Clones vs. Seeds for Cannabis Propagation
Growers are faced with the option of starting their crop from either seeds or clones, but which is the best choice for your garden? To best explain this let’s first dive into the differences between these two choices.
Creating clones involves keeping a “mother” plant that you will take the clones, or cuttings from. You will want to start with a healthy mother plant of the desired variety that shows traits you want to recreate in your garden such as potency, yield, smell, mold resistance, and so on. Cloning from this mother plant will result in all the clones being alike, opposed to various traits and heights, resulting in an even canopy full of potent buds. But how do we know our mother plant is the right one?
Selecting the best mother plant takes time. You want to start with quality genetics from a trusted breeder. Introducing a clone you get from a friend to keep as a mother plant is the last thing you want to do for your clean growing environment for a few reasons.
A) With over 24 years in the cannabis industry, I have only seen the acquisition of clones brought into a growroom from an outside source successfully work out probably 10 percent of the time. The other 90 percent of the time bugs or molds are hitching a ride on your new clones, which quickly infects a clean growing environment and causes huge headaches for the grower(s) in charge.
B) You will be degenerating your genetics when you use a clone from an outside source for a mother plant to clone from. Over time, cloning from clones will degenerate the plant and you will lose seed vigor. Seed vigor refers to particular speed and growth factors that are apparent in seeds vs. cloned plants. In an ideal world you want your mother plants to remain the starting seed. A healthy mother plant can be kept producing clones for decades.
Starting seeds is something every grower should get used to and is an important step in maintaining a clean growroom with healthy, vigorous plants. Most breeding companies have a wholesale option or sister site that will offer you bulk seed orders of your preferred strain for roughly $5.00 per seed, resulting in a similar (or cheaper) cost to clone purchases. Starting your garden from seed is strongly recommended to not only keep your growroom clean and pest-free but to also be able to hunt for your preferred genetics to keep as a mother plant for future clones. Let’s say you have 100 plant sites, and we are wanting a Wedding Cake mother plant out of this. We would ideally start 120 feminized Wedding Cake seeds and then select the best 100 to plant in our grow sites. We would then label each one (WC1, WC2, etc.), and before we reach the end of week 1 of flower, we would clone from each of these phenotypes.
You must watch each variety closely throughout the initial grow cycle and keeping note of the ones that stand out. You will notice some will take on more of the mother’s traits, and some will take on more of the father’s traits, just like people.
We may be growing in a vertical system so we would want to keep the shorter of the two varieties, or you may be searching for certain terpenes which some phenotypes within the same strain will excel in over others. This can all be determined on the first cycle and the best mothers out of the bunch can be saved for your nursery room to take cuttings from for many years to come, or at least until you or your customers get bored of it.
The true strain hunters are the seed companies that spend their lives dedicating their time to the creation and circulation of amazing cannabis strains all over the world. There are many of them out there that have been around for decades and have truly put in the hard work required by selecting landrace genetics and breeding them with other winning genetics. Although there is a lot of work behind the scenes put into the creation of great cannabis strains, a bit more work is involved on our part to select the best phenotypes once we have obtained these seeds, and when starting by seed you get to have your own little strain hunt while keeping the environment at its cleanest.
This match up has no clear winner because both seeds or clones are needed, and both play their roles in the garden. The more important take away from all this is the method on which you will take to start your own genetics to clone from in the future. In cannabis cultivation it’s important to keep a squeaky-clean environment, and this means not taking in any outside living plant materials while keeping on top of sterilization. Starting from seed and cloning within the same growroom or facility is ideal and allows you to not only hunt for the best strains but to keep your growroom bug and mold free.
With a properly built growroom, passionate grower(s) in charge and good growing practices like these starting methods suggested, your garden will thrive and produce large yields of your most desired strains.
Written by Dan Vaillancourt | Owner of 4Trees Cannabis Building Ltd.
Dan has designed and built hundreds of growing facilities as well as grown thousands of plants himself and spent countless hours in both the grow room and consulting. He owns 4Trees Cannabis Building Ltd., a company that designs and constructs growing facilities for both ACMPR as well as recreational (Micro-cultivation, LP). He is proud to be shaping Canada's cannabis industry.