The Q&A Archives: Taking

Question: I've bought some geraniums and dahlias. I'm leaving them in the plastic pots and putting the pots in my window boxes. I'd like to save these for next year. When should I take cuttings from them?

Answer: You can take cuttings from geraniums, but dahlias grow from tubers which are dug in the fall, stored, and replanted in the spring. When the weather begins to turn cool in the fall, cut your geraniums back to the edge of the container. Put the container on its side in a protected area outdoors (like under the eaves of the house, next to the foundation), or in a garage. Don't water the plant, but allow it to rest all winter. In the spring new sprouts will begin to grow. At this point, water the soil well and place the container upright in a protected area of the garden. The plant will grow new stems. When you cut the stems off in the fall, you can use them to start new plants to winter over indoors in a sunny window sill. Cut each stem into 4 inch pieces, each with a node (raised leaf scar) and let the cuts callous over. This will take several hours or overnight. Then lay each piece in a container of potting soil, cover the ends but leave the node exposed. Keep the potting soil damp, but not wet. New leaves will grow from the node and new roots will grow into the soil. The plants should be happy all winter in a sunny or bright spot and they can be planted outdoors in the spring.

Dahlia tubers should be dug from the soil after frost has killed the tops of the plants. Cut the stems off at soil level and carefully dig the tubers. Let them dry out in a protected place, brush some of the soil off, and store the tubers in peatmoss or sawdust, in a cool, dark location. In the spring the tubers will produce buds. Divide the tubers by cutting away from the stem, making sure each tuber has a bud. Replant when the soil warms up and you'll have an abundance of new dahlias all summer long.

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