Cloned plants being placed into sprouting boxes at Stepwell Soil in Toronto, Ontario. (Photography by Jonathan Coward/Herb)
Cloning means growing a new cannabis plant from a cutting of another cannabis plant. Basically, you chop a branch off a cannabis plant and replant it in a new pot. It’s kind of like surgery. It’s important to carry out the operation with care. Monitor your patient. Keep your workspace clean. Use sterile tools.
Clones become extremely fragile after they’re cut. It’s the most precarious time in a cannabis plant’s life. But if you know what you’re doing, cloning is not hard. In fact, with the proper guidance, you’re almost guaranteed success.
While you can technically take clones from plants at virtually any stage of their growth cycle, for the best results, clones should be taken from mother plants (which can be female or male cannabis plants) that are at least two months old. The larger and stronger the mother plant, the better your clone will be.
Small cuttings with small stems grow roots the fastest. Smaller cuttings also require less moisture, making them easier to keep hydrated and avoid stress.
Your clone will also have more success growing roots if it’s planted in a medium that has a pH level of 5.5 to 6.6.
Your clone will be ready to transplant to a larger pot after 14 – 28 days, depending on whether your clone was taken from a young mother plant or an old mother plant. Here’s everything you need to know about how to clone a cannabis plant.
Step 1: Choose the strain you want to clone (e.g. purple og). Since your clone will share properties with the plant it comes from, you want to take a cutting from a healthy mother plant. This plant should be at least two months old for the best results.
You can help improve your chances of a successful clone by leaching the soil of your mother plant with 7.6 L (2 gallons) of water for every gallon (3.8 L) of soil each morning for about seven days. Make sure your soil has good drainage, meaning it can hold water well. Alternatively, you can mist your plant leaves with lots of plain water every morning for about seven days.
Step 2: Sterilize a sharp blade as best you can. Ideally, you should do this with isopropyl alcohol. If you don’t have that, just wash it thoroughly with dish soap. Take the blade and make a 45-degree cut into a strong and healthy branch, amputating it from the mother plant. The branch you choose should be about 3 – 6 mm thick (0.124 – 0.25 inches), and 5 – 10 cm tall (2 – 4 inches). Make the 45-degree cut right through the center of a node.
Step 3: Trim off the leaves and growth nodes near the bottom of your clone’s stem, leaving a clean length of stem at the bottom of your clone that can be planted into your soil. There should still be at least two sets of leaves at the top of your clone, above the soil line. The part of the stem where you trimmed the leaves and growth nodes should be below the soil line. If you’re not ready to plant your clone right away, put the cut end into a glass of water right away (the same as you would do with a bouquet of flowers).
Step 4: Take a red dixie cup and cut slits in the bottom to allow for drainage. Fill the red dixie cup with moist soil to put your clone into. Fill it nearly to the rim, so that there’s only about 2.5 – 6 cm (an inch or two) of space between the top of the soil and the top rim of the dixie cup. Plant your clone in the soil, and gently pack the soil around the stem. Put your cup with the clone in it on a tray so that the water that drains out the bottom doesn’t leak all over your floor.
Step 5: Mix together some water and clone rooting solution, according to the measurements provided on the package. If the solution you buy isn’t made specifically for cannabis, use the ratio of rooting solution and water for softwood cuttings. To find clone rooting solution, simply call local hydroponics stores, gardening stores, and head shops. If you can’t find any rooting solution there, you can order it online. Pour the solution into the soil around the plant to lightly water it. Pour some of the rooting solution mix into the trey, so that it rises above where you cut the slits in the bottom of the dixie cup. You’ll want to make sure your clone remains in evenly moist soil at all times. Overwatering or under watering can kill your clone so be careful.
Step 6: Put your clone in an area with low levels of light for 18 – 24 hours a day. Cool, white fluorescent lights are ideal for helping your clone to root. Put the fluorescent light 15 cm (6 inches) above the clone.
Step 7: For the first two days, keep the humidity levels in your room around 90 to 100 percent. Over the course of the following week, slowly reduce the humidity to 80 – 85 percent. This process can be made easier by purchasing a humidity tent or dome. Always leave openings for airflow. If you have no access to a humidity tent or dome, you can mist your plants lightly with water throughout the day. If at any point you notice any rotting or dead parts of the plant, cut them off.
