Wouldn't it be awesome to grow cannabis, without having to buy seeds for every harvest? Cannabis cloning does just that.
When you grow a plant, every single cell of that plant contains all the biological information necessary to reconstruct the whole plant.
This means that if you have a strain of marijuana you’re happy with, and you want to replicate your strain time and time again, your current females can become mother plants.
Table of Contents
What is Cannabis Cloning?
Cloning refers to creating identical copies of your plants.
You do so by cutting off a part of your plant, that when planted properly and rooted in a different place, will grow roots and become an exact replica of the mother plant it came from.
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A cloned plant looks and smokes the same as its host plant and produces the same effects. When correctly cloned, the same host plant can be replicated an infinite number of times.
The science behind cloning isn’t that complicated, but if not done correctly, diligently and in the proper conditions, cloning can be a complete failure, and the process can become spoiled, or the result will not be a satisfying plant.
Benefits of Cloning
There are several benefits that cloning presents as opposed to starting again from seed. While starting a new grow from seed allows you to grow several new kinds of strains, here is how cloning can be a good option for the grower:
- Faster Harvests
Cloning your cannabis takes a few of the stages of cannabis growth out of the equation.
When you clone, you’ve already done the work of germination, bringing the seed to the seedling stage, and have gone through the necessary steps to get your plant to its vegetation stage.
Cloning involves taking from an already grown plant, while it's still in the vegetation stage, and allowing that piece of the plant to grow roots to become a full plant within itself.
- Money Savings
Cloning your plant eradicates the need to purchase seeds. If you have a strong enough strain that is successfully producing plants, anything to do with seeds gets taken out of your growing equation.
- No Questions About Sex
If you don’t know what gender your plants are when you start with seeds, you’ll know that there’s a little guesswork involved.
When you clone, you will already know that your mother plant is indeed a female that has produced buds.
Any clones taken from that mother plant are guaranteed to be female plants that produce smokeable bud.
More Advanced Techniques
Cannabis cloning has become a lot more sophisticated, and there are highly scientific methods that have been applied to clothing.
Micropropagation or “tissue culture” is a horticultural process that involves growing plants in test tubes (“in vitro” in a way) from single cells found in a plant.
Micropropagation is a process that is not too easy to achieve by home growers, due to the need to have these procedures performed in a sterilized laboratory.
Since the plant cells can be so volatile through this process, cloning through this method is very specific and precise.
Thus, cloning via severing parts of the plant become the most common method for growers to clone within their homes, and this will be what we’ll focus on today.
Buy Marijuana Clones
If you live in a legalized state, lucky you!
Most recreational states and many medical marijuana states allow for home cultivation.
In most cases, this means you can purchase clones from a dispensary.
After all, if they sell the final product, they likely also sell the starters.
You might have to call around, but in legalized states clones are available through legal channels.
Other options, again, depending on where you live, are farmers markets.
That’s right, some areas allow for clone and seed sales right next to the organic cucumbers.
Compassion clubs, co-ops, and other cannabis communities are other useful resources - even for information.
Have you checked out craigslist?
You never know!
There are tons of folks selling their clones sourced from their mother plant, and listing them online through community pages like Craigslist.
In Canada, the government regulates the sale of clones and seeds.
You’ll have to contact your provincial distributor to find out where (and if) they are for sale.
But, what happens if you don’t live somewhere with easily accessible cannabis clones?
Well, you might be out of luck unless you have a friend that will let you clone their plants.
Conditions for Cloning
If you’ve decided you’ll want to clone your cannabis plant at home, conditions for your plant are everything.
Here are a few things you’ll want to make sure of before attempting to clone your plants:
To be successful in your cloning, you’ll want to ensure that your host plant is in the vegetation stage.
Ideally, one that has been in that stage for a while (i.e. two-month minimum).
You can clone up to a few weeks before harvest.
But the deeper into the flowering stage that you get into, the more chance your clone will take on strange growing characteristics.
While we mentioned this before, you’ll want to ensure that you’re cloning from a female plant, and that your clone is not grown from feminized seeds.
