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How to Clone a Weed Plant
The idea of cloning cannabis plants as a new grower can be a little intimidating. There are many steps involved and you need to create a perfect environment for success. With a little practice however, most growers find that they can clone plants successfully, even if there is a bit of a learning curve involved.
It is easy to see why you would want to clone plants. Cloning allows you to preserve all the traits and genetics of a specific plant that has various ideal characteristics. A clone is simply a cutting from a “mother” plant that is then placed in a media of some type to develop roots before transplanting into a container to be grown out in its own right, with all the traits of the plant it was cut from. This differs from plants grown from seed. Seed-grown plants will evince a wide range of characteristics form their sibling plants; clones are like twins of their mother.
There are other benefits of cloning as well. Cloning is essentially a “free” way to obtain plants. Of course, there are the costs of the media, nutrients, pots, etc. not to mention the time investment, but the plant stock itself is free. It allows for perpetual cultivation of a specific strain of plant. When the mother plant is too old or is stressed, one of the clones can take her place and become the new mother plant, while retaining the characteristics that are desired. You know what you are getting with clones. The results should be reliable as opposed to with seed-grown plants with a range of possible traits.
Read on to learn more about how anyone can learn to clone plants and what is needed to do so successfully.
Making the Cut: Before, During and After
Step 1. Determine the characteristics that you are looking to reproduce. You may want to clone plants that grow fast or produce the strongest branches; you may want a plant that only reaches a certain height or is resistant to diseases. Faster flowering may be your goal. You may be after a particular smell, taste, or potency. Most growers are looking to increase yields; others are looking for specific terpenes, or high resin production.
Step 2. Select a strong mother plant with those previously identified, desirable characteristics. Look for a plant that is relatively mature, (at least 8-10 weeks old) with a dense, full canopy of lush, green leaves, and a robust, healthy root system.
Step 3. Sterilize your work area. This means that all the tools, surfaces and containers that are going to be involved should be sanitized with bleach, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, or some other disinfecting agent that is recommended for use in the horticulture industry. Disposable gloves are recommended for the whole process as well.
Step 4. Lay out your pots and have your media ready to go. You do not want to take cuttings and have them laying around while you are getting their new home ready. They will dry out quickly and become unviable. If you are going to be using a rooting hormone or rooting gel, that should be set up and ready to go as well. Pre-moisten your media so that you are not putting cuttings into dry material.
Step 5. Prepare the growing environment. Make sure to use only low-wattage lighting or other bulbs that are manufactured for the propagation of clones and seedlings. It also means creating a space where you can raise the humidity levels to 75- 80%.
Step 6. Make the first cut with a sterilized scalpel, pruning knife, or other appropriate pruning tools. Each cut should be made from the tip of a healthy branch. This can be done when the plant is flowering, but better results are usually obtained when you take cuttings during the vegetative stage. Make sure that the cutting has at least two nodes (the point where branches form from the stem) but some growers look for as many as six. The best stock for clones often is found in the lower branches of the mother plant.
Step 7. On each cutting, carefully pull of the lower leaves, leaving only the top two. This will allow your clone to utilize its resources and stores to develop roots instead of feeding too many leaves. Then, carefully as well, slice the outer layer of tissue from the bottom 2-3 centimeters (one inch) down one side. This wound will help to absorb the hormone and stimulate root development.
Step 8. Dip your cutting into rooting hormone or gel. If you cannot apply the hormone right away, then keep your cuttings in water until you can. This should only be a temporary measure as the cutting should be placed in its new home as soon as possible after being cut from the mother plant. This step can be omitted if no rooting agent is being used, but the cuttings should still go into water until placed directly into the media.
Step 9. Place the cutting into the media up to the first set of nodes on the stem. After this step, take your clean cutting tool and cut off the tips of the remaining few leaves to further reduce the amount of energy your clone will need to divert away from root development. It also slows down respiration, allowing your cutting to retain more of its internal moisture.
Step 10. Place a humidity dome or other clear, easily removable covering over your cuttings.
Care for Your Clones
At this stage in the cloning process, it is critical to pay attention to light, humidity, temperature, and water levels. The young cuttings are not yet standing “on their own two feet,” so all their needs must be accommodated and tended to by the grower. Too much or too little of any vital part will result in less than stellar results or even complete failure.
Watering and Feeding
Step 11. Check your clones daily for proper moisture. Your young plants have not yet developed a fully functioning root system at this stage, so they will need to be kept constantly moist, including their roots and stems. Mist them frequently with unchlorinated water. If you find that your clones or your media dries out too frequently, try adding some perlite into the media or at the bottom of the trays. Once your cuttings have developed sufficient roots, the dome or cover can come off.
Step 12. Start feeding your plants. It is easy to overdo it on nutrients at this stage and to burn the young roots. Make sure to only use a fertilizer that is meant to be used at this stage in their development. Small amounts can be added to the irrigation water once they have started to set their own roots.
