As a grower, working with mother plants and clones can help you improve your crop. Even if you’re a beginner, you can make growing mother plants and trimming their clones part of your grow strategy. In this guide, you’ll learn:
- The process of growing a mother plant for clones
- How to trim a mother plant
- How to keep a mother plant small
- Mother plant care
- The mother plant life cycle
If you’re already growing plants from seeds, you can make cuttings and start working with mother plants and clones today. Before you start clipping your plants’ branches, learn about the differences between growing from seeds and growing from clones.
What’s A Mother Plant?
A mother plant is a plant from which a grower cuts clones, which are new plants that are genetically identical to the mother plant.
To create a clone, the grower cuts a branch from the mother plant and places it in a substrate, where it develops roots of its own. Eventually, if the cuttings and their new roots are kept in an environment where they receive the right amount of light and nutrients to continue developing, then the clones become their own fully developed plants.
A mother plant has one job: To provide healthy branches for you to cut and replant. These branches are known as clones. By replanting and growing clones of a mother plant, you know exactly what to expect in terms of size, quality and harvest yields. Working with clones also enables you to significantly shorten the grow cycle, so you can harvest repeatedly, even continuously.
If you’re conscientious about caring for your clones, all of them can mature to the harvest stage. Why? Because even in the best of conditions, not every seed germinates. In a pack of seeds, you’re bound to get a few duds. But when you clip branches from a healthy plant to start new plants, you’re surpassing the germination stage and starting your new plant’s life with a solid stalk and growing leaves.
Choosing Your Plant Based On Mother Flowers
How will you know if a plant will produce quality clones? Take a look at the plant itself. You’ll want clones of a hardy plant that matures according to schedule. Rather than choosing a clone to be your mother plant, we recommend growing yours from a seed. This way, you’ll be able to control every aspect of its environment, right from the beginning.
In fact, we recommend growing a few plants from seeds to potentially become your mother plant. This will give you options to choose from instead of having to settle for the plant your seed becomes. Remember, this is the plant that will comprise your entire garden. Just like people, every plant is genetically unique. Two seeds from the same plant can exhibit very different phenotypes, or traits.
Choosing a plant with the right traits to clone is largely a matter of personal preference. You might like the way one phenotype looks over another, or you might prefer how one plant’s harvests taste and feel over another’s. When you choose your mother plant, pick one that fits your preferences, as well as exhibiting universally positive traits, such as:
- Strong roots
- A strong stem
- Resistance to pests and fungi
- A large harvest yield
- Steady, easy maturation
Once your plants reach the vegetative stage, take clippings of each of them. Label them so you know which is which. You won’t be able to sample your harvests until the plants reach the flowering stage, and by then they’re reaching the end of their life cycle.
After you’ve determined which of your plants is the one you want to populate your garden with, select its clipping to be your mother plant. This plant will spend its entire life in the vegetative stage.
Mother plants can live much longer than plants that are permitted to progress through their natural life cycles. Some plants live for only one season, while others progress through their life cycle, year after year, with dormant periods between these cycles. A well-kept mother plant can potentially live for years, continually producing new branches that can be cut and grown into clones.
Keeping Mother Plants In The Vegetative Stage
Biologically, clones are the same age as their mothers. This is why your mother plant needs to remain perpetually in the vegetative stage — if she’s already flowering when you cut clones, the clones will flower, too. The vegetative stage is the stage of a plant’s life where it does the bulk of its development. Appropriate nourishment at every stage is key to a successful harvest, but the choices you make while your plants are in this stage can make or break the crop.
Determine the photoperiod, i.e., the cycle of light and darkness, your plant needs at this stage. To keep your plant in the vegetative stage, keep providing that amount of light. This is a lot easier to do if you’re growing your plants indoors, because you can control the exact amount of light it receives.
Nutrients For Growing A Mother Plant
Your mother plant’s gotta eat, and since she’s in a permanent vegetative stage, she needs an appropriate diet. In this stage, your plant needs a lot of nitrogen. It also needs fertilizer and supplements specifically designed for its environment, such as soil or a hydroponic environment. As your plant’s branches mature and reach the stage where they’re ready to trim, taper off the nitrogen. Do this for about a week or two prior to trimming. This will increase the likelihood of your clones developing strong roots, which are necessary for their healthy development.
Using the optimal nutrient blend from the start will ensure that your plant grows and remains strong in the vegetative stage. Start with Advanced Nutrients pH Perfect Base Nutrients, or if you’re growing in coco coir, use pH Perfect Sensi Coco. Effective supplements for this stage include B-52 fertilizer booster and vitamin B supplement, and Voodoo Juice.
Pruning And Training A Mother Plant
Since your mother plant will be in the vegetative stage much longer than it would naturally, it can grow to be quite tall. You can keep it manageable by keeping your mother plant small.
Pruning branches regularly will encourage new branches to grow. The more branches your mother plant sprouts, the more clones you have to replant in your garden. Pruning the top will also keep the plant from growing too large. Keep in mind that when you cut a stem near its top, two new, divergent stems will grow from the point at which you cut.
Managing your plant’s growth so it produces a harvestable product the way you want it is known as training. Pruning your plant is part of training it. When you remove the parts of your plant that you don’t care to harvest, the plant directs its nutrients and energy to the parts you do want to harvest. Another way to train a plant is to secure its branches into specific positions to encourage them to grow in a specific shape.
Taking Cuttings To Grow Clones
When your mother plant’s branches have matured to the point that they can survive on their own, it’s time to take your cuttings. There are a few different types of cutting you can take to make your clones. No matter which you choose, always work with sterile scissors.
When you clip off a branch, be sure to clip the leaves’ tips. With smaller leaves, the majority of the clone’s energy will go where the new plant needs it most: Its roots.
Each trimming should be dipped in rooting gel, then into your choice of growing substrate, which may be soil, rockwool, coco coir or water. Before they develop roots, they’ll take in water through their leaves. Keep the clones warm and spray them according to the recommended watering schedule for your growing method. When you can firmly grasp your clone’s stem without damaging it, the plant has reached the vegetative stage and is ready to transplant.
Another way to tell it’s time to transplant your clone is to examine its roots. If they’ve reached as far as they can go in your clone’s current container, the plant needs to be moved to a container that won’t constrict them as they continue to grow.
Keeping Mother Plants Healthy And Safe
Have a maintenance and pest protection plan in place before you start growing a mother plant. Pests like fungus gnats and aphids can destroy all your hard work in a very short period of time. Whether you opt for synthetic or organic pest control, be sure to choose a formula that won’t interact negatively with your nutrient blend.
Kept in the right environment, your mother plant can live for years. Over time, though, you might find that her clones aren’t as strong as they once were. When you feel your mother plant is ready to retire, promote one of her clones to her old position. This way, you can guarantee new generations of your same perfect plant.