Being a successful grower requires hard work and dedication to your craft, and it also entails knowing a few tricks to help you enhance your yields with minimum effort. One such technique is cloning cannabis plants.
Cloning is much different from growing from cannabis seeds, and while it can’t replace traditional cultivation in any way, it does complement it perfectly during the growing season. Cloning allows you to replicate your favorite cannabis cultivar, which can be a fail-proof technique for well-established growers who want to keep producing high-quality plants.
So, in this article, we’ll talk about what exactly cloning is and its benefits, as well as how to clone your own cannabis cultivars. Let’s begin!
To Begin With – What Is Cannabis Cloning?
Cannabis cloning, also called asexual propagation, refers to the process of taking cuttings from a mature cannabis plant and planting them so they can develop their own roots. The new plants will have the same gender, characteristics, and genetic makeup as the parent plant, making them an exact replica.
In contrast, when you grow directly from seeds, the resulting plants will possess characteristics from both the male and the female plants. Once they mature, you will find that each of them is their own variant or phenotype, just like two siblings who aren’t identical.
With cloning, on the other hand, you’re able to preserve the exact characteristics of your favorite plant and continue reproducing it. Additionally, the clone is the exact same age as the parent plant, which means that once it grows roots, it’ll continue growing right where it was and it will be closer to the flowering stage.
The Many Benefits of Cloning Marijuana Plants
Some of the benefits of cloning marijuana plants include:
- Getting an exact copy of a specific cultivar, something which you can never get with traditional growing. That also means you’ll know what to expect from that particular cultivar, so there’ll be no surprises;
- Producing dozens of clones from one parent plant;
- If you always make clones from female plants, there will be no need to sex the plants and separate the male plants from the female plants because the clones will be all female;
- Skipping a good few weeks of the traditional growing process, starting from germination to the early vegetative stage, because the clones will be the same age as the mother plant. This means the clones will need less time to enter the flowering stage, which means more yields for you (yay!);
- Ending up with a cost-effective (practically free) growing process while you get high-quality buds;
- Saving a lot of space in your garden compared to growing from seeds. Seeds don’t always germinate, plus if you don’t use feminized seeds, you’ll inevitably have to sex the plants and remove the males;
- You can make a clone in almost any stage of the growing process. Even though it’s preferred to take clones when the mother plant is in the vegetative stage, you can still do it a little later, in the flowering stage, up until two or three weeks before harvest. This may happen if you suddenly change your mind once you notice how a certain cultivar is doing and realize you want more of its buds.
Then, Why Don’t More Cannabis Growers Make Clones?
Cloning marijuana plants may be the most fuss-free and effective way to grow the best plants possible and increase your yields, but in reality, not all growers use it as a primary growing method. This is mainly because there are a lot of growers who like cultivating and exploring different cannabis strains and would only benefit from cloning if they want to obtain more “copies” of a particular plant. But when you’ve already found a favorite plant that you love and want to keep cultivating, then cloning can be perfect for you.
How to Clone Cannabis Plants
Cloning cannabis plants is a lot simpler than you might think, and when done right, your clones will develop root growth in about a couple of weeks. Now, let’s go over the process step-by-step.
Prepare Everything Beforehand
Before you begin, you have to make sure you’re working in a sterile environment. You should wear clean gloves and disinfect your tools well, preferably with high-proof alcohol. The cloning process makes both the parent plant and the clones more vulnerable to infections, so if any bacteria end up contaminating them, your efforts will be in vain.
It’s best to prepare all your tools in advance because you will need to work relatively fast in order not to let the cuttings have prolonged contact with the environment. This includes soaking the starter cubes in water for a few minutes to have them prepared.
We also recommend making several clones, especially if it’s your first time because maybe not all of them will survive. If you want to make several clones from different strains, we strongly recommend that you label them so that you don’t forget which is which.
For the cloning process, you’ll need:
- High-proof alcohol for tool sterilization;
- Mother plant;
- Sharp scissors or trimming clippers;
- Starter cubes;
- Cloning gel and/or cloning powder;
- Weak grow lights (low wattage CFL or T5 are ideal);
- Spray bottle;
- Humidity dome (optional).
Step 1 – Select and Prepare the Mother Plant
Clones are usually cut from mature plants that have been in the vegetative stage for two to three months as they’re developed enough. In fact, you can probably cut dozens of clones from well-developed and robust plants.
You can also take clones from a flowering plant, but the cuttings will be much bushier at the beginning and may take longer to develop root growth. You’ll also have to revert them back to the vegetative stage for a while by immediately cutting off any buds, before letting them enter the flowering stage again.
Start by selecting your mother plant. You should choose a healthy plant, one that looks sturdy and vibrant. Cultivators usually choose plants with alluring flavors and aromas, but also plants that are resistant to pests and mold, flower faster, and have dense buds with sticky trichomes.
