Taking cuttings from a strong mother plant allows you to preserve the exact genetic traits of that strain. While it might seem complex, cloning cannabis can be simple, given you use the right techniques and equipment. Here’s everything you need to know!
Cloning a cannabis plant sounds pretty futuristic, but it’s actually quite simple; it just involves taking a cutting from one of your plants and giving it time to develop roots. Cannabis growers tend to take clones either from mother plants (which are kept constantly in veg) or young vegetative plants that they’ll later switch to flower.
There are many benefits to cloning your cannabis plants, but the main advantage is it allows you to preserve the specific genetics of a plant almost indefinitely. Best of all, cloning is free!
What Are Cannabis Clones?
Cannabis clones are cuttings taken from a vegetating cannabis plant. Once they grow roots, these cuttings turn into plants with the exact same genetics as the plant they were cut from.
When you buy cannabis seeds from a respected seed bank, each seed will contain the genetics of both its mother and father. Once you germinate your seeds, however, you may find that your individual plants (or phenotypes) look quite different. That’s because they may express the genetics passed down from their parents in different ways, just like you might look very different from your siblings.
Hence, if you find a plant with particular characteristics (smell, taste, yield, size, etc.) that you love, cloning it allows you to preserve those genetics, grow after grow. If you have any lingering doubts about the process, take a look at the benefits of growing cannabis clones versus seeds.
Choosing the Right Mother Plant to Clone From
Cloning is really about capturing the best attributes of a particular strain. As such, you want to be pretty selective about which plants you take your clones from.
Ideally, you’ll want to clone a plant that you absolutely love. If you germinate a bag of seeds, keep an eye out for that one plant that just seems to top its siblings; the one that grows the fastest, looks the strongest, smells the best, or yields the most. That’s the strain you’ll want to clone.
Some traits growers tend to look for in mother plants include:
- Exotic or pungent aromas
- Sweet, smooth, and bold flavours
- High potency and resin production
- Manageable heights (when growing indoors) and robust growth
- Fast flowering time
- Resistance to pests, moulds, and other pathogens
- Large yields
When growing from seeds, some growers opt to take clones from all their plants while they veg. Then, once these first plants are harvested and dried, they only keep the healthiest clones from the one plant they liked the most.
On the other hand, it’s also possible to only take clones from those vegging plants that stand out in any of the areas mentioned above. Unfortunately, it can be hard to determine the aroma, flavours, and potency of a strain so early on, which is why we recommend taking clones from all your plants, then culling those you don’t want post-harvest.
What Do You Need to Clone Cannabis?
- A healthy vegging “mother” plant
- A clean scalpel, razor, or sharp scissors
- Starter cubes (Rockwool, etc.)
- Cloning gel or powder
- “Mild” lighting for your clones: a low-wattage CFL or a special light for clones/seedlings is ideal
- High-proof alcohol to disinfect your tools
- Propagator (optional), which comes complete with everything you need to create the perfect microclimate for your clones
How to Take a Cannabis Clone
When it comes down to actually taking your cuttings, there are a few key factors to keep in mind.
Choose the Right Rooting Medium
To help your clones develop healthy roots, we recommend planting them in a well-aerated medium that retains plenty of moisture. For best results, we recommend using Rockwool cubes (made from molten rock that’s been spun into a fine thread), as they allow for plenty of airflow and provide great moisture retention. Make sure to also invest in a plastic tray (which will hold the cubes and help them retain some water) and a dome or propagator to retain humidity around your clones.
Prepare Your Tools
Cleanliness is the key to taking and growing healthy clones. Hence, make sure to wash your hands and use gloves before handling your plants, and sterilise your razor, scalpel, or scissors as well as your work area with high-proof alcohol.
When you take cuttings from a plant, both the mother and cuttings are at a higher risk of developing infections from the bacteria in their environment. Washing your hands and sterilising your equipment will minimise the risk of these bacteria causing your cuttings (or worse, your mother) any problems.
