Cloning Made Easy
Many growers remain mystified by cloning, finding it difficult to master the art of propagating many plants from one motherplant. Danny Danko explains the key factors that will allow any marijuana farmer to root cuttings over and over with ease.
What is Cloning and Why Should I Bother?
Taking clones, or the process of cutting off a growing branch of a “mother” plant and forcing roots to grow from the cut end to multiply one into many, isn’t a technique invented by pot farmers. Since the beginnings of agriculture, people have looked for alternate ways to propagate plants without using seeds. Every farm stand proprietor, florist and garden storeowner knows the “secret” and profits mightily from the public’s general lack of understanding of what’s actually quite a simple process.
Replicating many copies of one plant provides many benefits to growing a garden from seeds. Because most seedlings will vary in size and growth rates, with different phenotypes behaving in various ways, seed gardens tend to be uneven, with light levels optimum for some plants but less so for others. Rooted clones provide a level canopy, with every plant performing alike and benefiting from all light available. Growing from seeds wastes valuable germination time resulting in fewer total harvests per year.
From a quality control perspective, a quality motherplant can be the gift that keeps on giving. Known females with guaranteed elite genetics continue producing clone after clone of strong and tasty plants for many years. The only drawback to cloning is that all of the cuttings will share susceptibilities to fungus or disease, so always remain vigilant and start new moms if you have any problems. Purchasing rooted clones from a dispensary can sometimes cause more problems than it solves so make sure the clones are pest and fungus free if you go that route.
In order to benefit from the clone process, you first must have access to a motherplant. The best way to get one is to grow her out yourself and the key is to never actually flower her out. For this you need to germinate your pedigreed seeds and grow them out for a few weeks in the vegetative state with at least 18 hours of light per day. Once they’ve produced several leaves and nodes, you take clones of the tops, root them and flower them out with 12 hours of light per day to determine the sex and strength of the corresponding plant left behind in the vegging stage. Keep the strongest female or females in their vegetative state and take all your resulting clones from them. You now have a motherplant.
Keeping the motherplant alive for multiple cloning sessions requires a bit of planning. Larger containers are necessary for the root systems. Also, motherplants shouldn’t enter the flowering stage until they’ve given you all the cuttings you require. Keep motherplants under 18-20 hours of light at all times in order to keep them from flowering and having to revert them back to vegetative. Feedings should be mild and of the vegetative nature, meaning high nitrogen (N) levels with less phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). Diluted formulations of liquid seaweed, liquid fish and seabird guano are wonderful organic nutrients for motherplants.
How To Clone
Choosing a medium to root cuttings is the first step. Many different products exist, from rockwool to peat pellets to coco coir. Hydroponic growers sometimes make their clones in thin air, using a mist to induce rooting at the cut end hanging down into a reservoir. As long as the medium stays moist, warm and airy, pretty much any one will do.
Because cannabis cuttings root best in warm conditions with high humidity, the cheap trays with clear plastic domes work remarkably well. In cool conditions, a heat mat should be placed underneath the trays to maintain optimum temperature and humidity (75 degrees farenheit and 80 percent relative humidity is about right). No matter where and into what medium you plan to root your clones, keep warmth and high humidity on your priority list. Clones allowed to get cold or dry will perish quite quickly. Too much humidity can also cause mold and rot, so cut a hole or two in your clear plastic dome to allow some air movement and circulation.
Choose a growing shoot with at least 3 sets of leaves and make the cut just below a node (the place where the leaves meet the stem). Make the cut with a sharp non-serrated blade and do so at about a 45-degree angle to ensure plenty of rooting area. Trim off the closest set of leaves to your cut so that you can get the stem into your medium.
Immediately immerse the cut end into rooting hormone and then firmly but gently push the cut-end into your pre-moistened rooting medium. Some people like to rough up the bottom inch or so of the stem with the knife gently to create more roots, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Within 8-14 days, you should see white roots poking out of the bottom of your chosen medium. You are now ready to transplant the rooted clones into their bigger containers for the vegetative stage of growth. Congrats!