Cloning is easy enough for anyone to do successfully, guaranteed. The information is everywhere: as close as your local nursery, or at your fingertips on the Internet. The first person to introduce me to the art of making cuttings was my grandmother, though my mother really entrenched the knowledge. My great-grandparents were farmers who earned their living off the land, and to this day I still associate the taste of a fresh-picked strawberry with the few memories I have of Nan and Granddad and the farm. The knowledge they learned while growing up was passed down to the next generation, both by tale and by example. The task my grandmother so impressed me with was simple gardening know-how for her – the ability to take one plant and make many from it. She would cut branches off a plant with a sharp knife, stick it into a solution (hers was made by soaking pieces of willow tree branches in water, a home-made rooting hormone) and, within a week or so, the cuttings would grow roots and become plants themselves. Cannabis growers call this cloning, but regular gardeners call it “taking cuttings”. Hey – asexual reproduction by any other name is still as sweet!
Whether you’re a small gardener, large-scale farmer, or marijuana breeder/seed producer, cloning is a great tool to use because of the results: savings, and increased production. Let me state clearly that I’m not saying “clones instead of seeds”, but clones as well as seeds. This is a step-by-step walk through the process.
I recommend obtaining a world-class strain by purchasing from fine seed breeders like Vancouver Island Seed Company (VISC), www.vancouverseed.com. For this article, we used the original Burmese. Germinate and plant your seeds (hopefully all seeds will germinate) and, when the plants are mature enough (see Photos 1, 2, 3 & 4 Maturity Descriptions), take ten clones from each of the Burmese plants, making sure to mark which plant each clone came from (using letters or numbers to match clones to parents). When the 100 or so clones have visible roots, flip the light regime to flower the plants (12 hours on, 12 hours off). Within a week –at most two – the budding plants will have shown their respective sexes (see Photos 5, 6 & 7 Revealed Sexes). Kill all male clones as soon as they show themselves to eliminate the risk of your crop being pollinated, which means seeded bud. You should now have five large Burmese females in bud with around five more weeks of fattening up before harvest, and 50 guaranteed female clones that need transplanting. These new clones will veg under 18 or 24 hours of light. Just before these 50 are ready to be flipped to bud, you can also clone them, giving you unlimited supply of guaranteed Burmese female cannabis plants.
What You Need
• A fine mist Spray Bottle, which you can purchase at any gardening or hardware store.
• A new and clean Razor Blade. It’s a good idea to have more than one; I recommend purchasing them in bulk from the painting department of your local hardware store. Get the type with only one sharp side to protect your fingers.
• A Humidity Hood (one that includes closable vents is best) (See Photo 8).
• A Waterproof Tray and Tray Insert (you won’t need tray inserts if using Rockwool® as your medium) and these MUST match so buy them as a set (See Photo 9).
• Rooting Hormone, which you can make yourself, but I recommend purchasing a commercially available one such as Wilson’s Roots® or Olivia’s® from any gardening shop or most hardware stores; I use the Root’s Gel® for better coating.
• Rooting Medium. I use Rockwool® (found at most hydroponic shops) for clones to be used in hydroponics systems, and I use Sunshine Mix #4® (can be located at most garden shops) for clones to be used in soil or soilless mediums. Many other mediums will work just as well.
• A pH Tester and pH adjusters (Up and Down). You can purchase an expensive meter or you can use the inexpensive drop kits such as the one made by General Hydroponics. (See Photo 11 pH Tester Drop) You can find pH testers and adjusters at a variety of shops including hydroponic shops, garden centers, pet stores and pool supply shops.
• A two-light fluorescent fixture fitted with plant friendly tubes. This allows you to create a separate “grow chamber” in a closet, or on a shelf. This is not absolutely necessary – I will often just place the clones off to one side of my vegetative room, like many growers do – but it is reco mmended. I also suggest using a supplement such as SuperThrive (www.superthrive.com) to add to the rooting medium, especially if using Rockwool.
The situation for the small gardener is as good as it looks, and for the commercial grower it gets even better. Similar to the home grower, the recommendation is to purchase then germinate and plant some seeds; only this time, as soon as it is possible to make one or two clones from the growing plants, do so. Once again make sure to carefully mark the clones with the plant they came from. Keep all of the plants in the vegetative stage to increase in size as the clones develop roots. As soon as roots are visible, place them into a 12-hour-on/12-off light cycle to induce budding and determine the sex of the plant; again, kill all the males. You now have five large female plants. Let these be your mother plants, revert to the 18/6 or 24-hour vegetative cycle and continue cloning from them. All of the clones you make are guaranteed female and you can make hundreds from these mother plants.