Feminized cannabis has a tendency to spit out hermaphroditic clones.
Some cloning resources will recommend decreasing the supply of nitrogen to the plant by 10%.
This can help with rooting once you have clipped off the branches.
- The Length of the Branch.
The branches that you clip off will want to be 6-8 inches in length to be productive clones.
It’s also best to clip these off the bottom of your plant which will promote faster rooting.
However, you can consider cutting from the top for faster flowering from the new plant.
- The Grower.
This means YOU.
To clone successfully, you need to embrace your role as both a plant surgeon and plant scientist.
You should understand the complexity of cloning and how any little deviation from the process can result in the failure of your clone.
You’ll also need to be patient and not expect to see instant results.
Although you will be pleased with how quicker cloning is for getting to bud than planting seeds.
What You’ll Need to Clone Cannabis
There are a lot of resources online that will teach you how to do cloning using some very precise tools, but we’ll start off as simple as possible for now.
Here’s what you’ll need for your cloning process:
- Very sharp scissors or a razor (sharp is key!)
- A sterilization solution such as alcohol
- Sterile gloves (i.e. latex or Nitrile)
- Starter cubes that you’ll place your clones in (i.e. with rock wool, soil or water, depending on how you’ve been growing)
- Cloning gel or powder
- Your desired lighting (or sunlight for outdoor growers)
- Heating mat (optional)
To help you setup your cloning station, check out our guides on the best cloning machines and on lights for cloning cannabis here.
Cannabis Mother Plant Guide
A successful clone starts with a healthy mother.
If you are taking cuttings from a sick, diseased, or sub-par parent plant, your clones are going to carry these genetics forward.
Choose a mother carefully.
Do you love its characteristics including taste, potency, and buzz?
Cloning the perfect plant ensures you are carrying these traits down the line.
Furthermore, growers keep their mothers in a continual state of vegetation.
If they are allowed to flower, it’s too late to take cuttings.
Some growers, usually in home-grow situations, will take clones in the vegetation stages, then allow the mother to flower for harvesting.
This process hits two birds with one stone.
- It ensures you are cloning a beloved plant.
- It doesn't require tons of extra space for maintaining a mother
- It keeps a constant supply of bud and new clones for the next crop.
With this schedule, a home-grower shouldn’t have any gaps in their production schedule.
Commercial growers, to maintain consistency between crops, always keep a single set of mothers.
To maintain a mother plant you need to keep it well pruned, both top and bottom.
In vegetative growth, the mother will keep pumping out leaves, stems, and new growth.
Which means you have to prune it back regularly.
You’ll also have to cut back the roots eventually.
They will also keep growing, and if left unchecked your mother will suffer.
There are tones of guides available for pruning ideas and root (air) pruning techniques.
If you want to learn about the upkeep of a mother plant - check these out before getting started.
Can You Clone a Clone?
A mother plant may be the product of a clone itself.
If you have the space to maintain a mother and the nursery, why not turn one (or more) of your clones into a mother plant?
If you have your own mother, you no longer need to spend your hard earned cash on clones.
You also take control of the entire process, from start to finished product.
If you are worried about possible grow room contamination from outside clones or are frustrated from a lousy batch, it may be time to transform your favorite strain into a mother finally.
If you turn a clone into a mother, then proceed to clone it again - congratulations!
You’ve successfully cloned a clone!
If you have a clone that you want to keep going for years to come, you’ll want to turn this bad girl into a mother.
But, before you get excited, be sure you have the space to do so.
Mothers are kept in the vegetative stage, and therefore cannot be in the same grow room as the rest of your crop.
As your normal crop transitions into the flower stage, complete with an entirely new lighting schedule and nutrient solution - your mother is going to keep vegging out.
Ideally, you’ll have a room for the mother, with a unique and constant lighting schedule, as well as a separate area for any cuttings you take.
The cuttings will also need special treatment that isn’t the same pacing as either the main crop or the mother.
This is likely one of the main reasons why home-growers continue to buy clones, instead of growing a mother- they don’t have the available space.
It’s also additional labor to keep a mother going, something which you might not have in your busy schedule.
