Cloning and Mother Plants 101
Introduction to Mother Plants and Cloning
Knowing how to successfully grow and then clone from a Mother Plant is a crucial skill for the indoor grower. This article will explain what a Mother Plant is, how to choose the right mother plant, and how to create clones from a mother plant.
A mother plant, by definition, is a plant that exists solely so that the grower can take cuttings, or clones, from the plant. The clones are then rooted, vegetated, and grown as a separate plant. The primary purpose and benefit of a mother plant is to greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to start a new growing cycle.
It is quicker to use a mother plant because it takes much less time to grow a plant from a clone than it does to start a plant from seed. Plus, starting plants from seed can be unreliable. If you start from seed then you may not know what the sex of the plant will be, what phenotypes (characteristics) it will exhibit, or even if all of the seeds will sprout.
Cloning, when done properly, can have a 100% success rate. Many growers choose to start cloning and vegetating a second set of plants midway through their current flowering cycle. This allows you to start flowering a second group of plants as soon as the first group is harvested. The advantage is that you will always have plants in the flowering cycle, which increases your yield by greatly reducing the amount of time between harvests. This over-lapping or staggered grow cycle is a favorite among professional horticulturists, as it is a very efficient way to run a garden.
Choosing the Right Mother Plant
Choosing the right mother plant for your garden is easy. I normally recommend starting a mother plant from seed, although it is possible to start a mother plant from a clone. If you decide to start a mother plant from a clone, then make sure the plant hasn’t come from a long line of clones.
Some growers report problems with plants that have come from a long line of clones - Reduced growth rate, unstable growth, lower yields, etc. We recommend starting a mother plant from seed just to be safe. If you are starting a mother plant from another clone, then you can skip this section and move onto the “How to Clone from a Mother Plant” section below.
The first thing you will want to do is get as many seeds together as you have room for plants to grow. The reason being that we are going to grow as many plants as possible so that we can choose the best mother plant for the application. Yes, you may only need one mother plant, but we are going to grow multiple mother plants at first for a very good reason.
The reason that we are going to grow multiple potential mother plants at first is because even though a batch of seeds may have come from the same plant, each plant can exhibit unique characteristics known as phenotypes. For example, some plants stretch and grow tall, others are short and bushy. Some plants just seem to grow better than others. It’s all genetics!
Once you get your seeds together it’s time to grow! Germinate and plant you seeds, once they reach a manageable height, you will want to determine their sex. We want to determine the sex of the plants so that we know what we’re working with. You may need to search on google for how to determine the sex of the plant you’re working with.
We want to determine the sex of the plant because male plants produce pollen - If a female plant is pollinated then it will produce seeds. We don’t want seeds, we want fruit! Or vegetables, or flowers - Whatever you’re growing.
When your plants reach a reasonable level of growth, at least 5 leaf nodes, force them to flower by changing the light schedule to a 12 / 12 light cycle. A 12 /12 light cycle means 12 hours with the lights on and 12 hours with the lights off.
It will take a bit of time before your plants start to show signs of their sex - Maybe around 15 to 20 days depending on variables such as strain, genetics, light type, etc. Once you sex your plants, toss out the males and keep the females.
At this point you will have to make a decision. Which female plant looks the best? You’ll want to keep the one that best meets your needs. I usually go for plants that are short, bushy, healthy, and strong. If you’re growing indoors then you’ll want to choose plants that exhibit the ideal characteristics for your application.
Once you determine which mother plant you want, flip your lights back over to a 24 hour on cycle - This means giving light to your plant 24 / 7. Now, some people swear by the 18/6 cycle, which means 18 on and 6 off. Growers report success either way, so I’d go with whatever you feel more comfortable with. One benefit to the 18/6 cycle is that you will save a bit of electricity by not running your lights 24/7.
Give your plant a few days to recover from switching between two different light cycles before you start taking clones. Switching back to a 24 hour or 18/6 light cycle may shock the plant, but it should stop flowering and revert to a vegetative state within a few days. Once it is stable you’ll be able to start cloning
How to Clone from a Mother Plant
Taking clones from a mother plant is very easy. Before you start cloning, make sure you have the necessary supplies:
- Rockwool Cubes
- Cloning Gel
- Clean Scissors
- Tray and Dome
- Spray Bottle
- Seedling Heat Mat
Before you start cloning, you will want to prepare your rockwool cubes. Rockwool can cause your pH level to fluctuate greatly if you do not prepare it before use. Check out our How to Prepare Rockwool Guide for more information.
Step 1.) Take a cutting at a 45 degree angle from the bottom 1/3 of the plant. A branch with a leaf or two should do it. Make sure your scissors are clean! You want to cut at a 45 degree angle because this will help the clone take root faster by exposing more area for the roots to grow from. If the leaf is very large then you can cut it in half. This will help the clone to focus more on the root system and less on the leaf itself.
Step 2.) Dip the cut end of your new clone into the cloning gel and hold it there for about 30 seconds. Insert the cut end of the clone into the rockwool cube. Make sure the cutting is secure in the rockwool - Compact the rockwool around the base of the clone so that there are no air pockets. Don’t squeeze too tight.
Step 3.) Place the freshly prepared clone into the clone tray and liberally spray it with your spray bottle. Make sure there is about 1/8th of an inch of water in the bottom of the tray, or at least make sure the rockwool is very wet. This is because if the clone dries our then an air bubble will form in the stem, causing the clone to die. Make sure the seedling heat mat is under the tray and set the temperature to about 70-80 degrees. Cover the tray with the dome to help keep in the humidity. Place the tray under a grow light - We recommend using a high output T5 fluorescent tube or a compact fluorescent lamp. HID lamps will work for this application but it may be overkill.
Step 4.) Give your clones a week or so to take root. Once you see a few roots start to poke out of the rockwool then you can transfer them to your primary growing space. Transplanting is easy, simply insert the rockwool into your desired grow medium.
That should do it! If you have any questions about cloning then feel free to contact us - We are here to help!