Transplanting Your Clones
Step 13. Transplant your rooted cuttings into individual pots or containers. This stage occurs about ten days to two weeks after the cuttings have been taken. Roots should be at least 3 to 5 centimeters (2 to 3 inches) long. It is important to select the correct size pots for these cuttings. At this time, weak or compromised ones can be culled. Using a tray, such as those manufactured by XTray or Wachsen is helpful. Each clone can be carefully pulled from the growing media, laid out onto a tray before transplanting and be fully inspected.
Step 14. Start monitoring your recently transplanted clones closely. Look for signs of pest activity or stress. Make sure that once they start to grow, that light levels are increased and that they do not outgrow their pots. If your clones do not seem to be thriving after they have had sufficient time to root in, you can give them a bit of a boost with a root stimulator.
Tips and References for Successful Cloning
For the first few days, even up to a week or so, your young clone will do better in blue lighting. This helps them to develop their roots system. Once they are well on their way towards rooting in, switch over to a light that provides red wavelengths. This encourages leaf, branch and ultimately flower development.
Clones cannot be under constant light. They do require a period of darkness to fully develop their roots. Most professional growers keep their clones under light for about 18 hours per day and in full darkness for 6. This schedule also helps them to develop healthy branches and leaves once they are rooted.
Humidity and Temperature
The most used method for keeping recently cut clones under high humidity levels is to use a humidity dome. Ideally humidity levels should be as high as 75 to 85 percent. A dome helps to keep humidity levels necessarily high so that your clone can absorb moisture form the air as well as the media since it does not yet have fully formed roots. Select a dome with venting holes or one that can easily be propped up. The venting holes do a better job though in helping your clone adapt to its new environment as it develops its own roots.
Start introducing fresh air with the vents or by removing the cover after they have been in about four days. Plan on keeping your clones under cover to some extent though for about a week to ten days. Besides checking for root development, your clone will “tell” you it is ready for transplanting when it does not wilt when the dome cover has been removed for a while. If they wilt, put the cover back on and know that they are not yet ready for the next phase.
During this phase, it is important to keep a warm environment as well. They do best at temperatures between 23 and 25 C (74 to 78 F). You can help attain this temperature by using heat mats or other supplemental heating methods. Be mindful that heat can often dry the air though and it is important to keep those humidity levels up.
Make sure to check the environment around your clones as often as possible. This needs to be done at least daily, and several times a day would be better so that adjustments can be made before damage is done if levels are too far off. A combination thermometer/hygrometer such as manufactured by Alfred is a great tool to help monitor these levels.
Even the most successful grower will not achieve total success with every batch of clones. It is inevitable that some will struggle. Knowing some of the common ailments and symptoms will help you to rescue struggling plants. Your clones may turn yellow or discolor. They may also wilt or droop. In some cases, a few tweaks will save them; in other cases, it is better to start over.
If you note that your clone’s leaves are turning yellow, all is not lost. It is normal for this to occur as your clone is using up its stored nutrients. If your clone is developing roots while yellowing, it will likely survive. If it is not developing roots, you will probably lose that clone. Improper temperature and humidity may also cause yellowing leaves. Make sure to monitor this important aspect of the growing environment. If everything is in good order, and your clones are still turning yellow, consider changing up your cloning method.
Wilting leaves are more of a concern than yellowing. Wilting can often be a sign that your clones are not getting enough water. Improper temperature and humidity levels will also exacerbate this problem as it can interfere with water uptake and respiration if not controlled. Trimming the tips of the leaves can help your clones retain water better too.
Not enough light or improper light can also be a culprit here. If your clones cannot properly photosynthesize light, then they will wilt. Make sure in addition to the right lighting, that the light source is not too far away from the clones. The inverse-square law is in effect here: every time you double the distance between the light source and your clones, they are only receiving one quarter of the light they were before.
It can be hard to discern wilting from drooping leaves. Wilting leaves rarely recover while drooping leaves can spring back to life if the deficiency is addressed quickly enough. It is completely normal for recent cuttings to droop after being cut from the mother plant. Upon developing roots though, they should return to their normal vigor and color. If this does not occur, check your temperature and humidity levels; this cannot be stressed enough. Leaving too many leaves on your clones can contribute to this as well. Leaving just the top two leaves on your cutting will help it to focus its nutrient store on root development and not the nourishment of additional leaves.
Discolored leaves (outside of yellowing) can be more difficult to diagnose. This could be due to a nutrient deficiency, an insect, or disease issue. If insects are present, treat with products like Doktor Doom, Opal or Onguard insecticides. If there is a nutrient deficiency, look at the wide range of product option here. Many diseases are fungal in nature. A fungicide like Sirocco, Influence or Cyclone should be considered.
Another potential problem that is often noticed is a perceived stunting of growth. It is normal for this to occur after transplanting. Your clone is going to do its work developing a strong root system to be able to feed itself. With all the energy being spent below the surface, it often does not have enough to push out growth at the same time. This is normal and will regulate itself out after roots have been developed.
Outside of a few common problems, if proper sanitation is attained, ideal growing conditions are implemented and a strong mother plant is selected, your cloning operation should be successful.