Knowing how to clone your plants is a useful skill for a grower of any type of plant, but it is especially helpful for those growing marijuana. Cloning cannabis is a reliable way to produce a plentiful harvest with your desired attributes. If you’ve found the perfect potency and characteristics, why not clone it?
- Why you might clone
- What is cloning
- Selecting a mother plant
- Viral infections
- Cutting your stems
- Rooting your cuttings
- Cloning cannabis plants for sex
- Cloning methods
- How to make your clones root faster
- Caring for your baby clones
- Taking cuttings from flowering mother plants
- Transplanting clones
This guide will explain how to successfully clone cannabis plants, while also providing specific tips for marijuana. We will cover the various methods for cloning and transplanting, as well as more advanced techniques and options. Keep reading and learn to clone like a pro!
Why you might clone
The first thing to understand about cloning is the fact that you do not have to clone your marijuana plants. Marijuana plants produce seeds as a result of sexual reproduction. These seeds are a random combination of two parents’ characteristics. Like humans, each marijuana plant grown from a seed is going to be unique simply because genetics provides so many possibilities. When you clone, however, you remove the randomness from the equation.
Clones are a consistently reliable way to ensure that your plants will maintain a high quality because they share the same genetic code as their mother. Their growth habits will be the same, and they will eventually produce buds, taste, and potency that are identical to the original plant. With clones, the genetic line progresses without any change. Some marijuana growers have kept clone lines going for over 15 years. One mother plant can easily produce over 50 clones per week!
If you have ever had a successful harvest, a strain of marijuana you particularly like, need some more seeds or have any other reason to continue one of your plants, you need to consider cloning. Cloning is about as close to a guarantee as you can get in the marijuana growing business. After one successful season, it’s always a good idea to clone your marijuana plants to better the odds of a more successful harvest in the future.
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Clones are also a great way to produce more of the same type of marijuana without sacrificing THC. You could seed your favorite plant and grow more, but when a marijuana plant produces seeds, it naturally produces less THC. A clone, however, can easily have the same levels of THC as its mother. You could also clone some plants specifically to produce seeds for future use.
What is cloning
What is cloning? Cloning is the process of producing genetically identical plants. The method is simple: take a cutting from any plant, place it into the ground and wait for it to root. While the theory is straightforward, the actual practice isn’t foolproof. Marijuana plants follow the same process, but there are a few more steps to make sure the plants clone successfully.
For outdoor growers, cloning is the most successful when it’s done in a region with a long growing season. Even with a very long growing season, you can’t expect your clones to reach their full height potential, since they only start growing about 3 months into the growing season when your original plant is mature. That being said, even short clones can end up with a superb yield, sometimes having a top full of buds.
Most cloners prefer to take the bottom branches from their plants since those branches would receive less light and struggle for survival anyway. If you take between two and four of each of your plant’s bottom branches to make clones, you have at least doubled your harvest.
Choosing a cannabis plant that is younger (between two and three months old) is usually best, although as long as the plant is mature, it should be able to be cloned. Older plants can be cloned, but you should pay careful attention to their needs in the first few weeks, especially with regard to water.
Although cloning is relatively risk-free since it does not risk the health of the original plant and your main harvest, clones often die before they are even able to root. It is not uncommon for just one out of ten clones to survive, so don’t be discouraged when most of them die.
Selecting a mother plant
Cloning starts by choosing a mother plant. Don’t be hasty when you are trying to decide which of your plants to clone from. You need a plant that is hardy, growing rapidly, with great yields, large roots, and strong buds. Indoor and outdoor-grown marijuana plants are both suitable for cloning, but it is best if you can replicate its environment. In other words, it is easier to clone an indoor plant for indoor use or an outdoor plant for outdoor use.
It is best to take cuttings from plants in the vegetative stage. You can take them during the flowering stage, but it will be more difficult for your plant to take root, thus making your clones’ mortality rate higher. If you choose to clone a flowering plant, and the cutting roots, there are additional things to be concerned about. I’ll discuss those later.
