What is a clone? A clone is a cutting taken from a stable cannabis plant – known as a ‘mother’ – that is genetically identical from the plant it was taken from. If the growing conditions are consistent the clones will grow and behave in the same way as the mother plant and have as close to an identical cannabinoid and terpene profile as possible. Clones can only be taken from plants in the vegetative stage, not from a flowering plant, so the mother is kept in the veg stage for as long as cloning is required.
Advantages of growing from a clone
The main advantage of growing from clone is the consistency of product (having the desired taste, effect and pest/mould resistance), and not having to scout for males throughout your crop. With clones you know exactly what you are growing due to having flowered out either the mother or an offspring (clone) from the same stock, so growing from clone is much less of a gamble than growing from seed.
I have had success with various methods of cloning in Jamaica over the years, some a better success rate than others. I am going to share with you what I consider the most successful method.
Some of the biggest obstacles with cloning in Jamaica and other countries in equatorial regions are the heat and the close to twelve/twelve hour light cycle. Therefore artificial lights are needed to extend the daylight hours to eighteen hours to support the vegetative stage. I have not noticed much difference in leaving the plants in the light for twenty-four hours with no darkness at all but I have certainly noticed the difference in the light bill.
Some people use what is known as ‘gas lamp theory’ to save extra on electricity by having the light on for just one hour in the middle of the dark cycle. This will also stop the plants producing the hormones that onset the flowering phase, but personally, I prefer an eighteen/six cycle at the vegetative state and I find that the plants tend to be more vigorous and healthy, perhaps because its closer to a natural cycle. Extra care should be taken when using heat emitting light in the hot climate. High output fluorescent bulbs have good light spectrum but give off heat. I currently use air conditioning and fans if needed.
Choosing the ‘mother’
When choosing a cultivar to be your mother plant I strongly advise flowering out an offspring before going into full cloning production, so that you know exactly what you are working with. For example, I made a horrible mistake in the past where I chose a mother plant based solely on how it looked in the vegetative stage and ended up with a lot of herb that was not popular or pleasant to smoke.
If you are working with seeds, once you have identified the sex of the plants and discarded the males, I suggest that you clone everything and then flower out the clones (whilst maintaining the original plants in their veg stage) in order to choose your mother plant. Looks are deceiving in the vegetative stage and it is always very important to flower out and trial new cultivars from seed before choosing them for mass production.
Some characteristics that would influence your decision when choosing the mother may be yield, vigour, structure, internodal distance, mould resistance, taste, smell, look, bag appeal and overall popularity. While some people may go for the obvious more popular name strains, others may be searching for a more unique and exclusive strain that no one else has.
Once you have chosen your mother plant and decided on a good space, light source and the scale of your grow then you are ready to start cloning for production. New mother plants can be taken from these clones once they grow bigger if you want to scale up the production.
Depending on availability in your country, alternative methods to the shelf products can be used such as natural alternatives like aloe vera gel and cinnamon powder. I have also had some success using just plain water and natural soil instead of plugs or rock wool but less overall success.
Materials you will need:
- Folding table
- Prepared propagation cell tray with accompanying dome
- Pruning scissors
- Isopropyl Alcohol
- Rooting Hormone
- Razor blade
- Spray bottle
- Large cups
- Potable water
- Plug soaking solution
- Paper towel
- Permanent marker
- Cell medium (plugs, rock well, etc.)
What you need to make a plug soaking/clone solution:
- Potable Water
- Formulex or Clonex nutrient solution (optional)
- Coconut Water
- Aloe Vera
- Ful-Power (Fulvic acid) (optional)
- pH adjuster.
- 5 gallon bucket
Recipe – developed to make enough solution for 1000 plugs.
5 gallons of potable water
nutrient solution (clonex solution or formulex)- optional (I advise to dilute it slightly more than what they say on the label)
200ml per gallon of coconut water
30 ml/gal Aloe Vera
4ml/gal of Ful-Power (Fulvic acid) – optional
- Collect five gallons of potable water (pH 5.5 – 6.5)
- Source freshly picked coconuts. Make sure to pick enough to give you the amount specified for the plug soak.
- Cut fresh Aloe vera and blend with skin on
- Strain blended Aloe vera with strainer properly
- Pour coconut water into the 5 gallons of potable water and mix thoroughly
- Pour Aloe vera into the 5 gallons of potable water and mix thoroughly
- Add, nutrient solution to the mix
- Immerse plugs in solution and allow to sit for 30 minutes before use
- Ensure to not squeeze the plugs entirely dry when removing plugs to place in domes.
