How I Propagate Petunias for Winter-Bloom

July 24, 2013

LOVE THE SIGHT AND SCENT OF PETUNIAS? Then do what I do each August, and propagate your plants. Three stem cuttings in a 6-inch pot will quickly form roots at this time. Brought indoors before frost, and placed under lights or in a sunny window, the young plants will bloom and bloom from December on.

I know what some of you are thinking.

Kevin, can’t I simply bring my big container-grown petunia indoors for winter?

Yes, you can. Just prepare yourself for a cannonade of leaf-drop. And a Victorian death scene. For a petunia which has matured outdoors is bound to fail when it is introduced to the less-than-ideal conditions of the average home.

On the contrary, fresh, young plants — those acquired from the cuttings I mentioned earlier — are itching to grow!  They have youth on their side, and can easily adapt to less-than-perfect conditions inside four walls and a roof.

Before you take cuttings of your petunia, make sure the plant has been well-fed and watered. I feed the pinkish-lavender petunia that sits on my Satyr’s head (he isn’t amused) with every watering.

Cut stems approximately 3 inches in length.

Then remove all leaves from the lower half of the stem. Remove all flowers, buds, and seed-pods, too. Otherwise, the cutting will focus its energy on flowering and seed-ripening — not growing roots.

Now grab a perfectly clean, 6-inch-diameter clay pot.

Okay, my clay pot isn’t the least bit clean. But I’m not worried that disease will be transferred to my cuttings. The pot’s previous occupant was the very picture of health.

Take a piece of broken pottery, and place it over the pot’s drainage hole. This maneuver, known as “crocking a pot,” will keep soil from washing out when the plant is watered.

Bobble-head that I am, I forgot to take a picture of this next step: Fill the pot with damp, soil-less potting mix. A commercial peat-moss and perlite blend will work well. As always, be sure to allow a 1-inch opening between the surface of the soil and the rim of the pot to allow for water.

Then grab a pencil…

And plunge it into the soil, to a depth that approximates the length of your cutting.

You’ll need to make 3 such insertions to accommodate the 3 stems. I arranged mine at equal distance, and in a “V” formation.

Take a cutting, and lower it into a hole, right up to its lower leaves. Then press firmly around the stem, so that soil and cutting make good contact.

Proceed as above with the remaining 2 stems.

Now gently water the cuttings, until excess drips through the drainage hole.

Keep the stems moist, but not saturated, throughout the rooting process.

Now step back and admire your professional potting-job.  I say “professional,” because your arrangement includes a 1-inch reservoir for water. Amateurs usually pile the soil too high, which results in water spilling over the side of the pot.

While they are busy making roots, the cuttings will need to reside in a bright but sunless location outdoors. I set mine on the semi-shaded stand that holds my vacationing philodendron, ferns, and other shade-loving houseplants.

Alternatively, you could root the cuttings indoors. Give them a bright window or a position under fluorescent lights. Be sure to provide plentiful fresh, humid air by opening all of the windows in your home.

Roots will form in about 6 weeks. You won’t need to tug at the plants (as some gardeners recommend), in order to discover that roots have developed. Just look for signs of new growth.

In mid- to late-September, and well-before the first frost, bring the rooted youngsters  indoors to a sunny south or east window, or even better — under fluorescent lights. As mentioned before, open all windows to provide a fresh, humid atmosphere. Water whenever the top inch of soil feels dry (stick your finger into the soil). And then water thoroughly, until excess drips out the drainage hole.

My own young petunias reside either beneath the fluorescents that light my kitchen counter (as above), or on the fluorescent-lit shelves in my Writing Room.  Plants under lights require more food and water than their window-grown colleagues. These I feed with every watering, at the rate of one 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of room-temperature water. I reduce the food to one 1/4 teaspoon for window subjects. I’ve had great results with Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster (10-30-20) — the same formula that encourages my African violets to bloom and bloom.

When they are grown in a sunny window or a light garden, the plants will form buds in early December. These will open as sweetly-scented, pink, purple or white trumpets by month’s end.  And with regularly deadheading, the flower-show will continue until late May, when the plants go on holiday outdoors.

In the winter window garden, purple petunias associate well with flowering bulbs and African violets (pictured above is my Music Room window; the petunia is located on the left-hand side of the broad windowsill).

Here is the same plant, at close-range.

Meanwhile, a white petunia (shown here in my upstairs bath) positively dazzles in a setting of rabbit’s-foot ferns (you can propagate this plant, too) and pink azaleas.