A Step by Step Guide to Cloning Marijuana
Clean, Sterilize and Sanitize
Cleanliness is key to starting off your cloning process.
Wipe down all your instruments with alcohol (99%) soaked into a paper towel.
Ensure you have gloves on throughout the process, as well as, all the processes associated with your cloning.
Prepare Your Cloning Gel or Solution
The best cloning gel or solution will be what helps your clone take root and flower.
They use synthetic root hormones that allow you to see your plant to root within days.
Do your research when checking out cloning gels and solutions.
4hydroponics.com provides a very helpful overview of some of the cannabis cloning gels and solutions available on the market on their YouTube channel.
This video may help you narrow down what to look for when shopping for cloning solutions and gels:
Prepare your solution or gel according to the instructions on the box and get ready to move onto the next step.
Get Starter Cubes Ready
Whatever method you’re using to plant your clone, be sure that you have soaked them in water so that your clone will have a refreshing drink once it gets planted within the starter cube.
Depending on whether you’ve used a heating mat, you’ll also want to put this in place to create the growing environment for your clone.
Make the Cut
Now is where you’ll want to approach your plant and the cutting process with a surgeon’s precision.
As mentioned, it’s always best to take your cuttings from the lower part of your plant.
This part will have had the longest time growing.
Meaning it’ll have more nutrients helping the clone take hold in the rooting process and grow.
Cut the stem of the branch at a 45° angle, while ensuring that your branch is long enough as specified above.
If you use bud trimming scissors, be sure that they are sharp.
You don't want to squeeze the plant while you’re cutting with scissors.
Many prefer to use a razor to help with this precision.
Some choose to split the bottom of the cut stem with a razor as well to help the rooting process.
If you do this, don’t go too deep.
Here’s when you have to think like a surgeon again:
Make sure that once you’ve split your plant, you place your stem in water immediately.
Like the veins in humans, getting air into the veins can be deadly.
Pro tip: Cut the the leaves in half going parrelel with the base of the leaf. This allows the clone to transpire less.
Clean Up Your Cut
Once you’ve done your cut, while keeping it in the water to avoid air bubbles and to keep the nutrients focused towards rooting and growing, trim the excess leaves off your cut towards the bottom.
Do The Dip
This is where you’ll want to be as quick as possible and eliminate any distractions.
Once you’ve done the trim, quickly take your clone from the water and dip it into your prepared cloning gel or solution.
Leave it there for about 15 seconds so that it can suck up everything the solution has to offer.
Don’t waste any time – you’ll still want to get it into where it’ll be rooting right away it to prevent air bubbles.
Once your stem has been sufficiently submerged into your cloning gel or solution, gently place it into its starter cube.
Whether you’re using rock wool, soil or water, be sure not to plunge your plant into the cube too forcefully, risking damaging the clone.
Speaking of watering, it’s not exactly the standard routine for the baby plants.
Ideally, you’ll have them all nicely tucked into a tray under a clone dome.
The dome, a clear plastic cover, allows light in but keeps dry air out.
Temperature and humidity are easier to control in this enclosed space.
Starting on day one, the only watering you should have to do under a clone dome is via canopy spray.
Using a spray bottle, squirt the baby cuttings twice daily for a week with distilled water.
Replace the lid each time.
By the time the shoot is rooted and ready for transplanting, you’ll remove the lid.
Once the lid is off, resume the usual watering routine you use for the rest of your crop.
Let the Roots Take Hold
Now that you’ve taken great care to clone your cannabis plants in a sterile environment using the precision of a plant surgeon, step back and let your roots take hold.
Of course, you’ll want to maintain watering your clones as you did when you were growing your host plant, but for the most part, if you’ve done the above steps correctly, nature will take hold.
As a grower, you’ll already be familiar with transplanting your plant to a different pot; the process to transplant your new clone is very similar.
Once your plant has rooted and needs to go to a larger pot, you’ll want to take extra care not to expose your plant’s new roots to the air to risk damage.
Be sure that there are drainage holes in your plants pot for watering.
