How to clone cannabis plants
What is a cannabis clone?
A clone is a cutting, such as a branch, that is cut off of a living marijuana plant, which will then grow into a plant itself. A clone has the same genetic makeup as the plant it was taken from, which is called the mother plant.
A typical clone is about 6 inches in length, give or take, and after cutting it off the mother plant, the clone is put into a medium such as a root cube and given a hormone to encourage root growth.
After roots develop, it is then transplanted into a pot or the ground, and it will grow like any weed plant.
Why clone cannabis plants?
If you don’t want to mess with seeds, clones can be a great option for starting a marijuana plant. Growing weed from a clone will save you time—even though they need time to root out, you don’t have to germinate seeds, which will shave off a month or so of the growing process.
Clones will also save space in your garden—with seeds, you have to grow many and sex them out to identify and get rid of the males. Also, usually some seeds don’t germinate. You’ll need extra space for all those seeds, and they might not even turn into full plants.
If you take a clone from a plant you already have, they’re free! You just need to invest in some supplies. Although, you can buy clones from a dispensary if you want.
One of the best things about clones is they are exact genetic replicas of the mother plant from which they were taken. If you have a particular marijuana plant you like, whether for its appearance, smell, effects, or something else, you can take clones of it and grow it again, ad infinitum.
There is some speculation that clones can degrade over time based on environment stressors and other factors, but that is open to debate.
What is a cannabis mother plant?
A mother plant is any cannabis plant you take a clone from. Mothers should be healthy and sturdy, as their genetics will pass on to the clones—if you have a sickly mother plant, its clones will also be sickly.
Mother plants always stay in the vegetative stage as clones are clipped off. It’s important to not take cuttings off a flowering weed plant—this can cause the clone to turn into a hermaphrodite and may also damage the flowering plant.
Some growers have dedicated mother plants only for taking cuttings, but this setup takes up a lot of space and materials—you’ll need to keep the mother plant alive, but you won’t get any buds off it because it’ll always stay in the vegetative stage. Some growers find it hard to justify devoting time, energy, and space to plants that won’t produce buds. If your grow space is tight, this might not be the best setup.
Another method growers employ is to take cuttings off a set of mother plants before they flower, then flip the mothers into the flowering stage. The next generation of clones is grown, and when those get big enough, cuttings will be taken from those before getting flipped into flower. Because clones are genetically identical, each generation will be an exact copy of the first-generation mother and all subsequent mothers.
Cannabis mother plants guarantee genetic consistency, so each new generation of clones taken will have the same taste, flavor, effects, and other characteristics. Clones will also generally grow at the same rate as the mother, produce a similar quality product, and grow with the same vigor, allowing you to dial in your process and really get to know how to grow that particular weed plant.
Clones also guarantee that all of your weed plants are females, so you don’t have to spend time growing from seed, sexing plants, and discarding males.
What to look for in a mother plant
As genetics are identical between a mother and a clone, it’s important to choose a good plant as a mother. A wilty plant, or one that doesn’t produce good buds, won’t make a good mother.
Growers usually look for these qualities in a mother plant:
- Sturdy, vibrant growth
- Great aromas and flavors
- Big yields
- Dense trichomes
- Resistent to pests and mold
How to clone a cannabis plant
What do you need to clone cannabis?
Cloning cannabis is relatively easy and requires just a few key items:
- Scissors (for taking cuttings off the mother plant)
- Razor (for trimming up cuttings)
- Rooting setup (tray/tray-cell insert/dome/root cubes/heat mat, or an auto-cloner)
- Rooting hormone
Choose a rooting medium and setup
Common rooting mediums include rooting cubes, rockwool, or other non-soil equivalents like peat or foam. Rockwool is melted rock that has been spun into a fine thread, and it has terrific airflow and moisture retention. You can find any of these cubes at most grow stores or online.
If you’re using cubes of any kind, you’ll need to invest in a tray, a tray-cell insert, and a dome. The clones will go in the cubes, the cubes into the tray-cells, and all of that sits in a tray which will hold water. To keep in humidity, make sure to use a dome over your tray, and you may even want to use a heat mat.
Another method is to use an auto-cloner. There is an initial cost for buying an auto-cloner, but if you plan on cloning a lot, they are worth it. Auto-cloners cut down on the amount of labor needed to care for clones. Using aeroponics, these machines spray the bottoms of your cuttings with nutrient water at set intervals to promote root growth.