Well. I hope this petunia-as-wintertime-houseplant tutorial was useful to you in some small measure. Perhaps you’ll let me know by leaving a comment. As always, an angel rings a bell whenever someone posts on this site.

Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly newsletter. 

Other posts you might enjoy:

How to Design a Window Garden with Brackets and Glass Shelves
The Window Garden in February
The Window Garden in November

Comments

  1. Tracy says:

    I’m running for the clippers now…. (Another great idea, thanks.)

    ::::ring! ring!:::::

  2. Jeane says:

    I love this idea! Petunias are one of my favorite flowers, but I never thought to grow them indoors overwinter. I’m going to try this.

    By the way, do you have any hints on caring for the rabbit’s-foot fern? The bit I see of yours looks lovely, and I managed to kill mine. I kept it moist and misted almost every day, and it still died :(

  3. I love the music room window. What a positively pleasant site to look at in the dead of winter! I might have to incorporated that in my basement redo. I have floor to ceiling windows down there just begging for some shelving like that!

  4. Honor says:

    This makes me want to prowl the neighborhood under cover of darkness clipping bits of petunias wherever I find them. I didn’t plant any–I suppose I COULD go the legal route and purchase some from the nursery down the road! I’ve always assumed the deer would eat them so haven’t planted any-I suppose I could google and find out!

  5. Heidi Haas says:

    Thank you! Beginner here, stunned my window box petunias are still alive ( since May!) …I am DEFINITELY going to try this.

    PS I laughed out loud about putting the soil to the top because I did that exact thing when I repotted my spider plant this year….

    I love this blog!

  6. Carol says:

    I love that color! Pinky-Lavender!
    That color mixed with the dark purple and white petunia’s, it looks awesome!!!

    Do you deadhead your Petunia’s Kevin? Or do you have the “wave”

  7. Heidi says:

    I am SO going to try this! How fun!

  8. Gloria Duy says:

    You have got to be kidding! You are so frugal and I love that.. This is almost up there with making your own boxwood hedges!

  9. Melissa says:

    I love this idea! Thank you. :-)

  10. Jan Evancho says:

    Thanks again, Kevin! I’m going to root cuttings of all my expensive Wave Petunias and save myself a bunch of money next summer!

  11. Ruth says:

    Kevin, have you tried if this works also with calibrachoa? Thanks :)

  12. PattyM says:

    Yep. I’m going to try this!! Thank you!

  13. Hi Ruth – You can propagate calibrachoa via stem cuttings, too. Although calibrachoas in the “Million Bells” series are patented, it’s apparently okay to reproduce them for personal use.

  14. badger gardener says:

    I am going to do this today w/ Hula Hoop Blue and a variety from a mix of double petunias. I put my petunias in late this year and when I got to the garden center the selection had been pretty much wiped out, but I’ve been happy w/ these varieties. Since I was buying the little six-packs so late , I also had to choose between mildly pathetic and extremely pathetic. As sad-looking as they were, following your advice on daily watering and feeding has given me healthy, abundant plants. I’ll be thrilled to see them inside in winter.

  15. Mary Lou says:

    Let’s hear it..3 cheers for Kevin..he just saved us a bunch at the gardening store again!! thank you sooo much!! Love your frugal ways that are sooo lovely!

  16. Tracy says:

    Just finished potting up three pots of petunia slips for the house this winter. Thank you again for the tip!

  17. Mary says:

    Have you tried this in reverse, so to speak–took cuttings from the indoor plants for summer? I usually start petunias from seed, but they are so tiny and fragile, and take SO long, that if I get behind, I am waiting quite a while for blooms in summer!

  18. Hi Mary – Yes, I’ve taken cuttings from my “winter petunias” and rooted them for summer hanging baskets. Much, much faster than growing new plants from seed.

  19. Eliza J says:

    I will definitely give that a try this year with my petunias ~ I haven’t tried rooting before. For the past two years I have saved all my flower box geraniums by cutting them down to a couple inches and potting them. They Winter in my loft under grow lights and save me lots of money in the Spring ~ I used to grow them from seed and much prefer this method. Thanks for another great idea.

  20. Lou says:

    I am so exited to try this! What a wonderful idea to keep these gorgeous blooms around!