Step 8: Keep your growing medium (like soil) warmer than the surrounding air, if possible. This will help your clones to root faster. The medium should be 5°F to 10°F warmer than the surrounding air. But be careful: if your growing medium exceeds 85°F (29.4°C), however, this will cause issues for your plant. You can warm your growing medium with a heating pad or heating cables.
Step 9: If your clones look like they’re drooping or wilting, just be patient. It takes about a week for clones to begin rooting and regain strength as their own independent plant. If your plant still looks wilted after a week, it might be a lost cause.
Step 10: Your clones should be rooted in 1 to 3 weeks. You’ll know your clone is ready to be transplanted to a larger pot once the roots begin to exceed their growing medium. For example, if you see roots beginning to penetrate the outside of their growing medium (e.g soil or rockwool cubes), you know it’s time to transplant. Yellowing leaf tips are also a sign that your clone has successfully rooted.
If you have ever had a really great smoke, and tried to go back to get more only to end up with something that only vaguely resembles the first batch, if at all, you know the hardship. Plants grown from seed can be less than predictable. Like children, they may resemble one parent or both, but rarely are they a perfect mix.
A clone is a cutting from a plant, and will have the exact DNA, therefore the exact same properties as the mother plant. Growing from clones is how the best growers in the business produce a reliable, repeatable product, batch after batch. Not only are clones more reliable for growing the same quality, but you already know what the bud will be like, so there is no guessing.
Another reason clones can be better is that if you are going to be growing repeatedly, using clones puts you on the fast-track to harvest, because you are starting out with a plant that is further along than a seedling, cutting about a month or more off the start to finish of your grow cycle. This is another reason many professionals use clones. The more harvests you can squeeze into your timetable, the more bud you have to sell.
With clones, you are also saving effort. Every grower knows that not all seeds sprout, and if you are growing on a budget, paying $10-$50 dollars a seed every crop can really add up, especially when you could just cut clones for virtually nothing, and get more reliable results in less time.
Having extensively looked into the online market for seeds, I have to report that buying seeds online can be a luck of the draw. There are reputable companies out there that deliver a quality product, but there are just as many shady sites that will either take your money, take your money and give you lousy seeds that hardly grow, grow something different than your expecting, or are actually sites run by or monitored by Drug Enforcement Agencies.
If you are getting your seeds from a bag of bud, odds are they will have a low germination rate from being stored in poor conditions for long periods of time. You are also stuck with whatever quality of weed was in the bag. Usually, if it is low enough quality to have seeds in it, it probably isn’t worth the effort of growing.
While getting clones means more limited sources, such as knowing a grower or getting them from a dispensary, it also means that the source knows exactly what growing that plant requires. When you get clones, you get a wealth of knowledge on how to maximize the grow from someone who has grown the exact same plant.
When you cut your own clones, it means you already know how to grow that strain, and won’t have to adjust your methods to another strain’s temperament when things go wrong.
To be fair, clones have their own drawbacks. You will want to weigh the pros and cons before choosing what works best for you. The first and most obvious drawback to clones is availability. If you are growing in an area without access to a legal dispensary, clones may be hard to come by unless you know your local grower.
In an underground market, asking a for-profit grower for a cutting can be similar to asking a magician for his secrets. They may not want to share, whether from propriety or caution. You may not want to ask them. Seeds might be your only initial option.
Second, if you are an inexperienced grower, the initial care of a clone might be more than you want to deal with. Seeds are intuitive, clones take a little more skill. A clone also tends to be asymmetrical, being cut usually from the side branches. An asymmetrical plant will take to training techniques like mainlining differently, and will take adjustment.
Finally, if you aren’t sure about the quality of the grow that the clone comes from, you could be exposing your grow to any pests or diseases that were present there. Clones should only come from a reliable source, and the most reliable source is your own garden.
When you have decided to try cloning cannabis, you want the best you can get. If you are going to be getting your clones from an outside source, there are factors you will want to keep in mind. Here is a quick guide to shopping for clones, including a handy 10 question list to help you know you are spending your money wisely.
If you are getting your clones from outside your own garden, you want to know a lot about the source. Getting clones off of random plants can mean potential pests, diseases, or even getting a male plant by mistake.
The number one absolute factor in determining where to get your clones is reliability. Is the place neat, clean, and above all organized? If not, you can get all the right information, but end up bringing home the wrong plant! Labels are vital!
If the clone is coming from a professional grow or dispensary, you will want a list of questions ready, so you know exactly what you are getting.
