it made a good gift.)

I'm not 100% on the variety names but I trust the gardeners who gave the id. They came from the conservatory I volunteer in.

-Old Rose (not sure if I kept the parent or not)
- Nutmeg
- a variegated regular geranium with neon red flowers (I may have or lost? I don't see it anymore so it may be gone. Fiesta something. I remember it something to do with Fiesta and happieness, but never got to write the label.)
- Lime (or Citrus Lime)

- A white and green variegated scented that is shaped like Old Rose (I have the tag somewhere but buried.) It might have died. I remember not being able to save it past years. It never seems to take cuttings before dying. Even the mother plant was nearly impossible to overwinter. (might have but the extra 2 months of "bonus" winter last year did it in. It seems I always had to start fresh every spring on it. (sad because the source shut down, and now I can't get this one again.)

- an unlabeled musk scented geranium I bought under the marketed name "Mosquitos off" This is the one I've been able to take cuttings in the past or even keep overwinter. I was able to overwinter it twice. But this year I bought more to fill in more planters.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 10:46AM
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fieldofflowers(3 or 4a)

I checked my cuttings.

Old Rose cutting in water (glazed ceramic container with narrow opening). Roots starting to grow. There was some mold too. I sprayed the cutting with anti-fungal. Hopefully it will pull through. The mother plant was the one I gave away.

- Variegated peppermint (can't remember what Proven Winners called it. I have the tag buried somewhere in my closet. "Lady" something I think.) : Still can't locate. I guess its cuttings died and the parent plants either didn't get saved or died too. _I've had very poor luck rooting this variety. Anyone had better luck? Where can I find a replacement plant in the spring?

- A Happy Thought: That would have to be the name of my variegated geranium. I remember something along the line of happy when the gardener told me the name. I have the mother plant. It's showing promise but some of the stocks started to mold. I'm still worried if I can get cuttings and save the variety.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 12:56PM
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Your variegated mint might be "grey lady Plymouth"?

I grew Happy Thought several years ago and it is pretty. I also had a scented called Prince of Orange. It smelled so good!

Right now I am keeping under lights: tulip blossom coral, red rosebud, Mrs Pollock, and a scented Old Spice". That should keep me busy, come spring.

I hope what you've got makes it. I find it satisfying to overwinter plants to give them another summer outdoors.

I don't know of potential sellers of these plants for your area. Where you've been buying them sounds like a great place to try.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 1:05AM
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fieldofflowers(3 or 4a)

Thanks. Yes "grey lady Plymouth" was the name. I think they called it just "Lady Plymouth".

I thought I saw roots on one cutting "Old Rose". The ones I tried to bring in aren't looking so great. My window faces north-West so they aren't getting enough even with a fluorescent light over them (2 CFL) type in a "Y shaped socket adapter) I'll have to try bagging smaller cuttings and put them on my plant shelves.

As far as getting new ones: Linders was my go to place. That closed down just recently. The conservatory gift shop is hit and miss. Really they take whatever extras come from the green house and sell them. otherwise they get composted. I can't rely on finding the same varieties. Bachman's is a bit pricey and out of the way. So the search for special plants is on.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 2:28PM
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Well, just concentrate on getting the ones you've saved from winter, thru this winter. Who knows what you'll find at the garden centres come spring. One year a local big box store brought in 2 large trays of scented geraniums. They only did this the one year, and if I had known that I would have bought more to enjoy, and try to keep over. But at the time I thought I'll enjoy these, and then buy different ones next year! They never did that again (argh!). And they had so many different ones, (the prince of orange was one I'd picked up) like the nutmeg, mint ones, sheesh, I can't even remember them all. Makes me sad to think about it now.

This year the same store brought in a few of them. One was the 'old spice' my neighbor shared with me. They wanted $18 for a plant similar in size to mine, but theirs was plunked into a 2 gallon pot. I won't afford that, so I am glad I can keep mine over.

Enjoy your plants, and I hope there were no hitchhikers to endanger your african violet collection.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2013 at 10:28PM
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I have been rooting geraniums for at least 30 years and I've tried all ways until I found out the secret. The 3 secrets to rooting geranium cuttings is

1) to make everything you use to take and grow your cuttings is scrupulously clean

2) let the cut end callus over by laying them out on newspaper in a place away from sunlight. Callusing over cuts down on the amount of water the stem can take up. It can take enough water to produce roots but not excess water which cuts down on the incidence of blackleg

3) keep the cuttings moist but not wet. Too much water causes blackleg too. I make sure the soil is wet--but not too wet-- right through and then mist it daily with a spray bottle

If you want my full method look at the posting "pruning advice" I have just posted it there

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 10:58PM
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fieldofflowers(3 or 4a)

Posting an update. A sad one. They all rotted. There is one hanging on but it is severely spindly from lack of light and I question the root health.
I just might not have enough light to keep them, even with the fluorescent lights. The black leg rot took all of them regardless of how I watered.

If I think back to it my main mistake - I waited until the temps got to be in the upper 30's and 40's overnight before taking them in. I should have taken them in sooner. I will also try that letting them dry a bit after cutting. My problem was not having many thick enough stems to do this on because I waited so long. They were already kind of dying before I tried to take cuttings.

But I also remember trying to take cuttings during the summer and planting them in the soil. That didn't do anything either. Maybe they were diseased before I purchased them? But they looked okay in the garden? Minus a few lost/yellowing lower leaves.

Next year: I'll try taking cuttings at the end of summer when the plants are healthy. Take the cuttings in. Not the whole plant. Bringing the whole plant in brought in whatever root rot fungus and killed it.