If this is your first time cloning, then you may not actually know your plants well enough or have enough experience to know which ones are the best to choose. Regardless, if you choose a female that is in its vegetative state that appears relatively healthy, then you are probably choosing one that will work fine for cloning.
At the absolute minimum, choose a plant that is at least two months old. If you cut sooner than this, the plant may not be mature enough to root. The longer, the better, as long as it is still in the vegetative stage. Ideally, your mother plant should have been in the vegetative stage for two or three months already. If you can wait this long to remove branches for cloning, then you should be able to get many clones from the one plant. You can also try topping your mother plants to produce more side branches and more clones.
Once you decide on a plant, be sure to prepare it properly. It should receive ten percent less nitrogen than normal starting a week or two before you clip its branches. This will help its clones have a higher chance of successful rooting after you have clipped them off.
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It’s best to clone plants from feminized seeds instead of autoflower seeds. Marijuana plants are forced to produce feminized seeds only by stressing them. If plants from those seeds are stressed again, they can become hermaphrodite. Do not use autoflowering seeds, they will not have enough time to grow before flowering, ruining your yield. Regarding strains, those with Sativa genetics tend to clone easier than Indicas. Indicas will still clone but prepared to spend more effort.
If you select a healthy mother plant, your clones are more likely to be healthy as well, but sometimes, a clone’s characteristics can differ from that of the clone mother. For example, I observed one group of clones showed poor potassium uptake which caused the leaves to twist, unlike their parent. This particular characteristic became more problematic as more clones were created.
When a plant from this clone line was placed in a hydroponic system in the same water as a plant from another line, the second clone began showing the same signs of poor potassium uptake. Interestingly, the problem did not show up when the plants were grown in planting mix, which could have been in response to the mycorrhiza in the organic mix. It was concluded that a virus had infected the first line and spread to the other line.
As explained above, a mother plant can produce thousands of clones over multiple years. Unfortunately, however, when these long-lived plants produce generational clones, it also increases their susceptibility to viral infections. Usually, annual plants like marijuana can fight off generational infection because viruses don’t migrate into the seed. Thus, the germinating plant begins life free of infection, but still faces challenges from the environment.
However, once a mother plant is infected, the disease begins to spread throughout its tissue, and that tissue is used to create clones. It’s also possible for the virus to be transferred to other plants through the planting medium, water, or even air (depending on the virus). Also, like humans, as a plant ages, it has a greater risk of becoming infected – causing older mothers to be at a higher risk of infecting late generation clones.
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Clones kind of ruin cannabis’ natural anti-infection defense. Rather than living for only a few months, the plant can technically live for years through its many clones. As time passes, the chance of a viral infection becomes greater. Some of the viruses are non-specific (i.e., they attack many different plant varieties). The mosaic and ring viruses are both examples of non-specific viruses.
Although the probability of infection increases over time, it’s still possible to see gardens with healthy, potent clones that have been removed from their original plant by several generations. The growers often report no noticeable changes to the clones.
Some variance in cloned plants might also be caused by mutations, but, for the most part, viral infections are the culprit. Keep in mind that infected plants cannot be “cured” of their virus. In these cases, it’s ideal to get rid of the plant and wipe down the area with a sterilizing agent like hydrogen peroxide or Zero Tolerance.
Healthy, high-performing clones are generally not going to be infected with any damaging virus. But, subtle changes can appear that might not catch your eye at first. For this reason, it’s probably a good idea to keep a large sampling of the original bud to test it against the quality of its clones.
Cutting your stems
Once you’ve selected your mother plant, your first step should be to clip one of the branches. Think about the exact place where the root will start growing before cutting it. Make sure it is long enough. There should be a couple of nodes below the top of your chosen cutting.
Remember to cut branches from the bottom, since they aren’t as productive as branches higher up on the plant anyway. Choose one with larger leaves as this will promote faster rooting. That being said, some growers choose to cut from the top to produce a plant that flowers more.
