Cloning Your Plants
Cloning is the best way to grow uniform, pest-free plants. There’s no wrong way to go about it, but some ways are certainly better than others. Here are some best practices.
Duplicating your prized female plants is quick, easy and lucrative if you go about it the right way. It’s known as cloning and is a relatively painless process—just snip, dip and let them sit.
Cloning is the process of taking a cutting from a mother plant and growing it into a new plant that’s genetically identical to the original. It’s the best way to ensure uniform, pest-free plants. It’s also much quicker than growing from seed, removes any guesswork from the outcome and isn’t nearly as intimidating or high-tech as it may seem.
Heck, people have been cloning plants for thousands of years, so it can’t be that hard! You can clone just a handful of plants on your windowsill, or hundreds of plants that fill up entire rooms. You can clone from one mother plant, or several.
And when your clones are ready for the transition into a more permanent home, your options are plentiful. Choose from aeroponic, aquaponic or hydroponic systems, containers, soil gardens and more.
If you’re new to cloning, it’s imperative to practice patience and be as clean and thorough as possible. The future of your plants depends on it! Fortunately, there’s no wrong way to clone, but some ways are certainly better than others. Here’s what you need to know.
Choosing Your Mother Plant
When choosing a plant to take clones from, make sure it has all of the attributes you desire. Keep your chosen mother plant in a vegetative state, making sure she doesn’t flower, and keep an eye on her, never neglecting or ignoring her. There are a few things to consider when choosing a mother plant.
- Her Age – A mother plant should be mature enough to provide cuttings that will root quickly and evenly. Anything younger than two months might prove fruitless as development may be slow and stunted.
- Her Body – Your chosen mother plant should be in spectacular health, and at a size that makes sense for her environment. For example, if you have a ton of vertical space, allow her to grow up! If she can’t grow tall due to space limitations, let her grow bushy while keeping her height to a minimum.
- Her Health – Any defects or diseases present in a mother plant will be passed to her clones. Similarly, her positive characteristics, such as smell, taste and yield, will also be replicated. And make sure you choose a pest- and disease-free mother plant.
Keeping Your Mother Healthy
Newly cut clones, which expend energy developing roots over a period of time, need water and carbohydrates that are stored in the stems and leaves. Therefore, a mother plant’s health must be ideal to optimize these levels in clones, which will expedite their rooting and recovery time. Remember to treat your mother plant as you would your own flesh and blood. Don’t neglect, forget or treat her with anything less than love. She is the provider in this equation and will only produce what she already embodies.
What You’ll Need
Along with a mother plant worthy of cloning, which shouldn’t be too hard to find, you’ll also need the following:
- Cloning medium
- Scalpel or pruning shears
- Cloning solution
- Spray bottle with mist setting
- Rubbing alcohol (to sterilize tools)
- Cup of water (to store clones before transporting)
- Humidity dome (optional)
- Grow lights (strongly recommended)
Preparing Your Plants
There’s a bit of prep work involved before you can start snipping away at your ladies. During the 3-4 days before cutting, water your mother plant heavily to help with nitrogen removal. This water shouldn’t be anything fancy—just pH-adjusted water sans fertilizers and additives. By decreasing the mother plant’s nitrogen, you are enabling the baby clones to produce roots quicker.
Your tools for cutting should be sharp and clean. Blunt, dirty tools will skyrocket the risk of spreading diseases. Invest in these tools. It’s also not a bad idea to purchase a new set for each new cloning cycle.
Step By Step
- Gather your materials and park yourself near some running water. Remember to clean your cutting tools with alcohol prior to taking metal to plant materials.
- Choose a stem that’s relatively new, at least 2-4-in. long, with at least one leaf node. Cut about 1-in. below the node, making sure the cut is clean. Don’t use scissors for this, as scissors can create a crushing action and hinder root growth. If possible, cut at a 45-degree angle to expose as much surface area as possible. For the freshest clones, cut from the upper area of your mother plant where newer growth is happening.
- Remove large, excess leaves from the top half of your cutting. Extra leaves can divert energy away from root growth. Leave some foliage, though. You want to strike a balance.
- Immediately after cutting, dip the stem in a rooting gel to stimulate root growth. When doing so, pour some gel into a separate container to eliminate possibly contaminating the entire rooting gel supply. Any remaining rooting compound should be tossed and not returned to its original container, so be frugal with your rooting gel.
- When transporting into the growing media, allow at least 1 in. of the stem to dip below the surface. This sounds like a no-brainer, but be sure to maintain their vertical orientation (don’t insert upside down).
Create Humidity and Light
Transplant shock is common when creating new plants via cloning. It’s your job to minimize the amount of stress and shock during this process, so be mindful of moisture in the air. Whether or not you need to do this depends on where you live, the environment and the season.
As a general rule of thumb, if the air is dry, a humidity dome may be in order. After transporting your clones, seal their immediate environment with the dome and keep it shut for the first 1-2 days. During this time, be mindful of moisture levels and temperatures by misting clones early in the day and watering them at night.
Open the dome at least once daily just for a few seconds after the first couple days have passed to air it out. To help alleviate transplant shock, you can add nutrients rich in thiamine (otherwise known as vitamin B1) to your water to help promote root growth.
The right lighting will also greatly help your clones grow up to be healthy, producing plants. If it is wintertime, or natural sunlight isn’t abundant, look into adding artificial lighting. You want to make sure your new plants receive 18-24 hours of light per day. A T5 fluorescent or a compact fluorescent lamp is perfect for this.
After a few days in its new home, a clone’s leaves might start to yellow. This is completely normal and is a sign that rooting is about to start. Once roots have formed, the yellowing should start to dissipate. Roots will begin to grow abundantly after a week or so. This is when you get to sit back and enjoy the process.
How big these roots need to be before transporting is entirely up to you, but the longer they become, the more likely they are to become entangled. Keep clones happy by keeping an eye on them, and transport whenever it feels right.
Written by Karen Wilkinson