Plant cloning is a very popular agricultural and gardening technique that consists of taking a sample from a plant and then exposing it to nutrients and a stimulating environment in order to grow a clone of the original.
There are many merits to this technique, but the biggest one is the ability to select the plants with the best qualities and make sure that their strengths are passed on. Other benefits are predictability and resistance. Based on observations of the original plant, a deduction can be made of how the clone will develop, what external factors will affect it, and how to take better care of it.
The method also enables growers to select specimens that are resistant to certain plant diseases, something which early farmers would've given everything for. Other pluses of plant cloning include:
- Pesticide-resistant plants
- Faster plant reproduction
- Shortened period between planting and harvesting
- Cheaper than seeding
Still, there are certain limitations as the clones are all genetically identical and natural selection is excluded from the process. This means that the plants are equally vulnerable to the same diseases and if an epidemic was to strike it would affect every single one. Furthermore, there is the matter of the cloned plants' effect on the human body.
Clones versus Seeds
Cloning is a good alternative to using seeds and has its definite merits, but is it more preferable in general?
Consider the following, cloning always gives you the same plant quality, whereas with seeds you can never be completely sure what you'll get as they are all a little different. Even if you find quality seeds, it is not certain they will germinate or that they have been properly stored.
Cloning also puts you one step ahead because you're skipping the initial seeding process, which saves both time and financial resources. Especially in the case of growing cannabis where the cost of seeds can prove to be quite burdening in the long run, cloning provides material for producing more crops for literally no cost at all.
How to Get the Best Clones?
Now that we've exposed you to the wonders of plant cloning, it's time to talk about how it is applied. Cloning is a process that can be achieved by almost anyone with the proper preparation, and as long as the steps are followed, you too can produce healthy and thriving clones.
Generally, the process can be described as cutting off a stem from a plant and moving it somewhere else to grow, but in reality it's a bit more complex than that. You have to be prepared for the fact that some of your clones won't make it.
Step 1 – Selecting the right mother plant
It all starts with choosing the mother plant. This is the step that provides the foundation for the rest of the process, so it should be approached with some thought. Take your time and examine the options carefully.
Start the process by observing how the candidates grow and make notes. Select the plant that looks most solid and has the biggest roots, but also pay attention to its yields and pace of growth. Optimally, you want a combination of all these properties. In most cases, appearance alone can be a sufficient indicator that the plant will work for cloning.
In case you're cloning cannabis, which is among the most commonly cloned plants, you should select a branch closer to the lower part of the plant, as that's where more of the plant's rooting hormones are concentrated.
Step 2 – Cutting the stem
Always cut the stem at a 45-degree angle in order to provide it with as much area as possible for taking in the nutrients. Use a sharp knife in order to avoid any damage that might prevent the roots from growing. Put the clone material into water immediately after cutting it off in order to stop any air bubbles from forming in the stem.
If there are too many leaves, you might want to take a few of them off. This decreases the burden on the plant because it can provide more nutrients to the other parts. Be careful to leave enough so that it can photosynthesize.
Step 3 – Choosing a Cloning Technique
There are a few different techniques for cloning; each one features its own benefits and specifics. They differ in terms of what the clone is transferred and grown in. Note that it is preferable to apply rooting solution to the clone before moving it in order to increase its chances of survival.
The most popular cloning techniques are:
- Rockwool Method
- Potting Soil Method
- Water Method
Here you can read more about how they are applied in the case of growing cannabis, but they are also valid when it comes to other types of plants. For example, this video shows a professional cloning a tomato plant by using blocks made from soil.
Step 4 - Transplanting
After the clones have developed, it is time to transplant them into actual containers that can hold the plant and provide room for further growth.
In case you cloned the plant using the rockwool or soil method, it is pretty much the same thing. However if you used the water method, you will need to move the clone along with its container to where you will be transplanting it and place the whole thing inside. It is vital that the roots of the plant don't come in contact with air. Here is how to properly do it.
Step 5 - Taking Care of the ClonesNow that your clone is transplanted, you need to take proper care of it, as it is still not fully developed. Be mindful that cloned plants require a slightly different type of care than those grown from seeds. The main difference comes from the fact that although the cloned plant is small, it's on the same life stage as the mother plant and as such it can start flowering very quickly.
Among the most important things you should consider in the post-transplantation are the lighting conditions. The plant won't be able to handle very strong light initially so you should balance the distance. If you're using full-spectrum LED grow lights, remember to place them at least 30 inches away and keep them on for 18 hours per day.
You should also provide them with enough moisture by spraying the plants. This is especially important in cannabis plants, where most of the initial water absorption happens through the leaves. In some cases, you can also use a mild nutrient solution for added growth effect.
In case you would like to know more about cloning cannabis plants, this video shows the complete process in detail, providing step-by-step instructions that anyone can follow.
Plant cloning can be very efficient if done correctly and there are numerous benefits to it such as lower cost than buying seeds, faster growth period, pesticide resistance and most of all plant uniformity. By following the simple steps anyone can do it at home and although the success rate is not 100 per cent it's still worth a try.