When you cut the branches from your plants, make sure you leave 6 to 8 inches on there. Also, be sure to maintain at least one pair of leaves so that two new branches can sprout. Cut the branch at an angle, similar to how you’d handle fresh flowers before putting them in a vase. This encourages water absorption by providing a larger surface.
Protect your cutting from the open air and keep it away from light. The darkness will cause etiolation, however, it also encourages the rooting process. You can wrap the area with tape to prevent light exposure.
Use sharp scissors or a pruner to take your cutting. Do not use a dull instrument because it can crush the stem and make it harder to form roots. You can use a razor blade, but be careful not to hurt yourself. Sterilize the stems after cutting.
The process of root formation requires air; however, you shouldn’t let too much air get on the cut area, as this will slow the capillaries and make growth difficult. You can prevent this from happening by immediately placing the cut stem in water or cutting it while under running water. After that, you can add a rooting hormone solution. Do the water first, but do not leave your cutting sitting in water for a long time. The forming roots will need oxygen.
Rooting your cuttings
There are many ways to help a young cutting develop roots. The first is preparing the cutting for root growth by using a rooting powder or gel. Your rooting hormone solution must be sterile. If the packaging doesn’t look sealed, it can be disastrous for your plants. If anything fell in it, even natural materials such as leaves or dirt, do not use it. After using it, seal it tightly and store in a cool, dry place.
Once the hormone rooting solution is applied, place the cuttings in their growing medium. You can use rooting cubes or small peat pots, which can be bought at any garden center or plant store (click here for the best online grow shop). You could also find soil-less mixtures. These come as a gel or a liquid. You’ll dilute these with mineral water or another kind of water that doesn’t come from the tap.
Your cuttings will also need an airy medium to create passive aeration since breathing is difficult for cuttings. You can make a plastic dome to lower the levels of transpiration and keep the cutting well hydrated. You could also purchase a propagator that does the same thing.
Some growers create a “tent” out of freezer bags, opening, and closing as needed. This encourages a constant flow of air during the day while preventing the forming plant from drying out. Another idea is cutting half of every leaflet to limit transpiration. This way, you will still have some leaves on your stem but with a smaller surface area.
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After you have clipped and rooted your cuttings, keep them happy and healthy. Spray water on them every so often to make sure they are staying moist while also ensuring that the airflow is good, but not so good that it dries out your cuttings. Expose them to light for about 12 hours per day, unless you are cloning to reveal the sex. Roots should develop after several weeks, at which point you can replant them into your chosen growing medium.
How to make clones
Cloning cannabis plants for sex
If you are specifically cloning for females, you will need to take one more step. Do not keep light on your plants for 12 hours per day, but instead deprive them of light in order to initiate the flowering process. Make sure these cuttings were taken from plants that have already had at least three or four weeks of vegetative growth. You’ll know they are mature enough by looking at the calyx development.
The plants should have complete, uninterrupted darkness for twelve or more hours, for a solid two weeks. Be very certain this is done perfectly. If any amount of light reaches your plants for any length of time, the process will not work and you will need to start all over again.
After two weeks, you will start to see little blossoms in your cuttings, assuming you have done everything correctly. Continue the flowering process further, and you will soon be able to distinguish between your male and female plants. Dispose of the male plants, unless you need them for seeding, and transplant the female ones.
After less than one week after the transplant, your plants will go back to their vegetative growth, assuming you are able to provide them with thirteen hours or more of sunlight. If you are not seeing any results, try exposing them to light for 48 straight hours or more, and then you can allow them to go outside (if growing outdoors) where they will sync with the normal, seasonal patterns of light.
There are numerous ways to clone cannabis plants once you have your cuttings. In fact, you can root your cuttings in Rockwool, peat moss, soil or even water. Choose the method that works best for you. Below are examples of how to root in Rockwool, soil or water. If you choose to use peat moss, follow the instructions on the packaging.
