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Growing

How to clone cannabis plants

June 28, 2016

Did you know that you can clone cannabis plants? It sounds like some sort of sci-fi mad scientist experiment, but there are benefits to cloning a plant vs. growing from a seed, and cloning cannabis plants are easier than you think.

What is cloning and why would you want to clone a cannabis plant?

Cannabis plant clones

There are two ways that you can go about breeding cannabis. The first is through sexual reproduction, where you cross a male plant with a female through pollination in order to create seeds. Those seeds can then be planted to create genetic hybrids of the two parent plants.

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The second method is through cloning, otherwise known as asexual reproduction. Clones are rooted cuttings that are genetically identical to the plant they were taken from. There are many benefits to cloning that contribute to its popularity among both commercial and home growers. If executed properly, not only can cloning your cannabis be cost-saving, it has the potential to offer your garden a whole new level of stability and sustainability.

Through cloning, you can create a new harvest with exact replicas of your best performing plants. Because the genetics are identical, you’re getting a plant with the same characteristics, so if you come across a bud you really, really like, you might want to clone the plant it came from so you can produce more buds with the same effects. Consider taking clones from your garden if you are looking to select and replicate plants with desirable features such as flavor, cannabinoid profile, yield, grow time, etc.

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Not only does cloning save you time and money by not having to pop new seeds, you’re also ensuring that your crop will be genetically indistinguishable. Moreover, cloning is the answer to self-sufficiency in your garden. Given the right conditions, you could perpetuate a phenotype for as many harvests as you desire, without having to start new seeds.

Cloning cannabis plants from your garden

Cloning cannabis plants from your garden

Getting started with cloning in your garden is relatively easy and requires just a few key items:

  • A razor for taking cuttings (try not to use scissors when taking cuttings as they tend to crush branches, making rooting much harder)
  • Some water
  • A rooting medium
  • A rooting hormone

When selecting mothers to clone, look for plants that are healthy, sturdy, and about two months into the vegetative cycle. If you cant or don’t want to wait, give it at least three weeks before taking your first cutting — at this point in a plant’s growth phase, your new cuttings will have a stronger chance of rooting.

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Preparing your mother plants for cutting will require a few steps:

  • Make sure you withhold from fertilizing your plant within the days leading up to taking your cuttings. This will allow the nitrogen to work its way out of the leaves of your plant. 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.
  • Work in a sterile environment. Do everything you can to avoid over-agitation of both your mother plants and new cuttings.
  • Look for lower branches that are sturdy and healthy. If you are transplanting into rockwool, match the stem with the rooting hole of your cubes to get a proper fit. Otherwise, look to take cuttings between 8-10 inches with several nodes present.
  • Cut as close to the main stem as possible with your razor at a 45 degree angle to the branch. This will increase the surface area of your rooting space, promoting faster growth.
  • Place your fresh cutting immediately into water to prevent air bubbles from forming in the stem. Bubbles will prevent water from absorbing into your stem and can kill a new clone. Many growers choose to make additional incisions in the stem before this step, arguing that it helps increase rooting potential. Take this time to do that before transferring your cuttings to water.

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After you have taken several cuttings and transferred them to water, it’s time to clip their leaves to help support proper photosynthesis and create a more sanitary environment for rooting to occur. Clip your fan leaves about halfway down the stem using scissors. You may also cull any unnecessary leaves towards the bottom so you won’t have any of your leaves touching the growing medium. Manicuring like this will not only help your clones with nutrient and water uptake, but will prevent leaves from touching one another.

At this point, you may wish to dip your fresh stems in a rooting hormone. Rooting gels, powders, and other hormones can provide additional support to promote healthy growth. There are a variety on the market, and many of them work very well, though make sure you do your proper research before choosing. After a quick dip in some hormone, transfer your clones to your final rooting medium.

Choosing a rooting medium

Cannabis plant roots

When it comes to rooting mediums, there are three predominant schools of thought:

  1. Use rockwool cubes or a non-soil equivalent. Rockwell provides a great environment for clone rooting due to its terrific airflow and moisture retention. You can find these cubes at most any grow store or online.
  2. Transport your clone into soil. When using soil, don’t choose one with an abundance of nutrients, and make sure you don’t over or underwater your soil when attempting to root your clones.
  3. Root in water. Water cloning requires no use of rooting hormones or mediums. You just drop your cutting in water and keep it there until roots and new growth begin to develop.

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Each of these schools of thought has its pros and cons. Experiment to see what method works best for your grow setting. Regardless, make sure that your new clones get plenty of humidity and light, preferably 18 hours.

To circumvent much of the work associated with feeding and caring for clones, many choose to opt for auto-cloners. These automated units take much of the work out of by consistently providing water, oxygen, and light to your clones. The downside is that they can be costly.

Transplanting your roots

Planting cannabis

You will know when your roots are ready to be transplanted when you start to see new vegetative growth on your clones. At this point, you may need to consider transplanting your clones to larger containers. This process will require the same care and sanitation that cloning consisted of, as you do not want to further agitate a plant into transplant shock. Transplant shock is common when cloning, so make sure you take the time to stay sanitary and do not overexert your plants during the process.