Experiment to see which setup works best for you. Whichever method you choose, make sure your new clones get plenty of light—preferably 18 hours—and humidity.
For more info on cloning setups, check out our Guide to cannabis cloning equipment.
How to take a cutting from a cannabis plant
When selecting a mother plant to clone from, look for plants that are healthy, sturdy, and at least two months into the vegetative cycle. Don’t take a clone off a plant once it starts flowering.
Don’t fertilize mother plants for a few days leading up to taking cuttings. This will allow nitrogen to work its way out of the leaves. When you take cuttings, an excess of nitrogen in the leaves and stems will trick your clones into attempting to grow vegetation instead of diverting energy to rooting.
Be sure to work in a sterile environment. Use gloves and disinfect razors and scissors.
The beginning of a cannabis clone. (David Downs for Leafly)
To take a cutting:
- Look for branches that are sturdy and healthy. You want at least two nodes on the final cutting, so pick a branch that is healthy and long enough. A sturdy clone will lead to a sturdy plant.
- Cut the clone off the mother, cutting above the node on the mother plant. It’s OK to use scissors here; it may be hard to get a razor in the middle of the mother plant.
- Then, using a razor, cut below the bottom node on the fresh cutting at a 45° angle to the branch. This will increase the surface area of the rooting surface, promoting faster growth.
- Place your fresh cutting immediately into a rooting hormone. Then, put it directly into a root cube. If using an auto-cloner, put a collar around it and place it in the auto-cloner; you’ll put rooting hormone in the cloner after all cuttings have been taken.
- Once done taking the cutting, remove unnecessary leaves toward the bottom and clip off the tips of the remaining fan leaves on the cutting. This supports photosynthesis, helping your clones uptake nutrients and water.
Transplanting your weed clones
Check your clones daily to make sure they have enough water by checking the bottom of the tray or auto-cloner. To increase humidity, you can spray water on the leaves with a spray bottle. If any clones die, discard them so they don’t cause mold in the rest of the clones and also to give the remaining clones more space.
Most clones will be ready to transplant into soil in 10-14 days, but some root out quicker, and some longer. You’ll know they’re ready when the white roots are an inch or two in length.
When getting ready to transplant, be sure to keep the environment sterile. Transplant shock can occur, so be sure to use gloves when handling clones.
- Put soil in your pots first.
- Water the soil before transplanting so soil doesn’t move around once the clone is in its new home.
- Once the water has drained, dig out a hole 1-2 inches deep with two fingers, or just enough to bury all the roots.
- Put the clone in and gently cover with soil.
What to look for when buying a marijuana clone
If you live in a medical or adult-use state, you’ll be able to get clones from some local weed shops, but make sure it’s a reputable shop.
Most of the time, these clones come from growers who focus solely on producing clones, but sometimes cuttings will come from a third-party source. When purchasing clones for your home garden, always ask your shop where they came from. If you can’t get a legitimate answer, find another source.
It’s important to know the origin of your clones because that’s where problems originate—diseases, pests, incorrectly labeled genetics, and unknown pesticide residues can come with a mystery clone.
Never hesitate to research a dispensary or grow facility before buying clones.
Inspect the cannabis clones
Not all pests, diseases, pesticide residues, or genetic markers will be easy to spot with the naked eye, but give your clones a good look before introducing them to your garden. If they look sickly or weak, they likely won’t grow well.
A clone’s stem width is a great way to get a sense of its overall health and vigor. Thin and narrow stems typically mean the clone was taken from a weak or less viable branch. These cuttings may be more prone to disease or death and their root systems may take longer to develop.
Be sure to inspect all areas of your clone for the presence of pests. Large pests such as fungus gnats and spider mites can be spotted relatively easily.
Check under each leaf and also check the soil medium, as some pests live there. Certain pests can also leave markers—spider mites leave spots and webbing, and other insects can leave trace bite marks.
Many diseases can be difficult to detect in cuttings, but there are a few visual cues that can be seen early on. A lack of vigor is a major cue—check for limping leaves, irregular or mutated growth, and discoloration.
Powdery mildew (PM) is a very common disease found on clones, and mold spores can transfer to other plants. Keep an eye out for white powder on stems and leaves.
It’s almost impossible to detect harmful pesticides or fungicides on a clone. Often, these applications leave zero residue and can stay on a plant for the rest of the plant’s life. If you see any suspicious residue on a clone, ask the grower about their in-house integrated pest management (IPM) and always err on the side of caution.