Whether you choose to clone feminized or autoflowering strains, you can buy seeds of your choice from my wide seed selection.
Making clones in Rockwool
Start with healthy cuttings from healthy cannabis plants. Make sure to clip off most of the leaves but leave the top ones intact. Dip each cutting in rooting gel or powder and then place it in a Rockwool cube under a CFL light.
Making clones in soil
Potting soil is a simple method for rooting clones. For this method, trim away any mature leaves that are on the stalk, then wet the sliced bottom of the stalk and dip it into rooting gel or powder. Right after that, stick the plant into the saturated potting soil under CFL lights, where it should remain while roots are forming.
Making clones in water
Plain water can also work to start your cuttings. Remove mature leaves and locate a container of some sort. A 16 ounces plastic bottle is best since it has a narrow neck that will be helpful in holding the plant up. Fill your container with water that has some plant food in it.
Submerge the stalks of your plants into this water and leave them there, mixing things up every couple days to make sure algae doesn’t grow too much. If you do discover an algae problem, you can change the water. Algae can easily clog your roots and cause the clones not to grow properly. You can prevent this by using a dark container because this will block algae from growing.
Keep sunlight indirect or less intense than normal until new leaves are growing at the top. This new leaf growth usually happens at the same time as root growth. You should soon have a nice ball of roots as a sign that it’s time for a transplant.
How to make your clones root faster
Marijuana cuttings will naturally root rather quickly if they are kept in perfect condition and are prepared correctly. Until they form roots, however, their ability to obtain and maintain water is limited. To avoid a water shortage (a cause of wilting and, ultimately, death), you need to trim your plants well.
A rooting machine is the best way to root cuttings, although it can be done by hand as explained above. Ideally, you should use Rockwool, oasis cubes, planting mix or some other sterile soil. Water is appropriate only if you are cloning a few plants.
To keep conditions sterile, boost the amount of oxygen in the water, and encourage rooting, make a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) and 5 parts water. Give the cutting 10 Watts of cold, white fluorescent light per square foot. Keep the clones in a location where the humidity is at least 65% or more. If you use a cover to make sure the humidity is just right, be sure to take it off once 5 or 6 days have passed. Even after you take the covers down, continue to keep the humidity high.
After about 5 days give it a dose of flowering formula fertilizer at 25% potency. Raise the strength of the light to 20 Watts per square foot. For the next 10 days increase the strength of the nutrients by mixing in a little grow formula. From the time you started to the time you are done, it should take about 2 weeks to see roots.
Caring for your baby clones
While your cuttings are attempting to grow their roots, they need careful attention, and you may need to make a few adjustments to your setup. Their growing environment should be a bit warmer than the standard grow room. A temperature of between 72- and 77-degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
You’ll also want to change how you water. You’ll need to spray your cuttings with water several times a day. Since cuttings don’t have roots yet, watering the soil around them will not do any good. They absorb water and nutrients through their leaves. It is okay to use a mild nutrient solution by mixing it in with the watering spray.
You must also maintain good lighting. Do not use direct sunlight because it will heat the cutting (especially if under a dome) way too much. However, a dark environment is not good for growing either. That’s why fluorescent lighting is the best solution since this emits on low amounts of heat.
CFL lights will not burn your plants as long as you keep them around 2-4 inches from the leaves. You can also use HID lamps, but make sure they stay a safe distance from the rooting system or individual cuttings. Indirect sun from the window is also a good idea if you keep your cuttings in a warm place.
Some growers make the decision to not use any lights at all for a day or two while the clones are adjusting to their new surroundings. Others start with a bright light and then use a dimmer grow light after a couple of days. For roots to form, there should be at least some darkness each day. Try 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness.
A mechanized cloner can also help automate some of the processes if you are willing to invest a bit. With this tool, you won’t have to worry about monitoring the moisture or temperature. The cloner will do it for you.