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Facilitating a successful cloning regiment can do wonders for you cannabis garden by saving you time and money and ensuring a consistent crop. You don’t need much to get started, and if done correctly, you can ensure an indefinite perpetual harvest that will produce the most desirable plants for you year-round.

Patrick Bennett's Bio Image

Patrick Bennett

Patrick lives with his wife and daughter in Denver, where he spends his time writing, photographing, and creating content for the cannabis community.

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3 part series

  • Josef Smythe

    Honestly, I just tip my plants (3″ or 4″) and stick them in the ground. No need to be gentle although we like to take good care of our plants so it’s not like I handle them rough. Keep them wet and bingo! Beautiful little clones all over the place.

    • willow

      Thank you

    • JCheatham

      Love it… “beautiful little clones all over the place”… hahahahhaaa! Awwww… they’re so cute!!

    • Soul Critic

      You can do that and make a viable plant. However, it’s not a “safe” method, in terms of plant diseases.

      Large scale commercial growers (of any plant) need to be extremely selective in the plants they choose to clone, and then also be very careful in the process of cloning so as to prevent diseases that can wipe out entire crops.

      You and I can clip a stem off a plant and stick it in the ground and if it springs to life for a while but then dies because of a disease later, not such a big deal. If a winery tries something like that they could lose a lot of money if their entire crop fails because they used a dirty exacto knife to clip off their clones.

  • willow

    I tried to snip the tip, for more growth, like other plants, and it died. So kinda scared of this clone thing. So they are taking a leaf, with branch, cut it with razorblade to the stem on an angle. Stick this in water…presto?

    • RURIGHT

      Finally got mine to root, after 3 tries.

      • Allainyaha Char Matthews

        I still trying to clone one of my plants, three times no roots.

        • Whitest. Klingon. Ever.

          🙁

        • John Justice

          Use cloning box with the pump make sure your getting a good spray under neath find a good dig and cloning juice to add to water make sure humidity is googled check p.h of water..

    • Anthony Ottaway

      Make sure to mist clones with water, since they do not have roots to take in from soil yet, they take it in through the leaves.

    • Danny Lawther

      Waters for experts !! Use coco jiffies & clonex (£15 includes 80 jiffies & Bottle of clonex)
      Then do everything this article says but at the right times !! In fact here’s how I’d do it ‘-‘
      Don’t feed mother plant (Plant taking the cutting from) for a day or so then once clones
      taken off resume it’s feed instantly, Anyway Pour some clonex into a bottle lid type container
      (Cleaned obviously), Soak the coco jiffy (With a spray bottle) until it swells out middle also
      & Just damp !! Not dripping !! & Only use plain old (Luke warm) tap water !! & No PH adjusting
      with pure Acid or Alkaline !! It will poison the clone !! Then taking the clone from the bottom part
      of the mother plant slice off from as close as possible to the mothers stem & Take off a little branch
      with growth (2 leaved smallish branch would be ideal) cut it off at an angle & Once it’s cut off cut
      down the stem again until it’s around a inch & 1/2 long away from it’s top leaves then dip the cut
      down stem straight into the clonex you prepared earlier !! No airs getting in !! Now get a raindrop
      sized amount of clonex gel around the bottom of your clones stem & Then place the clone into the
      pre-prepared jiffy around an inch deep, 0.5 inch above ground !! Now to finish it off you need to keep
      only the 2 biggest leaves at the top of the clone & Cut everything else off with the scalpel including the
      2 leaves your keeping at the top by cutting off their leaf tips & All the way to half with one scissor snip
      !! Remember they have no roots (Yet) to take in water so it’s through these leaves until they do !!
      Now the important parts !! Again even through leaf spraying it has too much water it don’t root
      & More importantly It needs to be kept at 75f ideally in a heated propagator if not on top of TV
      Etc.. & Low lighting is needed at first as they need roots to process high amounts of light so
      lay off the heavy light for now & Moving the lights closer in to the plant in the grow room place
      the clone on the floor well away from the light (run a 18/6 schedule if poss) for at least a day
      (or so) & In the propagator leave the (Transparent) lid on it again for at least a day or so. Now
      Most importantly !! Do not water the jiffy at all as it will dry out at exactly the same speed as
      the rooting is occurring & Any watering of it (Unless in a dry grow room) will cause no roots
      to occur or rot them even cause black spot mold !! The principal is if they have water then the
      roots don’t go looking for anymore so just leave them without it The jiffies & Clonex have
      everything they need nutrition wise anyway !! & Within reason not bone dry !! Now just spray
      the leaves every 6 hours or so with a fine mist of water from 30 cm’s away or in propagator
      spray the lid but not overly the plant or jiffy it can also drown !! & Be aware of too much spray
      dripping from the lid !! Now the best part of the jiffies you placed the clones into earlier ??
      As soon as you see roots appear at the sides (or bottom) of the jiffy you can just go over to the
      pot of coco you have prepared make a jiffy sized hole in it & Place her inside ‘-‘ Then just build
      up the nutrients & Add more light as she grows & Bobs your aunty & Fannies your aunties uncle
      Ps. Try & Keep the clone around 70f at least & Prop them up at first with a stick if you have to !!