  21. CheyAnne says:

    Every winter I bring one to two of my roses indoors and stuff as many plants as I can around the base ( I use really large pots). Last year I had my Yellow Knock out Roses, with Lantana, coral bells and a really cool fern (have no idea what kind) oh and a pink carnation too. it’s fun to try new ones in the winter and I really only have one long floor length window to work with, so it gets pretty crowded. I am going to add petunias this year.
    peace n abundance,
    CheyAnne

  22. Retta says:

    Hi Kevin,

    My geraniums have gotten very long and scraggly. Can I do the same thing with them as you do with petunias?

    I really love your site!

  23. Linda DeVona says:

    Wow! I hope to try this! I’ve had good luck with storing our geraniums, in their pots and all, in our dirt- floored cellar; in Spring, I place them outside and they usually start growing and blooming just fine. We don’t really have a good indoor place for wintering over plants, but it’s definitely worth trying! Thanks!

  24. Susan L. Espersen says:

    Your directions with photos are the best! I love the way you save me money! Thanks Kevin!!!

  25. Jo-Anne says:

    This really gives me ‘inscentive’ to clean up my computer room which has a southern facing window…I will make it ready for a wonderful winter of petunias and some of the other flowers mentioned above….thank you, Kevin….I will love this room more now!

  26. Chuck says:

    Thanks, cool thing worth learning about and then doing.

  27. I have some lovely Black Velvet petunias that I may try this with. If only my cats wouldn’t eat any plant I brought into the house!

  28. Suzanne K says:

    Retta, this absolutely works with Geraniums! I’ve got tons of them from this very method! I did NOT know it would work with petunias, thanks again Kevin for all you do and share with us!

  29. Gretchen says:

    Thanks to you and your fabulous how-to tutorials, I have had success for the first time EVER in generating new plants from an African violet leaf. With this success, I have tried putting a leaf from a spectacular double purple gloxinia plant under the same conditions and I honestly believe tht a tiny root-bulb is developing. Unfortunately I did not buy petunia plants this year because some critter always devoured them for their lunch. Maybe it’s not too late to visit a nursery to get a basket with petunias. Thanks to you, if so, I just know I’ll have more flowers this winter.

  30. Beverly, zone 6 eastern PA says:

    I have used similar strategies very successfully with:
    Strobilanthes, the Persian Shield annual
    Coleus, fancy leaved
    Ipomoea, Sweet Potato Vine
    Passiflora, Passion Flower Vine
    and
    Ocimum, African Blue Basil.
    This saves a ton of money each spring and the early garden gets going faster, especially mixed container plantings.

  31. Kaye Williams says:

    Kevin, once again your timing is impeccable. I have some favorite petunias that I want to share with a friend and also grow for next year. I have begun collecting seeds (what a sticky project), however, your directions for cuttings will be much easier for both of us.
    I mention your timing……….I was harvesting lavender at the same time you posted your lavender cookie recipe and I was searching for a new breakfast recipe when you posted your gratin of hard boiled eggs.
    And your winter sowing directions were a huge success, although I got a little carried away with my seed collecting and was passing out cleome seedlings to anyone and everyone.
    Thank you, thank you.

  32. Behold says:

    I have been doing this with geraniums for a few years now and it works great. This spring I even just placed some geranium cuttings in the ground when I pruned the ones I had grown over the winter (to give them a bushier shape) and they are doing beautifully. I have also done it successfully with coleus for a couple of years. Can’t wait to try it with petunias.

  33. badger gardener says:

    Kevin,
    I left a comment on your giveaway post w/o noticing that it is your 15th anniversary. I hope it was a very joyous celebration. Happy belated anniversary!!

    Now for a very amateur question, what constitutes a semi-shaded spot? A few hours of sun? A spot where the sun gets filtered a bit?

  34. Julia Hofley says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Looking forward to trying this. I wondered if you had any tips for taking cuttings (successfully) of geraniums? I haven’t had much luck with trying this.
    Thanks for the tutorials~terrific info.
    Julia

  35. Hi badger – Thank you. Just returned from Cambridge/Boston. Regarding the petunia cuttings, the goal is to let them make roots in bright light, but without any direct sun. Direct sun can injure the stems. Filtered sun is fine. I’ll try to clarify this in the instructions above.

    Hi Julia – I propagate geraniums (the annual, big-flowered zonal-type) in the exact manner as petunias. Remove all lower leaves and also the stipules (little flaps where leaf meets stem) from the lower half of the cutting. Use one stem per 4-inch pot. Keep out of direct sun until roots have formed — about 4 weeks.

  36. Naomi Shelton says:

    This is a great idea! I love petunias–their yummy colors, their fragrance and the sweet cup-like blossoms. I will definitely be taking cuttings. What a pick-me-up to have these in the window while it is snowing and blowing outside. Could I also do this with impatiens or wax begonias? Thanks, Kevin.

