Cannabis plants come from one of two sources: a seed or a clone. When talking about cannabis breeding, “mother stock” typically refers to a highly valued plant that growers take clippings from to create clones, which are genetically identical cuts that can be re-planted to grow another plant.
Mother plants grow in a continual vegetative stage as clones are repeatedly clipped from her. Taking clones guarantees that all the plants in your garden will grow at generally the same rate, produce a similar quality product, and grow with the same vigor as the mother they came from.
Let’s take a look at why mother plants are so important, as well as how to choose, protect, and preserve quality mother stock.
Cannabis mother plants guarantee consistency, and this is key for growers who are expected to provide a product that customers demand time and time again.
When growing from seeds, growers have to deal with far more variability in growth patterns, nutrient needs, and other attributes. While some stable seeds produce less of this wild diversity, you may still have a hard time achieving the even canopy you’ll find with clones.
Cannabis mothers will also save you time and money. Premium seeds cost upwards of $10 a pop, and purchasing individual clones can also get pricy. Instead of buying seeds every time you want to grow a new crop, germinate a handful of the same seeds and select a mother based on the criteria discussed below. A quality mother plant will provide you with quality clones over multiple seasons.
Because clones are genetically identical to their mothers, selecting a quality mother plant is crucial to a successful harvest. While a pack of seeds might all be the same strain, there are always different phenotypes (different physical expressions).
Some plants express several different phenotypes, which can make selecting a mother more difficult. Others might produce a little more consistency, which simplifies the selection process. Regardless, the best path to selecting a quality mother is as follows:
An initial step that some farmers take to protect their mother plants is germinating and growing them in an organic base.
“By starting out organic, you allow your mother plants to build up immunity to fight diseases as opposed to protecting them with strong non-organic mediums and nutrients,” said Cody Erickson, head grower of Khush Kush in Bellingham, Washington.
You’ll also want to use the original plant from seed as your mother plant as opposed to the first clone she produced. Plants grown from seed are known to have stronger, deeper tap roots than those of their clones in addition to stronger immune systems.
Down the road, you can use nutrients specifically developed for mother plants that promote strong clones while keeping your mothers healthy as clones are repeatedly clipped from her. You’ll want clones taken from plants with strong cell walls and high carbohydrate levels. Nitrogen-rich nutrients result in rapid growth that leaves the plant with thinner cell walls and a lower density of carbohydrates. Instead, use nutrients that have a higher percentage of calcium to help bind cell walls and increase the density of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates and water stored in the clone will be used by the plant to produce roots.
Mother plants have a life cycle, just like all living beings. Even with meticulous care, your favorite mother plant will show diminishing returns over time. The clones taken will grow with less vigor, produce lower-grade cannabis, and leave you reminiscing of better days.
This can take a year or two to occur, and while that seems like a long time, it’s best to store seeds from the plants you’re currently growing so that when the time comes, you’ll be ready to start over with the same genetics you love.
Lead image by Yarygin/iStock