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Cloning Cannabis Simplified: Auto and Feminized Plant Propagation

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Image: Step-by-step Cannabis Cloning Guide – Autoflowering and Feminized Plant Propagation in a Professional Indoor Setup

Cloning is a fundamental technique in cannabis cultivation, allowing growers to replicate their favorite plants with precision. It involves taking cuttings from a chosen ‘mother plant’ to produce genetically identical clones. This method ensures uniformity in growth, potency, and flavor, making it a preferred practice for maintaining high-quality crops.

While cloning is standard for regular and feminized cannabis strains, autoflowering plants pose a unique challenge due to their quick life cycle and automatic shift to flowering. Despite these challenges, modern techniques are beginning to make the cloning of autoflowers a possibility, promising a new frontier in cannabis horticulture.

This guide will navigate the intricacies of cloning cannabis, highlight the nuances of working with autoflowers and feminized seeds, and showcase how cloning can lead to a more efficient and predictable cultivation experience.

What is Cloning?

Cloning, in the realm of cannabis cultivation, is the horticultural practice of reproducing a cannabis plant asexually. By cutting a section, typically a stem with a few leaves and a growing tip, from a ‘mother plant’, cultivators can create a new plant that is an exact genetic copy of the original. This method bypasses the need for seeds and guarantees that the desirable traits of the mother plant, such as flavor, cannabinoid profile, and yield, remain intact in the progeny.

Image of young cannabis clones rooted in individual pots, showcasing the initial stage of plant development in a controlled cultivation environment.

Through cloning, growers can ensure a consistent crop, as each clone will respond to the growing environment and care in the same manner as its donor. This consistency is crucial for both commercial growers, who need to maintain product uniformity, and for personal growers, who might want to preserve the qualities of a particularly successful plant.

Cloning vs. Growing from Seeds: A Comparative Overview

Choosing between cloning and starting from seeds is a crucial decision for any cannabis grower. Both methods have their unique advantages and challenges, and understanding these can help in tailoring the cultivation process to meet specific goals.

Below is a comparative table that distills the core differences between cloning and seed cultivation, providing insights into factors like cost, genetic consistency, and overall cultivation experience. Whether you’re preserving cherished genetics or exploring new strains, this guide will help you weigh your options effectively.

AspectCloningSeeds
Genetic ConsistencyIdentical to the mother plant.Identical to the ‘mother’ plant.
CostGenerally lower cost after the initial investment in the mother plant.Recurring cost for new seeds.
Time to MaturityClones carry over any resistance or susceptibility from the mother plant.Faster to reach flowering as clones start to more developed.
Disease ResistanceConsistent with the mother plant’s traits.Seeds may offer more robust genetic diversity and potential disease resistance.
YieldConsistent with mother plant’s traits.Variable, can sometimes be higher due to hybrid vigor.
LifespanLimited lifespan as clones age with the mother plant.Full lifecycle from seedling to maturity.
VarietyLimited to the mother plant’s genetics.Wide variety, can experiment with different strains.
Legal ConsiderationsMay be restricted in some areas.Legal in more regions; easier to transport.
Ease for BeginnersRequires technique and knowledge of mother plant health.Generally easier for beginners, straightforward process.
The main differences between using clones and seeds

The Role of Mother Plants in Cannabis Cultivation

Mother plants are the cornerstone of cannabis cloning, serving as the genetic blueprint for future generations of plants. They are specially chosen for their desirable traits, such as potency, flavor, yield, or resilience, and are maintained in a vegetative state to provide a steady supply of cuttings.

Importance of Mother Plants

Mother plants are vital because they ensure that each clone is a genetic replica of the parent, leading to a crop with uniform characteristics. This consistency is crucial for both commercial growers, who need to maintain product consistency, and home cultivators, who might want to replicate the results of a particularly successful plant.

Selecting a Mother Plant

Choosing a mother plant requires careful consideration. A good candidate for a mother plant should exhibit:

  • Vigorous growth: Look for plants that grow robustly and are resilient to environmental stresses.
  • Desired traits: The plant should possess the characteristics you want to replicate, such as high THC or CBD levels, specific terpene profiles, or resistance to pests and diseases.
  • Stable genetics: It’s important that the mother plant comes from a stable genetic background to avoid hermaphroditism or other genetic issues in the clones.
  • Health: Only the healthiest plants should be considered for mothers, as any pest or disease can be passed on to the clones.

Once a grower identifies a plant that meets these criteria, it is maintained in a vegetative state under a consistent light cycle, typically 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness. The grower will regularly prune the plant to encourage bushy growth and take cuttings for cloning.

The Cloning Process: Preparing for Success

Cloning is a meticulous process that replicates the genetic makeup of a mother plant. The preparation stage is crucial to ensure the highest chance of success. Here’s what you need to know to set the stage for effective cloning.

Photo capturing a single cannabis clone carefully held in a person's hand, highlighting the delicate early stage of plant growth.