Clean and quarantine your cannabis clones
If some clones look OK at the shop and you decide to take them home, make sure to take a few last precautionary steps before introducing them to the rest of your garden.
First, transplant your new weed clones into a more permanent container and medium. Often the grow medium used to house fresh cuttings at the shop will be different than what you use. Also, pests may be present in its medium when you bought it—transplanting your clone to a cleaner space will help mitigate any potential root damage.
Take this time to properly clean your clone with whatever IPM solution you deem fit. A popular method for cleaning new clones involves dipping them into a light solution of whatever safe and approved pesticide you choose.
After your clones have been properly cleaned and transplanted into their new medium, make sure to keep them quarantined for a few days to a week. Doing this will protect the rest of your garden if they do develop problems, and you’ll be able to pull them out easily.
If they look good after a week or so, go ahead and introduce them to the rest of your garden.
Patrick Bennett and Trevor Hennings contributed to this article.
If you want to save time and space when growing marijuana, clones can be a great option for starting a marijuana garden. Learn how to clone weed plants from the experts at Leafly.
Seeds Or Clones: Which Is Better For Growing Cannabis?
When growing cannabis, you have two paths to choose from: seeds or clones. One one hand, seeds are reliable, easy, and accessible. Clones, on the other, are fast, efficient, and carry the exact traits of the mother plant. However, both methods have their downsides. Let’s compare seeds and clones so you can decide how to proceed with your grow.
Cannabis cultivators can start a grow in one of two ways. They can either germinate seeds or take cuttings from a mother plant. Both of these methods produce the same end result—cannabinoid-rich buds—but take different routes to get there.
Some growers prefer the speed of clones, whereas others prefer going all the way, start to finish, from seeds. Whether you’re a new grower or a seasoned vet, it’s key to learn about both techniques so you can experiment in the future and maximise results.
Seeds and clones both have a unique set of pros and cons. Once you weigh up the traits of each, you’ll be able to decide which path you want to head down.
ADVANTAGES OF GROWING CANNABIS FROM SEEDS
Some growers view starting from seeds as the “pure” way to cultivate weed. True or not, it sure does offer a deep sense of satisfaction come harvest time.
Most home growers around the world start their projects using seeds. That’s largely because they’re more accessible and legal in most countries, but that’s not all they have going for them. Let’s discuss some of the best reasons to start your grow from seeds.
EASY TO ACCESS
The internet’s made a lot of things easier, especially getting cannabis seeds.
Nowadays, you can easily order seeds online from a long list of established seed banks (like Royal Queen Seeds, of course). They’ll send discreetly shipped packages directly to your mailbox, so you’ll never have to leave the house.
Even in countries where cannabis itself remains illegal, ungerminated cannabis seeds are often perfectly legal to order, possess, and collect. Starting with seeds will keep you on the good side of the law until you drop them in some soil.
STARTING FROM SCRATCH
Not only do seeds offer an arguably more satisfying end result, but they also enable growers to start with a fresh batch of genetics. These small packages of DNA house a code that hasn’t been exposed to a poor growing environment or a host of diseases. As we’ll discuss later, though, the same can’t be said for all clones.
BREED YOUR OWN STRAINS
Once you’ve mastered the art of growing cannabis from seeds, you can start to make your own strains. Breed your favourite female with a prized male, and you’ll have hundreds—if not thousands—of your own seeds at the end of the growing season.
In other words, you’re not “creating a seed” as much as you are creating your own unique strain. Hone in on traits that you enjoy for the most pleasant smoking experience possible.
FEMINIZED SEEDS = DANK FLOWERS
Although regular seeds emerge as both sexes, high-quality feminized seeds offer a 99% guarantee of being female.
Why is this important? Well, as you know, female cannabis plants produce the sticky and cannabinoid-rich bud that most growers are looking for. In contrast, males produce pollen sacs; necessary for breeding, but detrimental to the yield of female plants they breed with.
With feminized seeds, you’ll save an enormous amount of time and effort you’d normally spend on getting rid of males. In turn, you’ll get heaps of quality bud.
DISADVANTAGES OF GROWING CANNABIS FROM SEEDS
After reading the above, starting with seeds might seem like perfection. However, everything in life has a downside. With that in mind, let’s shift the discussion to the not-so-advantageous aspects of using seeds.
