Karhlyle Fletcher   |   August 13, 2021

The Basics of Cloning Cannabis

At home or in a commercial grow, cloning cannabis is one of the best ways to create a consistent crop or more plants of a high-value cultivar.
Detroiter Karhlyle Fletcher is the host of High Lit, a cannabis research and classic literature podcast featuring leading voices and independent music. In addition to years in written and video cannabis journalism, he is also a traditional author.

Did you know? A healthy female plant can produce 50 clones a week, thus exponentially expanding crop output. 

From Top to Bottom, the Principles Remain the Same

How does cloning work? Is it unique to cannabis? No. The ability to clone plants is an integral feature of agriculture dating back to ancient times. The very word clone comes from "clonos," the ancient greek for twig. "Clonizo" is the verb describing splitting twigs, which is basically cloning. The process does not work because cannabis is unique, but this is how plants function. 

Goethe, a famed scientist and poet, described all parts of the life cycle of some flowers in "The Metamorphosis of Plants." He details how plants begin as a humble sprout, eventually growing more and then, merge their leaves to become petals, flowers, and even fruit. Yet each part of the process is defined by and through leaves, and cannabis is no different. To clone, one must select a part of a plant that is essentially an independent leaf. 

Independence means that it is capable of standing on its own, producing roots, and photosynthesizing. If a clipping meets all these conditions, then it can become a healthy clone. 

A more amusing example of cloning would be bamboo or sugarcane in Minecraft, where one can take a clipping from a healthy plant and transplant it to any hydrated soil. 

The advantage is obvious. Producers can cheaply produce an impressive number of plants that grow faster than average for a few weeks due to an age advantage. These plants also don't need to be grown from seed and have consistent genetics. Producers should be stringent regarding testing the mother, though - there are risks when cloning a plant prone to viral infection. 

The Finesse Required for Clean Clones

The best practices for choosing a clipping are debatable. When looking at a cannabis plant, notice parts of the stalks splitting off into separate branches. These are "nodes." There's no correct number of nodes one should have on a clipping. Mostly the process is an art. However, three to four is common. Too many may cause the new plant to fall over. 

It's best to clone during the vegetative state. Clones taken from a flowering plant will have to be put back into a vegetative state before harvest anyway. Find the healthiest growths from the top of the plant for those most likely to survive.

Make sure the selected segment for clipping has at least two nodes, then cut under the bottom node at a 45-degree angle. Such a cut maximizes the surface for the roots to grow. 

Once cut, remove all of the bottom leaves, leaving only the top leaves, and give those leaves a "hair cut" or a slight trim. After this step, the clone is ready to start taking root. The final preparations can be done before or after transplanting the growth. 

Trimming the "fingers" of the top leaves helps to limit evaporation and reduces the surface area. If a clipping spends any time between clipping and transplanting, it must be stored in water to remain hydrated. An optional step is to scratch the membrane layer at the bottom of the clipping to support root growth. 

The Engineering of Cloning Cannabis

Sanitation is always crucial in this industry. Staff hands and their tools should be washed before taking a clipping. Additionally, when cutting, use the sharpest tool available to make a clean cut.

Past that, the most technical decision is rooting medium. As with growing any other cannabis plant, PH level is crucial, and aeration plays an important role. However, cloning can be accomplished in water if it is changed every 2-3 days. The choice of medium is going to be dependent on the operation. Most professional growers will already have established preferences that work for them. The options are water, soil, and Rockwool.

Cannabis Cloning Technology

Since the practice of cloning dates back to times before the world we live in today, producers don't need much technology to perform it. However, there are many modern innovations that some producers swear by. 

Domes are a popular tool among cloners. These are used to create a sealed environment for the clones to thrive in. Towards the end of the rooting period, the dome is taken off periodically to introduce the plants into the larger environment.

Otherwise, there are a great many rooting gels and other products, but many master growers prefer to manage nutrients on their own. The secret is that cloning cannabis is essentially just growing cannabis. Both are an art form that requires time and experience to master. Tools can help, but getting practice is best. 

 

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