Once you’ve taken a cutting from your mother plant, you’ll need to act quickly. You don’t want to leave the inside of its panch exposed to the elements any longer than is absolutely necessary. To help speed up the cloning process, we recommend setting up your work area before you make the cut, with your rooting gel and medium ready to go.
Also, we recommend lightly moistening your medium before you start cloning. Just remember not to overdo it; clones like high humidity and a slightly moist medium, but they’ll rot in a medium that’s drenched.
Select a Cutting
You can technically take cuttings from both vegging and flowering cannabis plants. However, cuttings taken from a flowering plant may take longer to root and tend to exhibit slower growth. They’ll also need to be reverted back to veg for about 2–3 weeks before you can flip them into flower again.
Cannabis clones are best taken from the tip of a healthy panch. Remember, the healthier the cutting, the faster it will root and grow. We generally recommend taking cuttings from the bottom panches of a plant, seeing as they typically receive less light and will produce smaller buds. Make sure your cuttings have at least two nodes.
Make the Cut
To take a clone from a cannabis plant, make a clean cut at a 45° angle below the last node of your cutting. This will increase the area of the rooting surface, helping the panch develop more roots and grow more quickly.
Once you’ve taken your cutting, dip it into your rooting or cloning gel and stick it straight into your medium. Once secure in the medium, remove your clone’s bottom leaves (leaving only the top fan leaves and growing tip intact). Finally, trim the tips of the fingers on the clone’s remaining leaves to promote photosynthesis and water uptake. This reduces the surface area of the remaining leaves and also slows evaporation, helping your young clones hold on to more water as their roots are developing.
If you’re a beginner grower, we recommend taking one clone at a time. If you’re more experienced, however, you can take multiple cuttings from a mother and keep them hydrated in a glass of non-chlorinated water until you’re ready to dip into your rooting agent and move them into their medium.
Place Your Clone in Its Dome
Once your clone has been planted and trimmed, it’s time to move it into a dome. This will allow you to keep humidity levels high (clones need high humidity as they absorb water via their leaves as they develop their roots). Once you’ve situated them in a dome, keep your clones on an 18/6 light cycle (18 hours on, 6 hours off) under a low-power fluorescent or metal halide lamp.
If you’re looking for a complete kit to help you grow both healthy seedlings and clones, we highly recommend investing in a **propagator. While they’re typically used for seedlings, this simple accessory also offers the perfect environment for your fragile clones.
Check In on Your Clones Daily
From here on out, you’ll want to check on your clones daily to monitor their health and ensure they have enough water to fuel their growth. If the humidity in your dome or propagator drops, spray the leaves of your clones lightly with unchlorinated water. Also, if some of your clones die (which is common), remove them immediately so they don’t rot and cause mould to spread to your other clones.
Clones can take between 10–14 days to develop roots, but some may take longer. Once a clone has developed 3–5cm roots, they are ready to be transplanted.
Transplant Your Clone
To transplant a clone into soil, remember to work in a sterile environment and prepare your pots with moist soil beforehand. Then, use gloves to gently remove your clones from their medium and plant them (remember to completely cover your clone’s roots).
How to Clone Cannabis in Rockwool
- Soak your Rockwool cubes in slightly acidic water (we recommend a pH of 5.5) for 2–3 hours.
- Make small holes in the middle of your cubes using a pair of sterilised scissors.
- Take your cutting following the instructions listed above.
- Dip your clone into your rooting agent and secure it in the hole of a soaked Rockwool cube.
- Place your clone in your propagator or dome and lightly douse it with some water to keep humidity high.
Start Cloning Your Cannabis Plants!
Cloning cannabis can seem like a daunting process, especially for inexperienced growers. But it doesn’t need to be; with a strong mother, a good cloning process, and clean equipment, you can replicate the same plants—and the same bud—time and time again. Remember to keep this article on hand whenever you’re cloning to simplify the process!