Abstract The aim of the study was to determine the effect of exogenous sucrose and cytokinin on ethylene production and responsiveness in relation to the shoot formation of Pelargonium × hortorum ‘Bergpalais’ in vitro. Increasing the concentration of sucrose from 15 to 40 g L−1 in medium containing meta-topolin (mT) resulted in a two-fold decrease in the number of shoots and leaves as well as a reduction in ethylene production. The addition of ethylene synthesis inhibitor (AVG) to mT-medium significantly reduced the ethylene production and the shoot growth, but it had no significant influence on the shoot formation. The mT-induced shoot formation was, however, significantly reduced in the presence of ethylene action inhibitor (AgNO3), in a manner dependent on sucrose levels. At the end of the subculture period, increased sucrose concentrations (15–40 g L−1) in the presence of mT and AgNO3 resulted in a 3.7-fold increase in ethylene emission. At the same time, the supply of sucrose caused a 2.8-fold increase in the level of endogenous abscisic acid (ABA). Our results may suggest that the inhibitory effect of high sucrose concentration (30 and 40 g L−1) may depend on its influence on ethylene sensitivity. It also suggests that sucrose-regulation of the shoot formation of Pelargonium in vitro is mediated by ABA.