Did you know that you can save a lot of money, time and hassle by growing your cannabis from clones instead of from seed? Cannabis grown from seed has a lot of benefits of its own, but it does add a lot of extra time and hassle to your growing season. Seedlings take weeks to grow big enough to plant, and you must learn how to tell the gender of your plants or you have the risk of a male plant ruining your whole crop. Clones are a great option even for beginner growers. You may start off by purchasing clones from other home growers or dispensaries, but you will quickly find out that this gets expensive! When purchasing clones, you cannot guarantee their quality or hardiness and you may end up losing some early on. Luckily, cloning at home is simple when you follow the steps below and have all of the right equipment on hand. In this article we will go over everything you need to clone your own marijuana plants, so that you have complete control over your strains.
What is Cloning?
When growing marijuana or any plant, the usual method of reproduction is called sexual reproduction. This requires a male and a female plant, which are bred to produce genetically unique offspring. The male plant pollinates the female, which then puts energy in to producing viable seeds. Marijuana growers want to harvest the flower, or bud, of the female plant. Plants grown for harvest are to be kept away from males, because male plants even within a few hundred feet can effect the flowering potential of your females and cause them to go to seed. Therefore, growers who want to produce their own seeds must be very careful to keep their male plants separate from their harvest plants. When you grow from seed, you must learn how to sex your plants early in their life cycle to avoid problems.
Another option is to clone. Cloning is when you cause cuttings of a plant to take root, creating a new plant that is genetically identical to the “mother” plant. Clones tend to be more stable, and because they are taken from grown plants they can be planted as soon as their roots are stable, which takes much less time than growing seedlings. You can ensure a stable crop with whatever desired results you wish by taking clones from your best performing plants. Whether you are selecting for flavor, yield, growth speed, or another metric, cloning makes it easy to guarantee results.
2. Materials Needed For Cloning
Before you start cloning, you need to have the proper materials and equipment on hand to make sure you can care for both your clones and your mother plant properly.
3. How To Clone Cannabis
The steps for cloning are pretty simple. Let’s go over the particulars to make sure that you get it right every time. While cloning, make sure that your environment is as sterile as possible, and try not to agitate either the mother or the clones unnecessarily, as it is a delicate process. The whole process takes about one week, from taking cuttings until they are ready to be planted.
A note about grow tents and lights: While it is not absolutely necessary to have a separate grow tent and grow light for your mother plant and clones, it can increase your chances of success. Mother plants must be kept in the vegetative growth stage, so make sure that your mother is getting the proper amount of light to avoid flowering. Clones need plenty of light, around 18 hours per day, so it helps to have their own space in your grow room with a separate light just for them. T5 Fluorescent lights or low-wattage LEDs are a great choice. If you use Metal Halide or High Pressure Sodium, make sure they are hung far away from the sensitive young plants so you do not burn them.
One final note before we begin – If you are cloning multiple different strains, make sure to label your cuttings properly! This may go without saying, but clones all look alike and it is very easy to lose track of which clone is which strain without proper labeling. Either label each clone individually, or place different strains in the same growing tray and label each tray.
- 1. Before taking clones, do not fertilize your mother plant for a few days. Lack of fertilizer causes nitrogen to leave the leaves and stems. This lack of nitrogen will prevent your clones from growing vegetation, and allow them to focus their energy on producing roots instead.
- 2. Take cuttings from lower branches with sturdy and well developed stems and leaves. Lower branches have more rooting hormones present, and will root faster than cuttings taken from high branches. The stem should be roughly the same diameter as the hole in your rockwool or other rooting medium. Cuttings should be between 5-10 inches long, with several or smaller branches off of the main stem.
- 3. Cut the main stem off of the mother plant at a 45 degree angle. Cut as close as you can to the main stem without damaging it. Cutting close to the main stem ensures a larger surface area for roots to grow on, increasing your likelihood of success.
- 4. Immediately place your cuttings in water. If they are exposed to air for too long, air bubbles will form on the cut surface, preventing water uptake in the stem once you transfer the cuttings to rooting medium. Quick action on this step can prevent the clones from dying and help them root faster.
Many growers take a few seconds to cut multiple incisions on the rooting surface before dipping their cuttings in water. This increases the surface area and therefore gives a larger area for roots to develop.
- 5. Clip the leaves of your clones using scissors. When you purchase clones you will notice that most of the leaves, if not all, are cut in half. This ensures that leaves do not touch each other, and also increases nutrient and water uptake in the stem, encouraging root growth.
- 6. Dip stems into a rooting hormone such as a gel or powder. Some growers will claim this step is unnecessary, but rooting hormones can increase your chances of successful root growth. This step should be done quickly to prevent air bubbles. Also make sure to cover the entire rooting surface.
- 7. Transfer clones into the rooting medium. Rockwool cubes are recommended, because they have holes ready to go and are quick and simple to use. Rockwool allows for plenty of airflow as well as moisture retention. Make sure you pre-wet your rockwool and keep it nice and moist for your cuttings. After you place the cutting in the cub, press it down gently to release any air bubbles and seal the cutting surface against the rockwool.
Other options include rooting directly into soil, or in water. When rooting in soil, make sure that you use a neutral soil with no added fertilizer or too many nutrients, or the overabundance of nutrients “burn” your young plants. Some growers also have success with rooting directly into water, without the use of rooting hormones or rockwool. In my experience, this makes transferring the clones into soil or growing medium more difficult and the clones may not end up as hardy as if you use the steps outlined above.
- 8. Clones should be kept in a mini dome greenhouse with a humid environment. Keep the rockwool moist and check the lid of the greenhouse several times a day to make sure there is condensation present. Use the spray bottle with water to keep your clones moist at all times. While they are developing their roots, they also absorb water through their leaves. A moist environment ensures that they will not dry out and get weak or die before they get the chance to develop strong roots.
Heating mats can be used to increase the temperature and therefore the Relative Humidity level of your mini-greenhouse. Clones like a warm temperature just like seedlings, about 77 degrees Fahrenheit, so heating mats are especially desirable if you live in a colder climate.
- 9. The final step is transplanting your clones. Once your cuttings have developed a root system that is strong enough to handle transplanting, they will start growing new leaves. Vegetative growth is your sign that clones are ready to transplant. Be careful when transplanting and do not over-agitate your clones, or you may send them in to shock.
Automatic Cloners or Cloning Machines
Cloning machines like the TurboKlone T96D Aeroponic Cloning System pictured above take a lot of the work out of the process for you. They help to provide a stable environment with the right temperature and humidity levels needed for successful cloning. With that said, they can be expensive and are not completely necessary for home growers. Usually cloning machines are used by professional growers who are making tens or hundreds of clones at a time.