  37. Hi Naomi – Speaking from experience, wax begonias and impatiens make terrific wintertime houseplants. Propagate them in the same manner as petunias.

  38. Carolyn Del says:

    Since so many gardens were ruined by Hurricane Sandy in my area, this is a great idea

    to fill in the garden for next year. I’m trying cuttings from roses and African impatiens too.

    Can you recommend anything else?

  39. Jackie Bain says:

    Petunias in Winter, will be a welcome sight up here in Canada, especially the mid west Winnipeg. Can hardly wait to get started to clip my plants. Great suggestion as usual Kevin.

  40. Hi Carolyn Del – I can suggest two others from the outdoor garden: Wax begonias and impatiens. Both make terrific, ever-blooming wintertime houseplants. Propagate them in the same manner as petunias. Common zonal geraniums are easy to propagate from cuttings, too, but when started in late summer they rarely bloom before March or April.

    Jackie Bain – Clip away!

  41. Laurel says:

    I never thought of Petunia cuttings for the house. I have had the same Geranium plants for years. When they get too long I cut them back and add the cuttings to the same pot – keeps them full.

    I have a question about the Petunias. You put three cuttings per pot – would four or five cuttings make a fuller display or would that be too much for the pot size ?

  42. Hi Laurel – Speaking from experience, 3 cuttings per 6-inch pot is the absolute max. Believe me — as they grow, the cuttings will fill the pot. And then some!

  43. Cindy says:

    Now that I am retired I am spending much time gardening. I have geraniums, petunias & calibrachoa and am excited about trying this with all 3! Thanks for sharing this great idea!

  44. Margaret Califano says:

    I had discovered by accident that petunias make awesome cut flower arrangements that are long-lasting. I didn’t think of making them cuttings, though.

  45. Hi Margaret – Ooh…cascading petunia stems in a cut flower arrangement…gorgeous!

  46. Donna says:

    I’ve never root cut anything, but this has inspired me to try. It gets very expensive to buy new flowering plants every year. You people that share these tutorials show the love and concern of good Americans for all of us.
    Thanks

  47. MJI says:

    I kind of discovered this process by accident.Well sorta. it started in the spring one year when I bought a petunia too early. It got nearly killed. I took cuttings just to see if it could be done and placed them in my seed starting trays. They didn’t die. Same with some miniature rose cuttings. I took those outside. There were other years I took petunias inside to weather an early frost threat. I noticed they didn’t pine away as badly as other outdoor plants, but I still didn’t think to keep them.

    This year I kept a petunia indoors all summer long by accident. (Pretty Much Picasso) I was propagating it to get more of it, save money and add to my outdoor garden. But I forgot to take the rooted cutting outside. So it survived, even bloomed under fluorescent lighting. It even got pretty huge.

    I still have it. Pruned it back, repotted, and seeing how long I can keep it over the winter.

  48. Marion says:

    The last of my petunia cuttings that seemed to be doing well all decided to die this week. I did not get them done in August but I took heart that you had had success with some that were taken later. My thumbs are not very green. Oh well, I will try again next year.

  49. Ceena Jaison says:

    would like to subscribe for news letters

  50. Nancy Mette says:

    Thank you for the idea on propagating petunias. I have a purple sweet potato plant that I have trimmed back. I put the cuttings into a pot with the green block one uses for cut flowers. Added water and let it go. It is showing signs of life and looking healthy. I also put a geranium stem that broke off. It too is doing well.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I have shared a bond and come to know fondly in my outdoor home.   In his recent blog post “A Garden for the House”, Kevin Lee Jacobs outlines tips for re-rooting petunias over the winter so as to have beautiful [...]

  2. [...] Petunias for Winter-Bloom Before you take cuttings of your petunia, make sure the plant has been well-fed and watered. Cut stems approximately 3 inches in length. Then remove all leaves from the lower half of the stem. Remove all flowers, buds, and seed-pods, too. Otherwise, the cutting will focus its energy on flowering and seed-ripening — not growing roots. Now grab a perfectly clean, 6-inch-diameter clay pot. And plunge it into the soil, to a depth that approximates the length of your cutting. Take a cutting, and lower it into a hole, right up to its lower leaves. Then press firmly around the stem, so that soil and cutting make good contact. Now gently water the cuttings, until excess drips through the drainage hole. Keep the stems moist, but not saturated, throughout the rooting process. [.] [...]

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