How Can I Clone My Best-Producing Bell Pepper Plant?
Q: "I started growing hydroponically about three years ago. I’ve got three bell pepper plants and one of them is producing almost triple what the other two are. It must be some kind of freak super plant. Is there an easy way to clone it? I don’t want to risk hurting it but it would be great to have more like it. Thanks for any advice you can provide!"
Park City, Utah
A: Thank you for your question. One possibility would be to take seeds from the special pepper plant and attempt to grow them next year. However, there is no guarantee that the offspring will carry the same sought-after traits as the parent plant. Like many other plants in the garden, pepper plants can cross-pollinate, thus creating an accidental hybrid that is unlikely to carry the sought-after traits. Even if self-pollination is guaranteed, the subsequent offspring will most likely vary from and probably won’t have the same desirable traits as the parent plant.
The great news is, like many other plant varieties, pepper plants can be cloned fairly easily. Cloning, or taking cuttings, from a particular plant allows the horticulturist to replicate the sought-after traits of that plant. In your case, you have a pepper plant that is a great producer and you want to preserve that specific trait. By taking a clone or cutting from that particular plant, you can make a genetic duplicate that will carry all the same traits as the donor plant.
Start by choosing a section of the plant with at least 8-10 inches of new growth. Peppers can develop a woody stem as they age. Make sure the portion you will be taking a cutting from has a green stem. Make a 45-degree angle cut through the stem of the selected 8-10 inch section (it is preferable to make the cut at a node or branch). Always use a sharp, sterilized scalpel or scissors to make a clean cut. Dull or dirty cutting tools can damage or pinch the stem which can potentially inhibit new root growth.
(Read also: Should I feed my freshly cut, unrooted clones?)
Immediately after making the cut, dip the cut portion of the stem in a rooting hormone. There are powders, liquids, and gels available. All forms will contain the active hormone needed to stimulate new root growth, so it is up to the grower as to which is preferred. After applying the rooting hormone, place the cutting/clone directly in room-temperature water or in a saturated clone medium, such as stonewool, peat, sphagnum, or coco coir.
Next, remove all flowers, big leaves, buds, fruit, etc., leaving only a few small leaves in the upper section of the cutting. The cuttings should be placed out of direct sunlight for the first 10-14 days. Indirect, shaded sunlight or a low intensity horticultural lighting system (such as fluorescents) are best for unrooted cuttings. During the first week or so, a humidity dome can be used to keep the humidity levels above 80 percent. This will help the cutting retain the water otherwise lost through transpiration. As the cutting starts to develop roots (usually in five to seven days), the humidity and lighting can be transitioned to the conditions of the garden. Once established, each clone will be a duplicate of the donor plant. In your case, the rooted cuttings will be “some kind of freak super plant” that produces almost triple what the other plants produce. I hope this answers your question.
Keep on Growing,
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