Taking cuttings from flowering mother plants
Cuttings can come from mother plants that are as young as two months old. They can also come from flowering plants. If you take a cutting from a flowering plant, use the less mature buds. These can be found on the part of the plant that stays shaded. Then, simply remove those baby buds, since they are going to die anyway. Do not clone plants that have already reached their second week of flowering.
Stay clear of woody stems when you are selecting your clones. The harder the stem, the more difficult it is for the clone to start rooting. Select your medium and place your cuttings in it. Give them 10 to 14 hours of light daily. It is difficult to root cuttings taken from a flowering plant, and it typically takes longer if successful. During the process, your plant may look like it’s dying. Give it time before you throw in the towel.
Once rooted, clones from flowering plants will behave a bit differently. However, as long as you maintain lighting and good conditions, they will look more normal after a couple of weeks. When successful, these types of clones tend to be bushier than their mothers.
Clones rooted in soil or Rockwool are transplanted just like any other marijuana plant. Once they have rooted, remove them from their dome or tent (if you used one) and transport them to their new homes. However, water-rooted clones require a slightly different method. To transplant into the Earth for outdoor growing, dig a one-foot deep by one-foot wide hole. Then carry the entire container holding the rooted plant, including its water, all the way to the site where you will transplant it.
It is important to remember that, regardless of how inconvenient it is, you should not expose the roots to air while transporting it to its new home. If moving into a pot, prepare the container with your growing medium before moving the clone. Try and maintain the same climate while transporting your clones.
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For every method, the final step is gently placing the plant in the hole and fill it with potting soil. If you are growing outdoors, mix potting soil into the dirt. Pat down the soil firmly but gently, then water the entire area with a half-gallon or more of water mixed with plant food.
In general, when you clone cannabis plants that have already taken root have a very high chance of survival. This is simply because the original plant, they were a part of, was already mature and strong, meaning that a clone with roots is no different.
The clone should begin the flowering stage within two or three months if outdoors, or once you induce flowering by changing the lighting from 18/6 to 12/12. You can extend the vegetative stage if growing indoors. Keep your eye on your plants once they begin to flower. While clones of cannabis plants are genetic replicas, marijuana plants are hermaphrodites. Sometimes a cannabis plant clone ends up being a different sex than its mother plant due to stress, so don’t be shocked if it happens.
FAQs about cloning cannabis plants
If you purchase clones, how big should they be?
You can buy clones at any age, but if you are ready to plant, you want clones with good roots. If you are buying a cutting that does not have a good root system yet, make sure that it has at least a couple of nodes on it, so that those roots will be able to form. If you’d like to purchase seeds instead, check out my Seed Shop.
Why shouldn’t you clone autoflowers?
If you take a cutting from an autoflower, your yields will be significantly lower. This is because the clone will not have that much time to grow more buds. Since it is autoflowering like its mother, it will simply continue the flowering stage (with fewer buds) instead of reverting into a temporary veg stage like non-autoflowering plants. Here’s more on growing autoflowers.
What is etiolation?
Etiolation is a method of survival that flowering plants use when there isn’t enough light. It causes the plant to shift more of its energy underground and seek out nutrients from its roots rather than the parts existing above ground. In general, this process is a bad thing, however, when you are trying to grow roots, a little of this can be good.
When should you place clones outside?
Clones are ready to transplant once they are fully rooted. You can place your clones outside late Spring but wait until it is at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit. You should also make sure there is enough time left in the season for your plant to continue growing in size before it flowers, or else, keep it inside under lights. For more on scheduling your outdoor grow, read my Outdoor Grow Calendar.
Are cuttings sensitive to light?
When you create your own cannabis plant clones, you need to make sure the roots that develop are strong enough to support it. One way to encourage strong root production is to keep your cuttings away from light. Remember, roots normally form in the dark, moist environment of dirt. Your cuttings will need something similar. For more on light’s effect on cannabis, read this article.