As a breeder and seed producer, I live and breathe clones. I have made more clones than the number of days that I’ve lived! I guarantee the results of my breeding stock by making sure that I have an exact copy of both parents before flipping to bud. Every time that a particular seed stock is low I make more clones from the mothers and fathers, and we’re on the way to yet another exact breeding. This is extremely important when producing F1 crosses (first generation). For example, by cloning males and females of the strains Burmese and Fucking Incredible, I ensure that every time I breed 420 (Burmese crossed with Fucking Incredible), the result is guaranteed to be exactly the same.
Remember, if I were to breed a 420 male with a 420 female, it would be an F2 cross (second generation) and the characteristics would vary. For guaranteed stable results, F1 cloning is the only answer, and is all that we at VISC do with our seeds. (If you are not a seed breeder like myself, you will not need to keep males around.)
They are many ways to clone and a variety of equipment that you can spend a few– or hundreds of – dollars on. My grandmother’s method didn’t cost a cent, unless you count the expense of the sharp knife or the jar; and on the other side of the spectrum, I have seen cloning setups that involve heat mats, temperature and humidity control, and even self-contained mini hydroponic units that cost the operator hundreds of dollars. I use a method that has a minimum cost factor and most of the equipment can be used over and over again, one I will explain to you in terms that are easy to follow and apply.
So we have our list of equipment needed on page 34. Let’s get started. I assume that you have access to a healthy female marijuana plant and a supply of clean water, so we have everything we need to make clones. I assumed everyone who grows knows the pH levels of their nutrient solution is as important as the strength of their fertilizer; however, it turns out that many people haven’t learned important information. Make sure you have pH testers and adjusters in your garden!
I reuse all my equipment except the inserts and the razor blades. Your equipment should all be clean and sterile. If not, use a mixture of one-part household bleach to four-parts tap water to spray equipment after washing it, then rinse with water.
The first step is to prepare the mother for the process. It is important to ensure that the mother plant is healthy, in the vegetative stage of life, and that nitrogen levels are low. Ensure this by holding off fertilizing with anything at all for five or six days prior to the procedure and spraying her leaves with plain water the day before. By not fertilizing the plant you’re reducing the amount of nutrients stored in her leaves, and by spraying her with water, you’re leeching the immediately available nitrogen from her. If a clone has excess nitrogen stored in the leaves, it will use up its energy trying to continue to grow vegetation instead of developing roots. I will also spray the mother down moments before actually cutting clones from her.
Once the mother has been prepared, we need to prepare the medium. Start by pH adjusting a bucket of water that has had SuperThrive® added to it (1 drop per liter or quart of H2O) to reach a pH of 6.5 to 6.6, a simple procedure which will only take moments – just follow the instructions on the side of the pH test indicator. Note: DO NOT add any nutrients to this water!
If using #4 Mix®, keep adding the pH-adjusted water, mixing thoroughly until it is evenly wet and nearly saturated; you can squeeze water out of the soil at this stage. Next, fill the tray inserts with the wet #4 Mix® and pack down with medium pressure. Plants need to be able to grow through the soil, but the soil holds the clone upright until it develops roots so it needs to be packed tightly enough to hold the clone in place. Let the filled inserts stand for a few minutes to drain off extra water, then place the insert into the waterproof tray. Next, poke holes in the soil with a toothpick or similarly shaped object just a little wider that the stem of the clones to be cut – do not make the holes deep enough to touch the bottom of the tray, as we want the clone must be surrounded by soil.
If using the Rockwool® method, adjust the pH to 6.3 and use enough water to submerge the Rockwool® in the waterproof tray. Lightly push and squeeze the Rockwool® to ensure that the liquid has flowed through all of the material and become completely saturated. Next, elevate one end of the tray and drain off the excess water. In most cases, Rockwool® comes with holes already made for you, but sometimes you will have to make your own as the holes are generic and may be too wide for the size of your clones. Some manufactures recommend soaking the Rockwool® overnight in water with a pH level as low as 5.5. My personal pH level choice of 6.5 works extremely well, so I’ve seen both methods be effective.
Fill your spray bottle with the clean water adjusted to pH 6.6. You’ll need it constantly, starting now. Spray down your mother with this water, wash your hands one more time, break out a clean razor blade, open up your container of rooting hormone and you’re ready to go. It works best for the clones if they are made away from bright lights and wind; reduce as much environmental stress as possible to maximize your success rate. I expect around 95% success, but that wasn’t always the case. As a rule of thumb I recommend you make twice as many clones as needed the first few times. More is not always better, and it is possible to overcrowd a grow room with plants to the detriment of all. Keep what you need and dispose of the rest.