I will need replacements for these varieties this spring.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 12:38PM
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I take my cuttings from thick healthy stems. Remove flowers and buds and lower leaves. Stick them in a jar of water and set them on the kitchen windowsill. I've never lost one. (You watch, I'll lose them now Just for being smug.) My mother and grandmother took cuttings and would stick them in the ground and cover them with a mason jar.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 10:36PM
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fieldofflowers(3 or 4a)

Just a followup, I did get a few geraniums to root outdoors this year. I'm trying again with a tricolor gernaium in water.

I suspect the ones I had last year might have been diseased. Perhaps they had that dreaded Geranium Bacterial Blight. I did a search and recognized the symptoms. Blotchy, yellow leaves, stems weakening, browning of shoots, black rot near the roots.

They always did have yellowing with their lower leaves and shed them time to time, but otherwise hid it pretty well, at least until I tried to propagate them or take them indoors.
If it was true they had the bacteria (that is incurable), it is a good thing I gave up with them and threw them all out, soil, pot and all.

Link 1: http://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/pdf/10.1094/PDIS.1999.83.3.204

Here is a link that might be useful: Site with symptoms

This post was edited by fieldofflowers on Fri, Aug 8, 14 at 6:10

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 6:49AM
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Well, yeah for you! And how did your other indoor plants fare last year? I recall you saying you had 'show' plants that you didn't want to fall ill from having troubles with your geraniums.

My geraniums shed their leaves also, and yellow, and I hope that it isn't disease because they are hard to find (rosebud style). I know last year our area had several hailstorms that beat up the plants, and that some of the stems did have brown/black spots where the stones would have broke into the outer skin, and then probably from soil splash-up bacteria got in. I cut back and watched for healthy new growth and took them off to make cuttings as soon as they were big enough. If the cut surface of the stem had a dark spot in it, it usually rotted so I'm guessing that was sick. But healthy looking cut stem surfaces did fine, and those resulting plants seemed to grow out fine.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 12:49PM
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fieldofflowers(3 or 4a)

I showed some african violets in the spring. I think about 12-13. I didn't make the the top few, but I did pull off a few best in class.

This summer I've been badly neglecting them - I am struggling with several other passions/challenges and the violets/ indoor plants are getting the short end of my time. I am at the point realizing I have more plants than I have space for but not sure which ones I want to part with. I'll have to shave down drastically to keep sane.

I'm also feeling like I'm constantly fighting an uphill struggle trying to maintain the African violets and a few Streptocarpus in an environment that is hostile to them - too much light + too much heat.

Light - to give an idea: Coleus grown indoors will show most of their flashy colors under the lights. (the yellow/green and pink/yellow/green tricolors, some darker ones keep their purple too.) By the window - a little faded, but still okay. Further away, they will reach for the lights. I obviously need the artificial lighting, but not sure how to regulate it for the violets. They are getting pretty bleached and curling/ pushing their leaves down/ away from the lights. I'm still having issues with them drying up too fast.

I can try to resolve the light or take a few near the wall/ac but the other is just as damaging. Also I suspect they really resent the tap water and the mineral buildup that ensues rapidly.

That said there are a few successes or partial successes I made over the winter - summer. One of them was I successfully sprouted geraniums from seed - speedy mix.
They bloomed later than the bedding plants I bought,and still not as big. But still I did it. I am currently starting a 2nd gen from seeds I harvested from my bedding geraniums. We'll see how those survive. I hope they make it over the winter. So far they tolerate the frequent dry spells much better than the AVs.

So far, I do not see the rotting issues with the seed started geraniums. I also suspect the overly bright T8 lights are what help. I successfully rooted some rex begonia leaf cuttings in water and got some pups off the stem. (now separated and waiting to see if they thrive on their own.)

If rex begonia leaves thrived under the lights/ near my window, perhaps if I tried again with geranium cuttings they might grow too. I'll try that with a tricolor one.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 2:34AM
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For cuttings, I usually take a lower bit of relatively new growth, without buds, off of a strong, thick stem. Then I put them in a very well draining pot, and water them pretty frequently. I keep them outside, but then, I have plenty of space, and haven't tried them inside. I have had maybe one die. I want to try just in water soon, but I don't know if they'd rot more easily.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2014 at 3:33PM
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Passions & challenges - that is an ongoing thing and I seem to have to adjust and change what I do to fit that in! The key is finding the right balance, and realizing when it is time to let go of a hobby/interest in order to explore a new one! Age (as in getting older and finding you have less energy) is another contributing factor.

Good Luck, whatever you do will be the right thing.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2014 at 10:50AM
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toronto.and.brisbane(CAN/US 5 or 6)

thank you for this thread :), i'm also having problems with cuttings, and i never had problems before. I actually rooted geranium pieces and african violets in the same tray last year and they were fine, even if the soil was too heavy for the wicking method.

This year not so good but i've tried rooting them in perlite and had the water level much too high... plus i used clay pots which mildewed like crazy in the constant water bath.

i'm still hoping and like you i waited much too long for rooting ... they'd already gone through some light frosts.

I've added cinnamon to one to see if it will help. Worse comes to worse i've saved at least one mother plant.

ps: i really learned something new from the above poster (dowlinggram) who spoke about letting them callus. I wish i'd learned that sooner ...when i went to re root them last tuesday... i cut off some of the hard callus part of the cuttings.... ugh.... now i know better :).

    Bookmark   November 21, 2014 at 11:53AM
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