Before transplanting, be sure that your plant has a layer of soil to be placed in and then gently pack the soil around the roots of your plant.
Nurture Your Plants Towards Flowering
Now that your plant has gained roots in a growing environment that allows it enough space to flourish, you can continue nurturing your plant towards flowering.
Use the same methods you have used with your original plant.
Or test different ways to perfect the strain.
You’ll still have to wait several weeks to get to the flowering process.
Can You Clone Without Rooting Gel
If you are cloning for the first time, it’s very reasonable to assume you can cut some corners.
Maybe you don’t need super expensive LED lights... perhaps you can make do with the conventional HPS. (Though I don't recommend it for reasons laid our here)
But what about rooting hormone?
Rooting hormone is what virtually all experienced cultivators will recommend.
It's a liquid, gel, or powder, stuffed full with the nutrients your little cutting needs to stimulate root development.
Normally, your cutting will struggle to understand its time to grow roots if you cut it from the mother and put it straight into a plug or soil.
Dipping the tip in a solution designed to stimulate growth is the key to consistent and easy rooting.
Another option, still using rooting hormone, is to add a few drops of solution to the watering schedule during the first few days.
Some growers mix their own solutions, and these formulas are available on many of the popular growers-forums.
But if you are new to the entire cloning process, you’ll want to purchase.
Plus, rooting solution is cheap!
Why risk the health of your clones, and your future cannabis harvest by trying to root without a little help?
Trust the experts, because the experts all use a rooting solution.
It’s a tried and true method of promoting little rootlets, and quickly facilitating growth for your new plant.
If you are dead set against cloning, some people report success using the propagation technique common with houseplants.
Essentially: cutting, throwing in a glass of water, and waiting until roots form, then planting.
You’ll likely have more failures than successes, but some will take root.
It will take a few days longer than with rooting hormone.
What Time Does Under the Dome Start
The clone dome is an integral aspect of do-it-yourself cloning, even if you don’t know it yet.
A clear plastic dome, which sits over your tray of transplants does many things all at once.
It helps maintain the perfect humidity levels.
It also traps warm air, keeping the sensitive clones happy in their first few days of life.
They are usually cheap, and your cloning tray may have come with one, as a complete cloning package.
After cutting, prepping, and placing the little clones into your plugs, it’s time for the clone dome.
Line the tray with all your clones, and then place the dome on top.
Do not open the dome vents (if any) for two or three days.
You’ll spray the clones twice daily, but keep the dome on in between squirts.
After day three, open the vents!
But keep up the spraying routine, twice a day.
Every day remove the dome lid, spray the plants, and replace the cover.
You’ll do this twice daily, to keep up the relative humidity for the baby cannabis plants.
As you watch your clones grow, you’ll want to start watching for root development.
When you see roots start sprouting, it’s time to close the vents again.
A closed humid atmosphere really stimulates development, by improving the humidity.
Once you feel ready to transplant, you do need to help the plants transition from a super-high humidity to the humidity within your grow room.
This is likely around day nine or ten.
Remove the lid, and let the plants adjust for a few days.
Then it’s time to transplant.
General Guidelines to Remember
If your clone takes root, then congratulations!
You've figured out how to clone cannabis.
Let’s review some of the components that led to a successful process:
- Cloning from a healthy and strong mother plant
- Ensuring you’re working in a sterile cloning environment
- Cutting the clone from the mother plant during the vegetation stage
- Ensuring no air bubbles get into the cut stem
- Using cloning solution or gel
- Carefully planting the stem into new rock wool, soil or water
- Ensuring the plant is transplanted to a new pot at an appropriate time
Do Your Research
This is a very simple overview of the cloning process.
It can’t be overstated that the grower who's interested in cloning should do their research before attempting cloning.
The resource above gives a general guideline, but the growers community is becoming increasingly sophisticated in the way they’re cloning plants, and they’re eager to share.
Sometimes cloning doesn’t always go as planned.
Learn from those attempts to understand what went wrong with the plant, the process or within the environment and try again.
Once you get the process of cloning down, clone that, and you’ll be on your way to a sustainable supply of your favorite strain that will never disappoint.