- Remove tray and allow the plugs to drain
Now that you have made your plug soak, you are ready to start cloning.
Here’s how to do it…..
Identify clones to be cultivated
First, check the health and vigour of mothers or selected plants to be cloned and avoid taking clones from sick, stressed, or plants showing signs of nutrient deficiencies. Once you have chosen the mother or plants to be cloned, make sure to transfer a single strain at each time to the area in which the cloning will take place.
Preparing the work station
The cloning area should be meticulously clean and all tools and equipment should be sanitized using isopropanol alcohol. You should have prepared the plug soaking solution as detailed above, and place the plugs in the plug solution for 20-30 minutes (or until plug is fully hydrated) to ensure 100% saturation.
Next, fill the base tray with 800ml of perlite (as shown in the picture). Place the cell insert tray on top of the base tray and place one soaked plug into each cell. Cover the tray with the dome, ensuring that the vent is fully closed. Then prepare containers with water to hold the freshly cut clones and label the tray.
Taking a cutting
First, you need to identify healthy and vibrant growing tips from the ‘mother’. These should be vigorous green healthy shoots. Then select a robust apical stem (top shoot of any of the limbs) and a standardised size to be matched by all clones. Remove the tip by making a single cut with scissors. IMMEDIATELY place the severed end of the stem(s) into the container-1 with water after the primary cut is made. Continue taking cuttings and placing them in water, until clones have been removed from the mother plant.
Use the razor blade to remove the lower leaves from the cuttings, leaving only 2 pairs of leaves at the top and immediately place the cutting into another container-2 with water. Gather up to 5 clones from the container-2 with water and line up their “apical stems”. Grasp the clones and gather bottom sets of leaves. Cut half (1/2) off these bottom pair of leaves, using a pair of sanitized scissors, and ensure a uniform look (should look like a palm tree with each leaf snipped). This helps the nutrients go to the tips without having to waste their energy on fan leaves and will also create better space in the domes. Trim individual leaves as necessary to achieve uniformity. Don’t forget to place the scissors into a container containing isopropyl alcohol between use.
Next, measure the clones to the set “standardized length” – designated to create canopy uniformity as the clones develop and flip clones over to cut stem ends. Line up the nodes closest to the “standardized length”and use the razor to make the final cut at the predetermined point at the bottom of the internode (at least two inches below the node). Ensure the cut is a 45 degree angle to increase the surface area of the wound from which the roots will grow.
Once the cut is made, IMMEDIATELY place the cut ends into the rooting hormone container and let the cutting sit in the solution for at least 15 seconds. Remove the clones from the rooting hormone and insert the cut end of the clone into the cloning cell medium individually, making sure that the stem is not pushed all the way through the bottom of cell. Repeat the process until the tray is full or clones are finished. Remove the dome and use spray bottles to quickly mist the inside of the dome, and the leaves of the clones, if necessary. Then close dome ensuring that the vents are in the closed “vent position” to maintain the humidity.
Make sure to label your trays with the strain name and date. Check the lights are working and the room temperature is 26-28℃. The light cycle needs to be an 18/6 and you can use fluorescent tube lights, a grow light or LED flood lights. Leave clones to root for 14 days and check daily.
You should make sure that clone domes are secured to reduce incidence of dust and contamination, and regularly (twice daily) observe the ‘fog’ of the dome (a sign of humidity), perlite moisture (this cannot dry out), look for wilt, pest evidence, mould, roots and failed clones. When plugs or perlite are drying out, re-wet the dry plugs with water or water with nutrient solution. If plugs are intermittently dry, then remove the clone from its cell in the insert tray and dunk the plug into the aloe mixture until plug is rehydrated. (Give the plug a little squeeze in the liquid to soak up more moisture). Lift the insert tray up off the perlite filled base tray taking care not to damage any roots. Touch the perlite to determine how dry it is. Add 2000ml to the tray until all plugs are rehydrated.
Don’t forget to wipe out domes after each check and re-wetting exercise and ensure a separate paper towel is used for each dome. Use the pruning shears, to remove any unwanted necrotic or moulding leaf matter and sanitize shears with isopropyl alcohol between each dome.
Once the clones are rooted and ready to transplant, choose your grow medium and transplant into one gallon pots. They will then need to be hardened off in a shady area either using shade cloth if no shady spot before they go out into direct sunlight (from 5-7 days).