Spring Cuttings

These can be taken from late winter to mid-spring depending on two factors: firstly whether you have the requisite shoots available, bearing in mind that mature plants are cut back severely in the autumn; and secondly when you require the plants to flower.

It is usual and desirable to prune severely both regals and zonals in autumn by cutting all shoots back to one or two nodes from the point of origin of the stem. This causes the dormant buds, which are located in the leaf axils, to break into growth, and during the winter months the plants slowly develop new shoots, with the result that by spring bushy plants have been formed. Usually by late winter these new shoots are too short to be suitable for cuttings and it is advisable to leave a few plants unpruned in the autumn of the varieties you wish to propagate in the spring. As soon as the cuttings have been taken, these plants are then cut back and will provide flowering plants to follow the autumn-pruned plants. This particularly applies to regals because zonal pelargoniums tend to flower more or less continuously.

The main object of taking spring cuttings of regals is to provide a batch of plants which will bloom after the autumn-raised plants have finished their first main show.

l;ig B Regal pelargoniums should tie heavily pruned in the autumn, each cut being above a node. The illustration shows a typical example of a plant after pruning.

Unlike zonal pelargoniums, which usually have only two or three flowers open at a time, regal pelargoniums develop buds on (lowering stems, which all open within a week or two giving a mass of bloom over a period of some few weeks, after which there is a lull, with perhaps an odd bloom or two, then later in the summer they give another show of bloom. The second show is often as good as the first but varies according to the variety. Many of the older varieties only produce one good show, whereas some of the new varieties produce buds and flowers so continuously that it is difficult to find suitable growths for cuttings.

The best lime to take cuttings is late winter or early spring. They should be kept in a propagator for about three to four weeks at 60-65°F(15- 18°C), and then can go on the greenhouse bench, minimum temperature 45°F (7°C). Two weeks later they should be ready for potting into 3'/i-in (9-cm) pots in compost E6. As will be appreciated the rate of growth depends on the weather experienced and it is only possible 10 give approximate times. The plants themselves are the best guide; when roots begin to grow through the holes in the bottom of the pot, it is usually time to pot on into the next size, which is either a 4'/j-in (11.5-cm) or a 5-in (12.5-cm) pot. Be guided by the si2e of the plant. If it has made a lot of growth then pot into the larger size. For most varieties a 4Vi-in (11.5-cm) is quite large enough for a spring cutting plant. The main points in the cultivation of pelargoniums are the stopping and the feeding.

Soon after the cutting has been potted and made some growth it will have the appearance of a single stem with say five or six leaves. At this stage remove the growing point, which is at the tip of the stem or shoot. Use a pair of tweezers or sharp pointed nail scissors to ensure as little damage to the stem as possible.

The removal of the growing point will result in side shoots growing from the leaf axils, and when these are 2-2Vi in (5-6.3 cm) long repeat the process which will create more side shoots, giving a nice bushy plant. This process is known as stopping. From now on allow the plant to grow without any further stopping, and in due course flower buds will develop. As soon as the tips of these flower buds show colour, it is necessary to commence feeding the plants. Use a high nitrogen feed in the quantity directed by the manufacturers and feed the plants once a week for two weeks and in the third week use a high potash feed. The reason for feeding the plants at this stage is to ensure that they have sufficient nitrogen and potassium available, otherwise the lower leaves will turn yellow and die by the time the plants are in full flower. In the case of regal pelargoniums you will find it necessary to tidy the plants from time to time by removing dead flowers and stalks etc. in order to keep the plants looking attractive, whereas with zonal pelargoniums it is usually only necessary to remove the dead flowers.

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