      • Michael M

        Danny, Great comprehensive step by step. Very helpful. Question. How tall should the plant be before you take a splicing? I want to make sure the donor survives and thrives. Thanks for the information.

  • RURIGHT

    Well I just learned a little more. After 3 tries I finally got some roots.

    • Benny

      Dont give up..
      First tries for my holy grail took 2 weeks to show some roots.
      Give RHIZOTONIC from Canna a try..found it really helped.

      • Jesse Chan

        Rhizo smells like hell but yes it works. IN MODERATION, less is more..

  • Terre Temple

    Cannabis and A Course in Miracles

  • Dark

    what exactly shold I watch for when trying to stay sanitary and not over exert my plants?

    • jerry garcia

      I buy a box of surgical gloves, 50 for around $8 @ a drug store, our hands carry the most germs, or wash really well first with a good lemmon dish soap, work quickly and with confidence, taking to long and being in decisive causes mistakes , have a step by step plan and just do it! you’ll be ok…….

      • And you don’t think soil has any or less than??? Hahahahaha.

        • Soul Critic

          Different germs. There are germs and bacteria in the soil that are harmful to humans, and there are germs and bacteria in and on humans that are harmful to plants (or the root zone microbiota.)

      • What you don’t want is oils from your hand to get on it. Oil repels water. You also don’t want to get cigarette residue/toxins on it from that cig you smoked a while ago. But germs are good, soil is full of them

  • Rickandcynthia Carroll

    I have grown a plant from seed and it’s about a month and a half old when and how can I tell if it is a female

    • jerry garcia

      when you switch to your 12/12 light n dark phase for bloom, you will start to see either a flower and a pair of whispy hairs for female, plus the males will be taller usually and develop little grape balls eventually little banana shape phallus and less leaves ,you will want to get rid of it immediately or risk it pollinating the females ,I once had a whole batch of females get pregnant with seeds from one male that didn’t get caught and my seeds were supposed to be all feminized, so yes it can happen!

    • Steve Santana

      if you dont know then you cant grow

      • Corey Robinson

        There was a time when you didn’t know. We are here to offer advice and share ideas. Don’t be a dick.

        • ScrumpyBoddington

          Right on. We were all empty vessels once!

    • Whitest. Klingon. Ever.

      I grew 3 from seeds. Males have less leaves and develop what look to be testicular nodes. I had 1 out of 3 be a male and I got rid of it as soon as I identified it. Do that!!!
      Females have “spears” as new growth; males have “testicles.”

    • John Johnson

      8-12 weeks unless auto-flowering

  • Joe Hudson

    Make sure you check out Clonify.co/ for more great cloning tips!

  • Louise Waltman

    I would like to clone from a leaf, has anyone else been able to do it successfully?

    • H Anthony Hoepfner

      I’ve had success cloning African Violets from cut leaves, but I’ve never tried Pot. Yet.

      • Nikki Greenwell

        I wana know to lol.

  • Devon Furr

    Make sure you have at least two node regions on the cutting. Keep at least an inch of space between the first node region and the cut. Srape the bottom bit of the cutting before you dip it into the cloning solution. Spray them once a day with water to help with humidity if its in a propagation kit or pot or whatever you using. Leave no more than an inch between the cut and the first node region. Keep in mind, the longer the stem on the cutting, the harder it will be for the cutting to suck up nutrients and water.

    • E.L. Bl/Du

      great advice, you know whats up for sure.

      • Devon Furr

        Thank you. Knowledge is power my friend. So how can i give you my email with a private message?

  • Nikki Greenwell

    Can u start a clone from just the leaf? Anyone ever tried?

    • Anthony Ottaway

      I’ve tried with other plants. I don’t think doing that is really worth the effort and resources. This form of cloning seems to work better with plants that have tough veins in the leaves; they act like a stem in a way. Like vines, grapes worked if I remember right, so leaf cloning would be great for growing grapes for wine.

    • Steve Woznicka

      Yes… but there’s no terminal growth on broad leaves and therfor will never produce fruit. Waste of time. Only clone terminal clippings.

  • Mary A LaFountaine

    Has anyone had their clones start budding at about 5 inches? What do I do? Thinking I should cut off the top when they are a little bit bigger. What do you think? Help???

    • rubyt

      Not enough hours of light.

  • Mustang Shmoke

    I’m told if you put a fresh cutting in water, go 12/12 light, it should show its sex within 2 weeks.

    Excellent results for rooting clones too. Just needs the longer light period. This I’ve tried with success.

  • Raul Tsi

    i had the advantage of being a former botany major and having done this in a classroom laboratory, when it came time to help my friend who had a closet grow do some clones, we had 100% survival rate the first try. He was then able to do it himself. It’s not really that hard.

  • Becca Jay

    Hi. I want to overwinter my clones. How do I get them to go dormant and how do I start them back up again? I think I have to change the hours of light exposure but I don’t know to what or when to do it. Is there anything else? Should I not be feeding them at all during dormancy?