Optimal Stage of Plant Growth for Cloning

  • Vegetative Phase: The best time to take clones is during the vegetative growth stage of the mother plant. Ideally, the mother plant should be at least two months old and well-established.
  • Pre-Flowering: Some growers prefer to take cuttings just as the plant enters the pre-flowering stage, as these clones can root faster due to higher levels of natural growth hormones.

Materials Needed for Successful Cloning

  • Sterile Cutting Tools: Use sharp and sterile scissors or razors to make clean cuts on the mother plant, reducing the risk of infection and stress.
  • Rooting Medium: Common mediums include rockwool cubes, peat pellets, or a soilless mix like perlite and vermiculite. Some growers also use water as a medium for hydroponic cloning.
  • Rooting Hormone: This helps to stimulate root growth and increases the chances of successful clone development.
  • Clone Tray and Dome: A tray with a clear dome is often used to keep the humidity high around the new cuttings.
  • Heating Mat (Optional): Some growers use a heating mat under the clone tray to maintain an optimal temperature, which can encourage faster root growth.
  • Misting Bottle: A spray bottle with clean water is used to keep the humidity up and the cuttings hydrated.
  • Light Source: Clones require light to thrive, but not direct sunlight. Fluorescent or LED lights are ideal because they emit less heat.
  • Labeling Materials: Labels or markers to keep track of strain names and cloning dates.

Cloning Steps Overview

Step 1: Sanitation

Initiate your cloning venture by meticulously cleaning all the tools and surfaces. A sterile environment is pivotal to stave off the intrusion of pathogens that could threaten the health of your cuttings.

Step 2: Cutting

Select a robust branch from your chosen mother plant for the cutting. With precision, make a 45-degree angled incision to ensure a substantial surface area that will foster root growth. The cutting should measure around 4-6 inches and include several leaf nodes.

Image showing the process of cutting clones from a mature cannabis plant using scissors, a crucial step in cannabis propagation.

Step 3: Rooting Hormone Application

Promptly coat the freshly snipped end of the cutting with a high-quality rooting hormone. This step is instrumental in nurturing the cutting’s ability to establish strong roots.

Step 4: Planting

With delicacy, place the hormone-treated cutting into a moist rooting medium. It’s essential to stabilize the cutting but take care not to push it too far into the medium, which could potentially promote rot.

Step 5: Humidity Control

To simulate the moisture-rich conditions of early plant life, position the cuttings within a cloning tray and cover them with a humidity dome. This microenvironment is a greenhouse in miniature, critical for root development.

Step 6: Lighting and Temperature Regulation

Provide your burgeoning clones with a soft, diffused light source while keeping them in a warm embrace of consistent temperatures, ideally hovering between 22-25°C. These conditions are akin to the springtime sun, coaxing the roots to unfurl.

Step 7: Observation and Maintenance

Watch over your clones with a diligent eye. Expect roots to seek out life within a fortnight. Maintain a routine misting to hydrate the cuttings adequately, all the while ensuring they are not drowning in excess moisture.

Cloning Autoflowering Cannabis (Auto Clones)

Is Cloning Autoflowers Possible?

The topic of cloning autoflowering cannabis strains often brings a mix of curiosity and skepticism. Cloning, a standard practice for perpetuating a desirable genetic line in photoperiod cannabis strains, hits a snag when it comes to autoflowering varieties. The feasibility of cloning autoflowers isn’t black and white—it’s both technically possible and yet often practically discouraged.

Viability and Challenges

The inherent nature of autoflowering cannabis means these plants begin flowering at a predetermined point, which is a genetic trait not influenced by light cycles. When you clone an autoflowering plant, the resulting clone maintains the genetic age of its parent. This means the clone will flower at the same time the mother plant is genetically programmed to do so, regardless of the clone’s size or maturity level.

Herein lies the primary challenge: a clone taken from an autoflowering plant will have a limited vegetative growth period. It will be compelled to flower while it is still very young and likely quite small, which severely limits the potential yield. Clones from autoflowering plants also tend to be less vigorous and more susceptible to stress, which can further reduce their growth and yield.

Points of Consideration

  • Timing: Clones must be taken very early in the life cycle of the autoflowering parent to give them the longest possible vegetative period before they automatically begin flowering.
  • Diminished Returns: Given that autoflowers are designed to go from seed to harvest in a short period, the time and resources invested in cloning might not justify the end yield. Growers would typically see better results starting with a new seed.
  • Genetic Preservation: While cloning autoflowers may not be efficient for production, it could be used strategically for genetic preservation or experimentation.
  • Expertise Required: Cloning autoflowers is not generally recommended for novice growers due to the precision and care required to manage the clones effectively.

Despite these challenges, some growers may choose to clone autoflowers out of necessity or for experimental purposes. Those who do take this path must manage their expectations regarding the yield and health of the plants and be prepared for a more labor-intensive process compared to cloning traditional photoperiod cannabis strains.

