is this a geranium,
and why does it collapse and turn
into wood every time i try to propagate one?
Greetings! That most definitely is a Geranium, more accurately known as Pelargonium. This is one of the Martha Washington types, which characteristically have the crinkly sharply pointed leaves, and the fantastic flowers in all colors, sometimes with dark colored throats, splashes and spots.
They are a bit difficult to propagate, but I've had good success with them by using a few little tricks.
The best wood to take for cuttings is slightly hard, but not woody. Typically, growth that is at least a few months old is best. The cutting should still be green, not showing the brown color.
Trim off all but two leaves, and if those are large, cut them in half so there is less for the plant (now rootless) to support.
Cut off any flowers or flower buds - these will just suck any energy from the cutting, and are a good place for rotting to start.
Allow the cutting to callous - this stops it from rotting before it roots.
I use some kind of hormone powder with these - the cutting has to be dry, and it will only need a tiny amount, the end of the cutting about half an inch or so.
Then, (this is the tricky part) stick the cuttings in a pot with sterilized potting soil, slightly dampened.
Place the pot with cuttings carefully into a plastic bag - clear is best, so you can keep an eye on what's going on.
Blow into the bag to make sure the bag doesn't touch the cuttings; this also gives them lots of yummy carbon dioxide, which they use to root - it's handy that plants use what we don't need.
Tie the bag closed, and leave for at least two to three weeks. Then you can open the bag and add more carbon dioxide, and close it again.
As long as the sides of the bag only have small droplets of moisture condensing on it, all is well. Large drops falling on the leaves will cause rotting.
Keep the bag out of direct sunlight at all times - the best place is under another larger plant with dappled shade, or even full shade.
Good luck propagating your Martha Washington geraniums - they're well worth it!
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