Select branches that have a couple of leaf nodes (See Photo 10 Branch Selection) and are 10 to 15cm (4 to 6 inches) tall. Using the razor blade, trim off the bottom leaf node or two, then lightly scrape one side of the stem 1cm below to 1cm above the leaf nodes and nick the opposite edge of the stem with the razor blade around five or six times. You’re ready to cut your clone. Make sure that the rooting hormone is within easy reach because once you’ve cut the clone it is imperative you get it into the rooting hormone immediately. If you leave the cut exposed to air, you risk developing an air embolism in the stem, which will cause your clone to die (similar to air injected into your bloodstream – not good)!
Ready? With one hand, hold the branch above the “cut-line”, then cut the clone at a 45° angle just below the leaf node where you’ve already removed the leaves (See Photos 11, 12 & 13 Creating the Clone). IMMEDIATELY place the cut end into the rooting hormone and slightly stir it around making sure that the cut, scrape and nicks are all covered with hormone. (See Photo 14 Rooting Hormone) Let sit in the rooting hormone for around 20 seconds, and then gently grasp the clone and place into the rooting medium holes you created earlier. (See Photos 15 & 16 Placing the Clone) If you are using the #4 Mix®, gently pack the medium around the stem of the clone so it stands freely. Once you’ve made six or so clones, use your spray bottle to mist the clones–drying out will kill them at this stage. Continue to prepare, cut and place clones until all the holes in your medium are filled, spraying them with the bottle around every sixth clone placed. Then spray them one last time before you place the humidity hood over the tray. Make sure the hood fits properly as the humidity must be kept above 70% or the clones will suffer.
You now have a tray full of clones, which need to be in darkness for 12 hours to allow them to adjust from the shock. Then, place the tray of clones under the fluorescent lights (on for 24 hours a day), or into a corner of your vegetative grow room (18 hours on/6 off, of course) – at least four feet away from the light and away from fans. Remove the hood every 12 hours and mist with your spray bottle; at the same time lightly breathe onto the clones to supply them with a fresh batch of CO2, then replace the hood securely. Clones root best between 20 and 30° Celsius (70° to 85° F), and quickest if the air is slightly cooler than their root medium. Avoid intense light or airflow at this time; this is where a temperature regulated heating pad can be used, which is helpful but not necessary. Being too hot will kill clones just as easily as being too cold, and direct wind will cause the humidity levels to drop too quickly. Make sure the trays are in an area where the temperature is relatively constant and away from wind.
Within a week to ten days your clones will develop roots and will soon be ready to transplant. It should not surprise you to see the clones’ leaves go light green or even yellow as they use up the nutrients stored within the leaves. If any leaves die or develop fungus, carefully trim them off during one of your spraying sessions. It is best to leave your clones alone (except for spraying or necessary trimming), especially for the first week – just like newborn kittens or puppies. You do not need to check for roots at this stage; it will be obvious to you if the clones are thriving or dying. Those that aren’t going to make it will wilt and wither, so pull them out – they could grow fungus, which may spread to your healthy clones. Continue to spray the clones twice a day until you see growth, or peek under the rooting medium to check for roots after ten days or so. You may also note top roots that have formed above the medium if the humidity levels have been ideal (See Photo 17 Top Roots).
Once a clone has roots protruding out the bottom they are ready to be transplanted (See Photos 18 & 19 Bottom Roots). It is often the case when cloning different strains that some will develop roots more quickly than others. When this happens, I use the adjustable vents on the top of the humidity hoods to bring a small amount of fresh air into the hoods, which allows the rooted clones to grow healthy yet keeps in enough humidity for the clones still trying to develop roots. Once rooted, clones are “officially” plants and can feed through their roots. Start using your favorite vegetative fertilizer at 1/4-strength, then slowly increase the strength until you transplant – which should happen soon! Once transplanted, your clone can be budded immediately or allowed to grow to the desired size for your situation. The quickest I have ever been able to transplant has been four days, and the longest time has been three weeks. However, the average time that I transplant is around two weeks after I cut the clones. (See Photos 20, 21 & 22 Transplanting)
As I have stated before, cloning is easy. Give it a try and see! This is a technique that has been used for hundreds of years, and the next generations of growers will find the information invaluable–so pass it on. If you find yourself unsure about what you’re doing, feel free to direct specific questions to me at [email protected], and to see more photos, read more info or even watch a video clip of cloning, check out the www.VancouverSeed.com website. Grow cannabis and help the world grow too!