THEY DON’T ALWAYS GERMINATE
Although reputable seed banks offer higher germination rates, not every single seed will leave the soil. Unfortunately, no matter what you do, some are simply duds. For this reason, we suggest starting a grow with several seeds, even if you plan on only raising one plant.
GENOTYPE VS PHENOTYPE
Every seed from the same plant will feature a slightly different genotype—a unique genetic code. There will always be genetic variation from parents to progeny, and sibling to sibling.
This means seeds won’t produce an exact replica of a particular parent, and you’ll see differences between brothers and sisters that you grow out. If you plant ten of the same seeds, you’ll notice some variation in height, colour, flavour, and yield.
Cannabis plants also develop specific traits based on their external environment, a factor that influences their phenotype. Temperature, humidity, light, nutrients, and water can all impact phenotypic expression. In this way, achieving a uniform crop is more difficult than with clones.
SLOWER TO START
Lastly, seeds take longer than clones to reach harvest time. It can take anywhere between a few days and a week to see the first signs of life emerge from the soil. After that, add another week or two for your plant to become a mature seedling. It might not seem too long, but there’s a reason speedy autoflowering strains are as popular as they are.
ADVANTAGES OF GROWING CANNABIS FROM CLONES
For those unfamiliar, clones are cuttings taken from vegetating mother plants. Once obtained, growers root the cutting before introducing it to soil or a hydroponic medium.
As the name suggests, a clone provides an exact genetic copy of the mother plant. This can either be a blessing or a curse, as you’ll see below. First, let’s discuss the advantages.
Clonex Rooting Gel
CUTTINGS FROM FEMALES CREATE NEW FEMALES
Because clones are exact copies, cuttings taken from a female mother plant will produce another female. This allows growers to sidestep the 50/50 chance that comes with growing from regular seeds. It also avoids the minor risk of feminized seeds throwing out a male.
CLONES SAVE TIME
With clones, you don’t need to wait for a seed to germinate and grow into a reasonably sized seedling. In fact, you completely skip that stage! Simply root your cutting, and you’ve got a plant that’s instantly ready to grow.
YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT TO EXPECT
Clones deliver exactly what you liked about the mother plant. As exact genetic copies, they’ll carry over all of the mother’s traits, including size, taste, morphology, and productivity. Seeds will differ slightly from the plants they came from, though, due to genetic and environmental factors.
DISADVANTAGES OF GROWING CANNABIS FROM CLONES
Clones far outperform seeds in some areas, but they aren’t perfect. Here are some issues you might run into if you decide to grow from clones.
GOOD LUCK FINDING THEM
Want seeds? Go find a seed bank online. Want clones? Good luck. Since they need to be cut from an active vegetating plant, clones are difficult to find if you’re a home grower. Plus, they’re illegal before they even end up in your possession, making shipping them quite risky.
Paying your growing buddies a visit might be the best way to find clones in most countries. Ask politely, and you might head home with a cutting or two.
YOU NEED TO BE CAREFUL
Seeds are tough. They can be thrown straight into the soil. Clones are delicate and need to be treated as such. If you handle cuttings aggressively or fail to give them a good start, they’ll die before they put out roots.
Fragile cuttings also require a specifically tailored environment with customised parameters to give them the best start in life. They need optimal humidity levels and finely tuned and consistent temperatures. For these reasons, you’ll need to set up additional space in your grow room to cater to their needs, especially if you’re also growing from seeds.
YOU GET THE BAD TRAITS, TOO
Mother plants pass on everything to their clones, including their bad traits. The mother plant, whether you know it or not, might have an underlying genetic issue or fault. It might not become apparent until you’ve raised a few clones, but it’ll do some damage when it does.
CLONES OR SEEDS — WHICH IS BETTER FOR GROWING CANNABIS?
Honestly, the answer is entirely subjective. It all boils down to the personal preferences and skill of the grower. Beginners will have a much easier time—and see better results—using seeds. Clones are more tricky, and best reserved for slightly more experienced growers. However, veteran growers will also choose seeds for breeding purposes, or to see plants through from start to finish.
As with everything in the world of growing, experimenting will enable you to find your own way of doing things. Try both and see what works best for you and your growing style. Good luck!
When growing cannabis, seeds and clones offer a host of distinct benefits and downsides. Explore the pros and cons of each to decide which is best for you.