Saturday, April 9, 2016

Scented Geraniums: Pruning And Propagating

I have always had trouble keeping geraniums alive. 

I kept a Rober's Lemon Rose scented geranium alive for about four years once.  And then I bought several other different kinds from the Oklahoma Food Co-Op and right after I brought them onto the patio, my RLR just up and died.  Of a broken heart, I wonder?  Truly, if only I had been able to communicate to it that it had ALWAYS been my favorite and would remain so.  But maybe plants really are like people, and without knowing the facts, it ASSUMED I didn't love it anymore.  *Sigh*.  Last spring, we were planning a visit to Carole's house, and as I had learned that Green Thumb Nursery had them in stock, I bought one for me and one to take to Carole.  Both of us carried our geraniums over the winter successfully.  This is less an astounding feat for her than it is for me, as she's got a greenhouse and she's pretty good at keeping her plants healthy. 

As for me, not being very good about caring for plants inside the house, I set up the wooden folding table (an antique wallpaper hanger's layout table, I was told) at the west-facing window in the dining room and moved it and some other geraniums Carole gave me there for the winter.

They've done OK there, except for a little variegated-leaved one that died, but now they've grown leggy and are into the mini-blinds trying to get to the light.  I probably should keep them under lights all winter and now that I have a timer set on my light tables that would be easily done, though in February I'd be hard-pressed to find room for them. 

I looked around for information on how to prune scented geraniums and there's not a lot out there.  There are a few YouTubes on how to prune regular geraniums.  What I gleaned from several sources gave me a few guidelines, though.

  • Never prune all the way back to brown stalk;
  • Always prune above several leaves;
  • Never prune off more than 1/3 of the plant at a time;
  • Use a sharp knife as the pinching action of scissors or clippers is hard on the watery cells in the stems.
  • Cut pieces to be used for rooting into 3-4" lengths with a clean, sharp knife, just below a leaf node;
  • Remove the leaves from the bottom 2-3";
  • Allow to seal off overnight.  It will be normal for this to cause them to wilt but they will recover from this once the rooting process has begun;
  • Do not use rooting compound;
  • Some people root the cuttings in water, some root in a seed-starting mix or even in Vermiculite and water.  Carole has really good luck using pieces of florist's foam, the kind that absorbs water.
  • Cuttings will root faster if they have bottom heat.

Don't waste the leaves!  Let them dry and add to other ingredients, such as rose petals and cuttings from lavender, for homemade potpourri.  I kinda like the smell of ordinary geranium leaves, but the scented ones are just wonderful.  There are some nice other scents: Apple, Citronella, Lemon, Ginger -- to name a few.

    • Geraniums will be enticed to bloom by being cool (but not freezing) at night;
    • They need at least 6 hours of full sun in order to keep from growing "leggy";
    • The leaves, however, can be sunburned so full Oklahoma sun in July is too much;
    • They do not need a lot of fertilizing.  Yellow edges on the leaves indicate otherwise;
    • They need to dry out between waterings and like to be slightly potbound.
I favor the method of rooting in water whenever I can.  It means I don't have to mess with things in little pots needing to be kept watered.  I just put the cuttings in a glass and add about 2" of water.  Then I keep the glass on the kitchen counter near the sink.  It's easy to remember to change the water every day and check the cuttings for growth because I'm right there preparing our meals and cleaning up after, every day.  In the past, I've not had any luck rooting geraniums in water.  They have just rotted.  But I didn't let the cuttings dry out for 24 hours before and I'm hoping that's the trick.  So far, no roots.  But no rotting, either. 

If it doesn't work out, I'll take new cuttings and do it Carole's way.

For now, the "mother plants" have been placed on the top of one of the garden carts, and they ride along with the tomato plants in through the back door for the night if the forecast is freezing.  Mother Nature is beginning to get on my nerves.  She gives me two or three absolutely lovely days, but makes them windy, so digging results in airborne garden soil.  Can't burn trash or brush in the barrel because there's fire danger.  It seems like there's ALWAYS smoke in the air, anyway.  I can't set anything out into the ground because she delivers a freezing morning about every fourth day. 

Patience is a virtue.  Unfortunately, I am apparently not very virtuous.  But, rocking on here.  Hugs xoxoxo


  1. I wish you success. Geraniums are one of those plants that I cannot grow! along with delphiniums, and fuchsia. I can't tell you the money I have spent on them trying.

    Others have great success. MIL would keep her regular geraniums alive over the winter in an unheated garage, no additional anything. Kris has fabulous geraniums. My Sis gave me several scented ones and they didn't stay alive even a season. I also have lost another rhubarb plant!

    I will be following this one closely.

  2. Well, Glenda, I'm hoping to get up your way during some point in the summer, and if these take root, I'll bring you a Rober's Lemon Rose to play with. Yeah, I have the same luck with rhubarb that you do. Trying again, this time in just morning sun and afternoon shade. I think it's too hot here. I used to grow wonderful rhubarb when we lived in northern Indiana, but it never gets to 100º in the summer there.


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