If you have any familiarity with gardening, cannabis or otherwise, you have likely heard of cloning plants, or taking “cuttings”.Unlike a collection of seeds, which are essentially the offspring of the plant that made them, clones are just what they sound like – genetically exact copies of that plant from which they were taken. Though changes to environment and other conditions during growth can alter the results, most clones deliver medicinal marijuana very similar to their parent.
What Does Cloning Cannabis Mean?
Cloning is a type of asexual reproduction of which some plants are naturally capable; the method is generally used to maintain and nurture desirable qualities of a certain strain or species.
The primary benefit of cloning a cannabis plant, rather than always growing from seed, is that the final product is practically guaranteed. Because cloning produces an exact copy of the mother, the clone’s potency, yield, growth rate, and final size should all be very similar to its parent. Because they are all likely to be the same general size and shape, cloned plants are well-suited to dedicated growing methods such as SOG and ScrOG.
Can Feminized Cannabis Seeds Be Used for Clones?
Yes, they can!
It is still important to select seeds, germinate, and grow the original plants first, especially if you are new to medical cannabis and unsure which strains are best suited to your treatment needs. Once you have determined the best strains for you, cloning enables you to continuously grow the type of medication you require.
Selecting a Mother for Your Clones
Male or Female?
Perhaps the most important factor when choosing the best mother cannabis plant for your first clones is the sex of the plant – cloning a male plant is impractical, since males do not produce buds (needed for harvest). Cloning a female is definitely the best bet.
Luckily, when you buy from Growers Choice Cannabis Seeds, you’re guaranteed to germinate and grow only 100% feminized (female) cannabis plants, so this concern is eliminated.
How Old Does a Plant Need To Be Before it Can Be Cloned?
Once you have decided which strain you want to clone, germinate and grow the mother plant for at least four weeks, but no more than three months. Ideally, you will create your clones from a healthy plant still in the vegetative stage.
Preparing for Marijuana Cloning
A week or so before you plan to clone, consider cutting back or completely stopping fertilization of the mother plant – especially nitrogen – for better root development in the clone. Also check the pH level of the growing medium and make any necessary adjustments. Just before cloning, water the mother plant well and check it carefully for pests or signs of disease.
The clone you remove will be the exact age of the mother plant from which it was cut. This means you will have a regular-size 4-week-old plant (the mother), and a tiny, seedling-size 4-week-old plant (the clone). This discrepancy in size is why it is best to cut clones from plants in the vegetative stage. Cloning plants in the flowering stage requires reverting the clone back to the vegetative stage so it can properly grow produce buds. This reverting process can take a very long time, and provides more opportunity for something to go wrong.
You may want to clone all the young plants you are growing. This will allow you to pick and choose which strains you want to grow again (you can always discard cuttings you don’t want), and prevents an unfortunate situation: discovering your perfect medical cannabis comes from a plant you didn’t clone.
What Part of the Plant Should I Use for my Cutting?
The best branch for a cutting is one that is lower down on the mother plant, preferably with at least three additional nodes (smaller stems) already coming off it. The branch should be between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Clones from these branches will generally develop roots more quickly, and will be sturdy enough to support their own weight.
- Using a sharp, clean blade such as scissors or a scalpel (sterilized with rubbing alcohol if necessary), cut the chosen branch on a 45 degree angle, five to eight inches from the top. There should be three or four nodes (branching stems) above the cut.
- As soon as the clone is cut, place it into a cup with water. Allowing air to reach the cut end for more than a few seconds can result in an air embolism and cause irreparable damage.
- Trim away the stems between the cut and the topmost leaves. Planting the cutting in enough water or soil to cover a few of these trimmed nodes can make the rooting and growing process quicker and easier.
It’s not a bad idea to cut multiple clones from the same plant. If one of the clones does not root, you’ve multiplied your chances of a successful clone. You can grow all these clones, or discard all but a single successful one.
How To Root Your Cutting
Ready to grow your cutting?
Once the clone has been removed from the mother plant, it must be quickly and gently prepared for the rooting process. There are two basic ways to root your clones: plain water, or a growing medium.
Rooting Method 1
Place the cutting in a clean plastic cup with a few inches of water. Change the water in the cup every three days. The roots should begin to develop in the first week, and the new plant should be ready to transplant in about two weeks. Transplanting should take place when the roots are between one and three inches long. Allowing for longer roots (about three inches) takes more time, but improves the likelihood of a successful transplant.
Rooting Method 2
A more reliable way to root your clones is to dip the tip of the cutting into a special rooting gel or powder, then place the clone in a growing medium. There are special mediums designed for the rooting process, but rockwool (common for hydroponic growing) and soil may be used as well. Be aware, however, that encouraging roots in soil is a more difficult method.
Whatever medium you choose, ensure there is a hole large enough to place the cutting – pushing it into the medium will only cause damage. Once the cutting is snuggly within the medium, water it well, and mist the leaves. The plant does not yet have roots capable of seeking out moisture, so it must rely on absorbing readily available water through the stem and leaves.
More Rooting Information
Ensure the container into which the plant has been placed is lightfast – roots should be in total darkness. Keep the humidity high during these first few weeks, and ensure the light reaching the leaves is bright, but not too hot. Ideally, young clones will be grown in a separate room from the mature cannabis plants. If this is not possible, they can be placed in the partial shade of the larger plants. A schedule of 18 hours of light to 6 hours of darkness (the usual ratio of the vegetative stage), combined with a temperature of around 28 degrees Celsius, is best to encourage rooting
Other Cannabis Cloning Tips
- Young clones should receive only a mild nutrient solution, if any; ideally not more than half the amount recommended on the bottle.
- If clones are being covered by a tent or lid, ensure there is good ventilation as well as the coverage needed for humidity.
- If starting clones in soil, a loose medium with good drainage is essential to ensure the new roots get enough oxygen and do not drown.
- Once the roots are at least an inch long (about two weeks), the clones can be transplanted into soil, a hydroponic growing medium, or just into a larger pot (if already in soil).
When Can I Plant My Clones?
Once the clones have developed a good root system, they can be transplanted much as are young plants from seeds (see Following Germination for more information). Since your clones are actually the same age as the mother was when the cutting was taken, they will develop as one month, or six week old plants. In other words: quickly.
This does not mean, however, that the clone’s flowering stage should begin when the mother’s does. Though the clone may flower at this point (perhaps just a few weeks after being cut), it will be very tiny and not produce much yield. Instead, allow the clone to remain in the vegetative stage until it is large enough to support a good harvest.
Once you have chosen the strain you want to continue cloning, you have two options. You may keep taking cuttings from clones when they are about four weeks old, rooting that new clone and allowing the new “mother” clone to flower – over and over.
Alternatively, you can keep one mother plant in the vegetative stage indefinitely. Properly cared for, such a plant can produce dozens of clones of precisely the strain you need. Such donors can get very large, however, so make sure you have room to house this big parental cannabis plant!
- Because auto-flowering cannabis strains flower due to age and not light exposure, it is very difficult – and often counterproductive – to create clones from these plants.
- Though clones are identical to the mother plant, more than just genetics determine the end result of the medicine. Don’t forget air flow, temperature, pH level, vegetative and flowering time, and even the curing procedure, all play an important role in the final product. Keep careful notes to ensure your clones receive the same treatment as that perfect mother plant.