Some of these questions are obvious. You want to know about potential threats to your garden, if it will need training, and what it might be sensitive to. Knowing basic characteristics like flowering time and structure are key to structuring the grow environment.
Asking if they have herb grown from the same plant or at least same crop as the clone came from is a great way to know exactly what good harvests from it will be like. Knowing how old the plant that the cutting came from is also very important. If it was taken during the flowering stage (a big no-no), it may have a strange growth pattern for a few weeks. Clones taken in the vegetative stage root faster and grow stronger.
When cloning cannabis, you need to take a close look at the clones. The two biggest signs of good cloning are established or growing roots, and the health of the leaves and their structure. Roots will grow directly from the stem, and ideally, you want to get a clone that is well on its way to being a fully developed plant to ensure it survives the transportation and replanting process. When you don’t have a cloning area in your own garden, this helps you go straight to planting.
It is important to have vibrant, strong leaves on your clone, because, for the first part of its new life, the leaves are the only source of moisture and nutrients. A source that uses humidity chambers to keep clones healthy will probably have better results.
Look at the overall structure of the clone. It needs to have fan leaves, a terminal shoot, growing nodes, and a healthy main stem. If it lacks growth nodes, it can be slower to get going. Without a sturdy main stem, it could grow into a weak plant that needs support to hold its own weight, especially during flowering.
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If you are too far away to practically get your clones from a dispensary or trusted grower, or you have a favorite strain that you want to grow over and over, making clones at home is a relatively simple process that can ensure that you keep that same quality bud growing time and time again.
The first step is to disinfect all your tools, particularly your cutting implements, and setting up your cloning area. Once you cut a clone, you don’t want to be scrambling around for what you need next. The process is time-sensitive.
Soak your starter cubes for a few minutes so they are primed to receive the cutting, and prep your cloning gel or powder according to package directions so you can apply it immediately.
Make sure the plant you are taking your clones from is healthy, strong, and preferably in the vegetative stage. You can take clones up until a few weeks before harvest, but they must be monitored more closely and will have unusual growth characteristics.
Some growers actually want this, as they can produce plants that branch out like crazy! The technique is called monster cropping and is for advanced growers. One crazy trait is that leaves will grow smooth for a while, like this picture! If you choose to do this, make sure to pinch off any bud sites, so it doesn’t immediately go into flowering.
You want to get the strongest cutting you can, so choose where it comes from with care. You can get several cuttings from a mother plant if you take them from the right spots. Look for an area where there are new branching and a new top, preferably from the lower half of your plant. Cuttings from the lower half of the plant will have more rooting hormones than branches from the top, so they will grow roots faster.
Cut at a 45° degree angle, making sure your cutting is 5-10 inches long. Some growers will scrape the outside of the stem on the lowest inch or even split the stem to give more exposure to the cloning solution, and give a stronger root development area. (This is why it is good to have a razor.) Growers also tend to prefer a razor because of the squeeze that scissors can potentially cause.
*Immediately put your cutting in a glass of water to prevent any air bubbles from entering the stem! Think of it like an open vein, you don’t want air in your blood, it can kill!
Next, you will want to clean up the cutting. eliminate large lower leaves, they will strain the small plant and divert nutrients away from root production during the crucial first weeks. Once it has been prepped it is ready for dipping.
You don’t necessarily have to use rooting gel or powder, but why not spend a few extra bucks to ensure maximum success. Some growers even use both, first dipping in the gel, then the powder, for optimal results. If you choose to take this step, then quickly go from your water to your dip, again avoiding letting air get to the cut area. Once this is done, it goes straight into the starter cube (or automatic cloner, or humidity dome, if you have one).
*Never reuse cloning gel! Improperly stored cloning solution can be contaminated with bacteria that will kill your clones before they even get started. Be safe and just buy new gel!
The reason many growers use humidity domes or automatic cloners is that they take the brunt of the work out of your hands. The ideal environment for rooting clones is 72°F to 76°F, with high humidity. Until the cuttings establish roots, all their water is absorbed through their leaves. If you don’t have a dome or automatic cloner, then mist them with a sprayer a few times a day. You can “dome it yourself” with a clear top (or clear plastic cups) like the picture above.
When it comes to light, you want the light to be weak for at least 10 days, or until roots are well established. Too strong light will divert from root growth, and over-tax the clones. You can go without light for the first couple of days altogether, but most growers will simply use CFL’s for weak lighting. Use a normal vegetative light schedule of 18 hours.
