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Mother Plants and Genetic Drift

Hey Danny,
I’m a big fan and love your rag. My collection goes back to #11 in July 1976. One of my questions is how long can you clone a mother plant before she’s spent? I had a (former) friend give me 20 clones of Sensi Star for my garden. I had a funny feeling when they started flowering – they had no scent and were not producing any resin glands. They sure looked good with hairs and bulky buds but I ended up with 2 lbs. of hemp. I wasted my time and money with this crop. And also had hundreds of male flowers, not from any stress, but they were out of control. My second question is, I ended up with seeds. Are they going to produce the same disaster that we just went through or will they have gone back to original genetics? – GP

Dear GP,
Mother plants kept in good standing, without stresses and problems, should continue to put out clones with the same potency and vigor as they have for years. On the other hand, mother plants that have suffered in life and been traumatized will likely pass a certain amount of that trauma on to their rooted cuttings. Thus, keeping a mother plant healthy and thriving is the key to avoiding a loss in odor, flavor or potency.

The seeds you ended up with are not likely to amount to much genetically based on your description of the “parent.” Seeds from a hermaphroditic plant tend to be 50% female and 50% hermie, not a good ratio for any future garden.

Start with strong genetics in seed form, grow them out and choose keepers for mother plants based on desirable traits. Flower clones from the seedlings, and use the clones to determine the sex of each plant. That way, you don’t have to revert your plants back to the vegetative stage from the flowering stage. This reduces stress on the eventual mother plant and allows you to use the rooted clones to choose which “parents” to keep and turn into mother plants.

Also remember that although mother plants don’t need as much intense light as flowering ones, they do need at least 18 hours of light per 24-hour cycle to thrive. Never grow mother plants in the same room as your 12/12 on/off flowering plants unless you move them out into another lit space when your lights go off.

Have a grow question? Ask away at

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