Jorge’s Cannabis Encyclopedia: Mother Plants

Mother Plants

Mother plants are selected for desirable medicinal qualities. Cannabinoid and terpene content are more important than harvest weight. The most robust mother plants are taken from superior F1 hybrid females. See chapter 3, Medical Cannabis Varieties, for more information.

All cannabis plants can be cloned, regardless of age or growth stage. However, auto-flowering plants complete their life cycle in less than 90 days and make very short-term mothers. It is time-consuming to re-vegetate plants that flowered before clones were taken. Clones taken from flowering plants root quickly but require a month or longer to revert to vegetative growth. See “Cloning a Flowering Female,” on page 84 of The Cannabis Encyclopedia.
Strong, healthy, cannabinoid-potent females make good mothers. Weak plants that are susceptible to disease and pest attacks over time make poor mothers, even though they might exhibit strong genetic qualities. Such mothers tend to lose strength and often contract low levels of diseases that they pass on to clones.


Growing a strong, healthy mother plant is the first step to producing strong, healthy cuttings.


Label all mothers and corresponding clones.


Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University, inspects a roomful of mother plants.


Take clones from mother plants that are at least 2 months old. If taking clones from seedlings, wait until male or female pre-flowers are easily visible with the naked eye. Clones taken from female plants cloned before they have expressed sex may dawn male flowers or develop poorly when induced to flower with a 12/12-hour day/night photo-period.

Mother plants are most resilient when grown from F1 hybrid seeds. Most often clones are taken from other clones. There are countless examples of gardeners who made clones of clones from the same variety more than 20 times. That is, clones (C-1) were taken from the original female grown from seed. These clones were grown in the vegetative stage, and clones (C-2) were taken from the first clones (C-1). Blooming was induced in (C-1) 2 weeks later and (C-2), grown in the vegetative stage. Then, clones (C-3) were taken from the second clones (C-2). This same growing technique is still going on with clones of clones well past (C-20) and there has been no apparent breakdown in the clone’s potency or vigor. However, mothers that are weak may suffer stress or contract disease such as powdery mildew will produce weak clones. Weak and diseased mothers should be banished from the garden, container and all.

A female plant will reproduce 100 percent females, all exactly like the mother except for phenotype deviation*. When grown in the exact same environment, clones from the same mother usually look alike. But the same clones subjected to distinct environments in different garden rooms will often look different.

*Since we do not have enough research on cannabis, we must look at other plants for information. The Bradford pear for instance, arose from a genetic difference in the bud. The new shoot had better pears, and new trees were made from them. They are not always complete to form—older DNA that has been acted on, and an established phenotype. A true clone made from a single cell was used to make a big group, carry all identical but new DNA, and a cursory but malleable phenotype.

Once a plant grown from seed has designated sex (male or female), and it receives any other necessary trigger—temperature, light cycle, etc.—it is biologically “competent,” ready to enter the flowering growth stage. See “Florigen” in chapter 8, Flowering, for more information.

Keep several mother plants in the vegetative growth stage for a consistent source of cloning stock. Start new mothers from seed every 6 to 12 months. Give mother plants 18 to 24 hours of light per day to maintain rapid growth.

Transplant old mother plants into the outdoor garden. Once mother plants are 6 to 12 months old they are usually pot-bound and prone to pest and disease attacks. Move old mother plants outdoors in the early spring for a spring crop, or plant them for a fall crop. Once mothers have hardened-off and acclimated to the outdoor climate, Mother Nature takes over!

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