Martha Washington, or regal, geraniums (Pelargonium x domesticum) beguile with their textured leaves and showy flowers, which come in a rainbow of colors. They grow as perennials in the warm climates of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11, although they are typically treated as annuals. Martha Washington geraniums can only be propagated from cuttings, which root effortlessly under the right conditions. The resulting plants are identical copies of the parent, although they may take a season or two to mature.
Martha Washington geranium cuttings must be the right size and condition for propagation, and they must be taken during the right time of year to ensure successful rooting. The best cuttings are:
- Between 2 and 6 inches long. Shorter and longer cuttings do not root as well.
- Healthy, leafy and not blooming. Take cuttings with plenty of leaves along the stem and no signs of disease. Avoid cuttings with flowers because they won't root as well.
- Taken in spring or fall. In mild climate areas, Martha Washington geraniums can be rooted year-round, but in more seasonal climates they should be taken after the last spring frost or a month before the first frost in fall.
Cutting and Rooting
Martha Washington geranium cuttings require little attention or care during rooting, although they need the right sanitation practices and conditions to help guarantee success.
Things You'll Need
2- to 4-inch plastic pot
Soak a utility knife in a mix of 1 part bleach and 3 parts water for five minutes to sanitize it. Rinse the blade and allow it to air dry before use. When taking multiple cuttings, wipe the blade with a solution of half rubbing alcohol and half water between cuts to prevent the spread of disease.
Fill a 2- to 4-inch pot with a mix of half peat moss and half sand, leaving the top 1/2 inch of the pot empty. Shake the pot to settle the growing mixture and press the surface lightly to even it out.
Cut the geranium just beneath a pair of leaves using the sanitized utility blade. Pull off the lower set of leaves to reveal the nodes, which is where roots form. Remove any flower buds from the tip of the cutting.
Poke a hole in the growing medium that is deep enough to hold the leafless part of the geranium cutting. Stick the stem into the hole and press the growing mixture against it snugly so it stands up on its own.
Set a propagation mat near a bright, lightly shaded window and set the temperature to between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Set the pot on the mat. If you don't have a mat, place the pot in an area of your home that stays warm.
Keep the growing mixture lightly damp at all times, but let the surface dry out slightly between waterings to prevent rot. Mist the cutting every day to keep the leaves hydrated.
Check for roots in one to two weeks by tugging gently on the base of the cutting. Feel for resistance, which indicates successful rooting. If the cutting feels squishy or if it develops an odor, throw it out and start again.
Always start more cuttings than you need in case some fail.
Potting and Aftercare
Transplant the cutting into a larger pot roughly one month after rooting. Use a 4-inch pot with drainage holes around the bottom and fill it with fresh, sterile potting soil. Grow the cutting in a bright, warm spot for a few weeks before gradually acclimating it to full sun.
Martha Washington geraniums need moderate moisture and fertility. Water if the soil feels dry on the surface, adding water until it trickles from the bottom of the pot. Feed weekly with 1/2 teaspoon of flower-promoting 7-9-5 fertilizer or general purpose 15-15-15 fertilizer diluted in 1 gallon of water.
Grow Martha Washington geraniums indoors as a houseplant or outdoors as a container plant. Only plant in the garden with their preferred USDA hardiness zone range.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Pelargonium x domesticum
- Washington State University Cooperative Extension: Propagating Herbaceous Plants from Cuttings
- Greenhouse Product News: Culture Tips for Regal Geranium
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension: Geranium Culture for Home Gardens
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Disinfecting Pruning Tools
- Logee's Plants for Home and Garden: Cultural Information--Pelargonium
- Texas A&M University Department of Horticulture: Propagation of Selected Annuals and Herbaceous Perennials Used as Ornamentals
- Master Gardeners of San Diego: Frequently Asked Questions