It is possible to use stronger lights, but treat the clones like seedlings, and keep the light 30 inches away or more, depending on strength. You don’t want to start them on 24 hour light during their first weeks, for the same reason you don’t want too strong of a light source.
You don’t want your plants stressed out, so don’t do it yourself. Virtually every cutting will root as long as you follow these steps. Some may take a few days, some a week, and some may take even two weeks or more to get going.
As long as the environment is humid, they won’t dry out. If some cuttings are lagging behind more than you like, you can touch the bottoms in rooting solution again to give them a boost. Some growers will give the clones a boost with foliar feedings, using a compost tea. Others swear by specialized cloning nutrients.
Minimum nitrogen levels with higher levels of phosphorus are the right balance (basically flowering nutrient levels) but remember, keep the levels at half or less of what you would first start seedlings off with. You can also prep the mother plant with flowering nutrients for a couple weeks before taking cuttings to help them get off to a better start.
You have decided to choose clones for your next grow, whether from a trusted source or making them yourself. Once they are cut and in your grow space, you have the task of nurturing them into healthy, productive plants. Read on to learn what it takes to get the most out of your clones.
If you are going to be growing outdoors, it is a good idea to wait a few weeks longer than you normally would at the beginning of the season to put clones outdoors. In the earlier part of spring, daylight hours are still relatively short, and clones are far more susceptible to early flowering than seedlings.
If you would normally put seedlings outdoors in April, wait until at least mid-May, depending on how far from the equator you are. In the southern hemisphere, if you would normally start outdoors in October, wait until mid-November. Temperature is also critical. You want at least 72°F for your daytime temp. At night, a drop down to 65°F is about as far as you want, as the plants are still fragile.
Just like seedlings, clones will not handle strong light right away. You want to keep them further away from strong lights, like High-Pressure Sodium or Metal Halide. 30 inches is a good starting point. For CFL’s, you will still want distance, but 8-12 inches will be okay, as long as the bulb isn’t very strong.
LED’s can be really strong on new plants, so if your grow uses them, use a CFL until the clones are ready to join the group. Temperature needs to stay between 72°F – 76°F. Lights cause heat, so ensure adequate ventilation. Always start clones on an 18-hour light cycle. A 24-hour cycle can be started after about 2-3 weeks if that is your preference.
Moisture is also key to clones survival. Early on, they should receive both root and foliar feeding and moisture for best results. After at least 10 days from rooting, you can slowly back off on foliar misting to let them adjust to normal humidity.
Unlike seeds, clones are already mature plants, albeit small ones. You can switch them to the flowering stage immediately after they establish a healthy root system if you want to keep you grow small. Seeds, on the other hand, even if started on a 12-12 cycle from the start, will not begin to flower for 3-4 weeks.
When taking clones from plants grown from seed, you will want to have labels on each one, so that as the originals are brought to harvest, you can dispose of clones that are from plants that turn out to be male, or are less stellar than you want.
Clones can progress to full nutrient levels at about 3 weeks after full rooting, as long as they are showing vigorous growth.
If you like to train the growth of your plants for maximum results, there are a few key differences when training clones you will want to know ahead of time.
To compensate for asymmetrical clones when main-lining, you need to balance the dominance of higher branches with lower ones on the same node. You can do this with a combination of pinching, bending, and pruning. Start with a spot that has a good pair of growth tips, or top the plant down to a set of close branches.
To balance the dominance, pinch and bend the higher branch down so it is on the same level as the lower one. This will balance the nutrient and energy spread between both sides. Once your first main-line is balanced, the following ones should be more even. If your higher branch is noticeably thicker, continue this retarding of growth until the lower branch has matched its thickness.
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The greatest joy of using clones is keeping quality genetics crop after crop, so don’t forget to cut clones every time. Take more than you need, so you can choose the best ones to grow. When you are about to switch to the flowering stage, you want to direct the energy to the canopy, so trimming off lower branches and taking clones at the same time makes perfect sense.
If you want to keep a mother plant for an endless supply of clones, just keep her in the vegetative stage with a long lighting cycle, and trim her back to avoid a behemoth plant. With a properly tended mother, you can take clones from anywhere on the plant, even the very top.
Once a clone is established, it will grow just like a plant from seed, only faster. Apart from the asymmetry, it will look just the same, unless it was taken from a plant during flowering, and even then, it will recover back into a normal looking plant with time.
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