Techniques for Cloning Autoflowers

Cloning autoflowering cannabis plants is not a standard practice due to the reasons discussed earlier; however, there are some techniques and considerations that can potentially make the process more successful for those who choose to undertake it.

Early Timing

Since autoflowering plants flower based on age rather than light cycle, any clones taken should be from very young plants. Ideally, this would be within the first few weeks of growth. The goal is to maximize the vegetative growth time of the clones before their pre-programmed flowering cycle begins.

Careful Selection

Choose a healthy and vigorous mother plant for cloning. Since autoflowers are on a tight growth schedule, the mother plant should show no signs of stress or poor development.

Optimal Environment

Maintain an environment conducive to rapid root development for your clones. This includes high humidity, consistent warm temperatures, and a delicate balance of light that is enough to promote growth without causing stress.

Rooting Hormones

Use rooting hormones to encourage quick root development. Time is of the essence with autoflower clones, so anything that can speed up the rooting process is beneficial.

Gentle Handling

Autoflowering plants are generally more sensitive to stress, and their clones are even more so. Handle them gently, and try to minimize any shock during the cloning process.

Minimize Transplant Shock

Since autoflowers have such a brief vegetative phase, transplant shock can significantly set back their growth. It’s best to clone directly into the medium where the plant will stay until harvest to avoid any further stress from transplanting.

Monitor and Adjust

Clones from autoflowering plants may require more careful monitoring and quicker responses to any signs of stress compared to clones from photoperiod strains.

Expectation Management

Understand that even with the best techniques, autoflower clones typically yield less than their seed-grown counterparts. The value in cloning autoflowers may lie more in experimentation and learning rather than in yield maximization.

Continuous Learning

Because cloning autoflowers is not as common, there’s less collective knowledge about the practice. It’s a field ripe for experimentation, and growers who choose to clone autoflowers may contribute valuable insights to the cannabis cultivation community.

Cloning Feminized Cannabis

Benefits of Cloning Feminized Plants

Cloning from feminized plants has become a common practice among growers for several compelling reasons.

Guaranteed Female Clones

Cloning from feminized seeds ensures that all clones are female, eliminating the need to identify and remove male plants, which do not produce the desired buds.

Preservation of Genetics

Cloning allows growers to preserve the exact genetic profile of a high-performing feminized plant, ensuring consistency in cannabinoid and terpene profiles across harvests.

Cost-Effective

Using clones from a feminized mother plant can be more cost-effective than purchasing new feminized seeds for each grow cycle.

Rapid Vegetative Phase

Clones from feminized plants can often skip the seedling stage and move directly into vegetative growth, shortening the overall grow cycle.

How to Clone from Feminized Seeds

Cloning from feminized seeds involves a few key steps that ensure the best chance for successful, healthy growth.

Select the Right Mother Plant

Choose a robust and healthy mother plant that exhibits all the traits you desire to replicate – potency, flavor, aroma, and growth patterns. The mother plant should be in the vegetative stage, as plants in the flowering stage are hormonally different and not suitable for cloning.

Take Cuttings Correctly

Use sterilized tools to take cuttings to prevent disease. The cuttings should be 4-6 inches long, cut at a 45-degree angle, and should include at least two nodes (points on the stem where leaves emerge).

Use Rooting Hormones

Dip the freshly cut end of the clone into a rooting hormone solution or powder. This will stimulate root growth and help the cuttings establish more quickly.

Provide the Right Conditions

Place the cuttings into a growing medium such as rockwool, peat moss, or a soilless mix. Keep the humidity high (about 70-80%) and temperatures around 22-25°C (72-77°F). Use a humidity dome if necessary to maintain these conditions.

Wait for Roots to Develop

In about 7-14 days, roots should begin to develop. Once the roots are a few inches long, the clones can be transplanted into larger pots or their final growing medium.

Transition to Vegetative Growth

Once established, treat the clones like any other plant in the vegetative stage. Gradually harden them off to lower humidity levels and provide them with full vegetative nutrients.

Conclusion

Cannabis cloning is a precise craft that offers growers the ability to preserve and perpetuate the prized traits of their favorite strains. This technique ensures the continuity of a plant’s genetic lineage and the promise of female clones, all while fast-tracking the growth process.

Cloning, especially of autoflowering and feminized plants, presents its unique set of challenges and rewards, demanding a grower’s adaptability and careful attention to detail. While the initial steps of cutting and rooting require a delicate balance of conditions, long-term success is achieved through consistent care and the keen eye of an experienced cultivator.

As with any horticultural endeavor, potential issues may arise, yet each provides an opportunity to learn and improve. Through trial and error, each successful clone represents not just a replication of a plant but the refinement of a skill.

In conclusion, the art of cloning is more than just a method of propagation; it’s a commitment to the continuity and improvement of cannabis cultivation, keeping the cycle of growth vibrant and ever-evolving.

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