Fuchsias & Geraniums Cuttings

Multiplying your fuchsias and geraniums through cuttings taken now; and some more references for goldfish plants.
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

September 19, 2004

The long saga of the ornamental ponds continues! We are now awaiting Karl the mason to return and cement-in the connecting culvert. The two ponds with the culvert set in are shown in the two photos this week. That is my studio/office in the background of the larger pond. Author photos.

Pauline Ashton of my hometown Parksville, B.C. wrote recently that she this winter has access to a greenhouse and would like to take cuttings from some of the beautiful fuchsias. However, she said she didn’t seem to be able to find out much info on them. I thought there might well be others out there with a similar question, if not about fuchsias, then geraniums, which so many people like to keep over the winter.

Fuchsias require no special treatment for the taking of softwood cuttings. I’d take them from upright growing branches, if that’s what you want from the new plants (or from pendulous shoots if you wish them to hang). There’s a good chance plants from an upward-growing shoot will become pendulous once it matures in any case.

The cuttings should be about 10 cm (4”) long and likely the bottom two sets of leaves should be snipped off. A razor cut should be made straight across (NOT at an angle) the leaf stem right below a node from whence you’ve removed the bottom leaves. I would dip them in a rooting hormone (Seradix, Wilson’s etc.) and then plunge them in a sterile rooting medium (Perlite, vermiculite, Styrofoam beads, sharp sand, even Canadian peat moss) in some sort of container that is also sterile (NOT a clay pot!).

I usually suggest using a glass casserole or other baking dish that is rectangular. Then you can take some semi-rigid wire and put hoops at each end. For humidity, wrap the entire thing in poly such as a dry cleaners bag. Moisten the medium in the container well, but you do not want it running in water. Once the medium is watered, you should be able to tip it over to one side and the water not run out. Once you wrap it, you likely will not have to add much if any water, as it should recycle down the sides of the plastic. On the other hand, if the water does run between the poly and the dish (not desirable), you will need to water a bit.

An additional point is that some bottom heat from a heating cable or setting the dish where it gets heat from say the top of a refrigerator (unfortunately most now vent from the base), will speed up the operation. Cool air temperatures and a warm base are ideal.

After ten days or so, you can try grasping one or another cutting and giving it a tug. You will soon realize when they are starting to root.

All of the previously mentioned also applies to geraniums, except that with geraniums there is still the possibility of a problem with one of the viruses that attack these plants. These viruses are in virtually all our soils, basically only attacking geraniums. They generally cause the plants to go off blooming once the hot summer temperatures hit in July. The viruses always concentrate in the older parts of the plant, the thicker older growth near the base. Obviously, cuttings taken from the new tip growth is as far from the old growth as possible, so the amount of virus transferred to the new plant that grows from the cuttings is small. But, there is an additional step that some growers take to reduce drastically the amount of any virus in the new plant.

That technique is to let the newly rooted cutting grow on in a container for a few weeks and make possibly 7-8 cm of new growth. Then a new cutting is taken from all these new growths, and the base plants are thrown out. The amount of virus in the second cutting will be even smaller than in the first one. That second cutting is then allowed to grow on. And, by the way, it is important to remember that young geranium plants, and somewhat to same degree, young fuchsia plants, would prefer a bright, cool greenhouse in which to grow.

When first rooting your cuttings, do not undervalue the extra effort required to provide bottom heat in a cool greenhouse to speed up the rooting of most softwood cuttings!

As is so often the case, I have an inquiry from a totally unknown location. Please, please, please, if you are writing, do include at least your city or town! R. Chandler wrote asking: “I have been researching goldfish plants trying to find out what to do with the pearl balls that come up after the flowers, can I re-pot them or what? No one knows. Thank you.”

Well Mr./Mrs./Miss Chandler, I assume you are referring to the seedpods. No doubt, you can grow these plants (probably Columnea) from seed, but most often, they are reproduced from cuttings. I did write about goldfish plants in my June 20, 2004 article on the site. That article is still available there.

Since you have not given me your location it is difficult to know to whom to refer you. My suggestion would be that you contact one of the major growers, Logee’s Greenhouses in Danielson, Connecticut (, 1-888-330-8038. In Canada, you could try Ruth Zavitz (, 1-519-433-3575. Ruth is a long-time grower of these plants, located, as I recall in London, Ontario.



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