4-24 Sow There! How to propagate geraniums from cuttings, and other advice on life

April 24, 2014
Author: Heather Hacking hhacking@chicoer.com @HeatherHacking on Twitter
Most of us have been around one of “those men,” who loses all focus of the rest of the world when a beautiful woman walks by. The neck cranes, sounds are no longer absorbed, eyes becomes glazed and confused.

You might be talking with your guy pal when you notice they are no longer listening to your eloquent thoughts about yada-yada, and have become lost in visual rapture.

I’m certain this same reflex occurs with women, and to this day my sister and I need only bellow the word “Thor!!!” to bring up a certain, shared, shirtless mental image.

By the time most of us are in our mid-20s, we have been conked over the head enough times by significant others to break the habit. Either that or we wake up one day, gray and single and wonder why life is so cruel.

This week I acted similarly when I saw, from a distance, the rack of one-gallon geraniums at my nearby big-box store.

As I rushed toward the flowers, I failed to notice a woman slowly looking at flowers and temporarily blocking my path with her cart.

“I’m sorry,” I said, without looking at her. “I saw the flowers and suddenly you became invisible.”

She seemed to understand.

One thing that is very satisfying about the ridiculously large plants at Costco is that you can feel smug if you have an equally lovely plant at home that you purchased for $4 three years ago.

“Honey, your Sago palms were $60 at Costco,” I beamed to my boyfriend, who has nurtured those palms for 10 years. I considered selling his plants for $45 each on craigslist, but could not afford replacement if he noticed.

A little snip here, a little snip there

As for the geraniums, I decided not to buy them. Most folks know that the best way to obtain geraniums is to take a cutting from a friend, place the stems in a vase of water, wait for roots to appear, and plant in soil.

An article in the SF Gate Home Guide (http://goo.gl/BnbBYT) says the best time to take cutting for rooting in water is late summer when the plant is growing vigorously. They should be ready in about a month if kept in a sunny windowsill. Of course, a humid greenhouse would be even better.

Other sources said spring will suffice for cuttings if patience is not your strong suit.

Some folks also plant the stem, with the bottom leaves removed, in sterile potting soil with added peat moss and vermiculate.

Eden Makers blog (http://goo.gl/3IEPli) has very detailed instructions, including a video with a woman whose smile is so large it made MY face hurt.

The cuttings should be between three and six inches, several sources confirmed.

Similar to the bud-eye in roses, geraniums have a “node” where leaves and new growth emerge. Make your cutting below this.

If you’re planting into actual soil, there is conflicting advice about dipping the bottom of the stem in rooting hormone. Some says this is unnecessary, others say its preferred. One website even suggested dipping the bottom in honey. I say plant several without buying another bottle of goo, and hope that at least two survive.

Humidity is important at this early stage, so spray the soil fairly frequently, and cover the pot with a plastic bag or two-liter plastic bottle with the bottom chopped off.

Note that geraniums do not fare well through a hard freeze. Yes, I learned this last winter when we had the deathly cold snap.

I’ll try the geraniums in hanging pots, right by the front door. Having plants at the front door is generally a cheerful idea.

Off to a new adventure

This week my family and I will travel, once again, to Baja.

It’s a long, long drive, but I’m curious to see what the Central Valley looks like in the middle of this drought. I’m doubting my dad will make many stops, but I’ll snap some photographs through the window.

Auntie Pat lives in the fishing village of San Felipe, and we always make a point of stopping by the town’s main nursery. Perhaps I’ll gain some new insight on drought tolerant plants and cacti.

On a drought note

After the aforementioned freeze, my idea had been to plant drought-tolerant plants in the bald spots in the yard. However, last weekend I chatted up one of the Master Gardeners at the California Nut Festival. She said drought-tolerant plants are a great idea. Yet, they do take a little extra care,and water at the early stages. A better idea, she advised, is to wait until the drought has come and gone and then make the switch to plants that need very little H2O.

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