My Sticks are growing!

by Dec 20, 2019My Journal

–They are not really sticks – some of my friends refer to them as ‘sticks’ – they do look a little like sticks. In this case if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, it is not a duck.  They are beautiful pelargoniums – at least they will be in a few months (hopefully).

My usual procedure was to take cuttings in the late summer/early fall and discard the parent plant.  I don’t have a proper greenhouse and my cutting and plants needed to be able to get by under grow lights in an unheated shed.  Although the area I live in has mild winters, we do have on occasion sub-zero temperatures.  The winters are for the most part cold and very wet – just the type of conditions pelargoniums absolutely despise!  Survival outdoors over our winter is not an option for pelargoniums.

Space was a big issue and I really didn’t have the space to accommodate both my cuttings and large pots of grown plants.  I made the decision to go with cuttings.

This year is a different story.  I’m trying to recover what I can and the few pots of pelargoniums that I had remaining need to be overwintered as well as any cuttings I can harvest from them. 

So cuttings taken, I cut back the plant as best I could, re-potted the plant in fresh soil and brought them in with the cuttings under lights.  I had fingers crossed that the plant would thrive.

This is not a new technique.  I had heard of this from various pelargonium enthusiasts over the years, but didn’t really pay much attention, mostly for the reasons previously listed.

Then one day in 2008 I came across an article on the internet while researching something pelargonium related.  It was a transcript from an article that had been published in an English gardening journal in 1880.  The writer had stated that such treatment would result in plants “4 to 6 feet in diameter, and should produce more than a thousand trusses of flowers” – now who won’t be impressed with such a claim!

So I decided to give it a try.  There was no way I would be able to grow plants that were 4 to 6 feet in diameter, but I could at least test the method.  So here’s what happened. 

On September 15, 2008 the experiment began.  The plant chosen for the experiment was “Flower of Spring”.  This particular plant had been somehow overlooked and had not been subjected to pinching to encourage bushiness.  The result was a tall lanky plant with two long stems and a small stem starting from the base.

The method calls for some drastic trimming of the plant.  I took cuttings from the two lanky stems and bottom stem, and then trimmed the rest of the plant down.  Then I removed all the leaves, washed all the soil from the root system and re-potted in fresh potting soil.

I was a bit hesitant to do drastic pruning.  Okay – I was a coward with those shears!  Hindsight tells me I should have trimmed the stems down much more than I did.  

October, 2008 – The plant was showing respectable new growth however, I realized that I should have trimmed the plant even more – to just above the ‘V’ on the main stem. I did make a note for future reference. “Be fearless when pruning!”

March 23, 2009: After approximately six months

The plant had bushed out and was looking quite good. The top growth had been pinched to encourage further bushing and new growth had appeared from the soil line.

This plant has been kept under lights in an unheated carport and has been subjected to some subzero temperatures.


Now – in 2019 – I put the technique into action hoping to salvage the parent plants. 

So in September, I took cuttings and then pruned the parent plant down, repotted in fresh soil, and brought them in doors along with the cuttings and put them under lights. 

And in October, I noticed the first signs of new growth!  I had not expected to see any results, but there it was.  Little bits of green making their presences known.

 It was a early Christmas present for me.  Also a big challenge – the weather was still fairly mild and I would have to ensure the health of these precious plants until April at least before I could take them outside.

It was so reassuring that these plants survived the rather rough handling they had been subjected.  I felt both relieved and elated.

So now it is December and they don’t look like sticks anymore!

The parent plants have done extremely well.  Much better than I had hoped.

I may even be able to take some cuttings from them in the spring before putting them on display outside. 

We will be moving to a new house in January so the challenge now is to get them through that move.