Prepare the mother plant for cloning by feeding it with less nitrogen for about a couple of weeks prior to making the cuttings to promote better root growth. You can feed it with regular flowering nutrients and even up the calcium a little to strengthen the cell walls.
Step 2 – Make the Cannabis Clones
The best part of the plant to take cuttings from is the bottom part because those branches are the closest to the root, which means they contain more rooting hormones. However, any part of the plant will also work, as long as it has new growth at the tip and is trimmed correctly.
Select a branch that has new vegetative growth and several nodes. The cuttings should be 4-8 inches long. Grab the branch and cut it below the last node, but instead of cutting it straight across, cut it at a 45-degree angle to expose more surface area. Some cultivators like to scrape the bottom of the cutting, or even split it to expose more of the insides of the branch, in order to promote faster rooting.
After you make each cutting, dip it straight in the water ASAP to prevent bubbles from forming at the bottom of the cutting, which will prevent the clone from absorbing water.
Next, dip it in the cloning gel and/or cloning powder. Using just one of the two is usually enough, but some growers like to use a combination of both to increase the chances of rooting. Coat the entire bottom of the cutting well before transplanting it to the starter cubes.
One last thing, remove any unnecessary fan leaves towards the bottom and clip the remaining fan leaves to boost photosynthesis. It also prevents more water from evaporating which helps the clones retain moisture while developing their new root system.
Step 3 – Plant the Cloned Plants In the Starter Cubes
Your starter cubes should be moistened, but they shouldn’t be too moist. Once you dip the clones into the cloning gel, put them straight into the starter cubes, and make sure they’re sealed well so there are no openings where air could get in.
From here on, you should check on them daily to see how the rooting process goes. Along the way, make sure to create the ideal conditions so that your clones can develop their new root systems and grow healthy and strong.
Step 4 – Help the New Clones Gain Strength and Thrive
Clones take about 14 days to develop their new roots, but sometimes it can take a bit longer. However, providing them with the ideal conditions will ensure that the cloning process is successful, with minimal losses.
The perfect conditions for new clones are warm temperatures and a humid environment of between 80% and 90% relative humidity. Since the roots haven’t developed yet, the source of water for your new clones would be the leaves. That’s why some growers like using humidity domes as an option, but you can also mist them with a spray bottle a few times a day until their new root growth starts showing.
The ideal temperature during this time is between 72 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, so just a tad warmer than the standard room temperature, but it will make a big difference.
As for lighting, it’s best to use some weak CFL or T5 grow lights for the first couple of days. It’s best to give them 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness at first to encourage the root development even further. It’s important that the lights aren’t too strong, but if you use HID grow lights, it’s best to position them at least three feet from the clones to avoid burning them.
Step 5 – Transplant the Cloned Plants In Their New Home
Your clones will be ready for transplanting when the roots start showing from the starter cubes. It usually takes about 14 days, but sometimes it can take longer, or even a few days less. As long as the clone is showing signs of constant development, you’ll just have to be patient. When the roots are about a couple of inches long, you can transplant the clones to their new home. Again, when transplanting, remember to disinfect everything and transplant the clones in slightly moist soil.
You Can Start the Cloning Process In Different Rooting Mediums
The cloning method we talked about uses starter cubes as rooting mediums, but you can also use other rooting mediums. Let’s see some examples.
Use Rockwool Cubes for a High Rate of Success
Rockwool cubes are probably the most commonly used rooting mediums because of their high rates of success. They have excellent water retention, which makes them perfect for this kind of operation. Just remember to soak them in slightly acidic water (5.5 pH) for a couple of hours before use.
Soil Is Another Fail-Proof Method
Rooting the cuttings in the soil is another fail-proof method, however, it’s different from planting seeds. The soil shouldn’t be fertilized because it can cause a nutrient burn in the clones. Instead, choose a light potting mix mixed with perlite. Soak the soil and let it drain completely as it shouldn’t be too moist. You can use large plastic party cups to plant the clones and replace them once the roots start showing from the sides.
Water Is the Simplest Method
Cloning cannabis in water is the simplest method, though it doesn’t always guarantee success. The water should be unchlorinated, while its pH should be between 5.8 and 6. You can still use a cloning gel and sip the cutting first into the gel and then in the water. Make sure to replace the water every 2-3 days to prevent bacterial overgrowth and algae formation.
Cloning cannabis is a low-cost, low-effort, and effective way to keep successfully producing high-quality cultivars. It’s the perfect complement to traditional growing from cannabis seeds as it allows you to replicate the best plants that you have grown and increase your yields. Since you skip the whole germination and early vegetative phase, it also saves a lot of time during the grow season.
Cloning marijuana plants is a simple process that can be very successful when done correctly. The most important thing to remember is to work in a sterile environment and keep the clones in a warm and humid place until they grow their new root systems. After this first part of the cloning process is finished, you can transplant them and prepare them for flowering, as usual.