There are three paths: seed, clone, regeneration. Ignoring any one is akin to handing a third of the pie back to god. — former two-timin’ man
As the above quote from my book suggests, there are multiple methods for cultivating our favourite plant. Each is equally as valid as the others, and as a trio of techniques, they provide the grower with options to suit all grow set-ups or situations.
We’ve already looked at “regeneration” and “growing from seed” in previous columns. We’ve learned how to grow and then regrow the same plant over and over, and we’ve also learned a sure-fi re method for germinating seeds. But what of this term and little trick called “cloning?” What’s that all about?
The term is a little high-brow, sounding more interesting than what it really is: “taking cuttings.” People do it with all sorts of plants, and have done for eons. Basically, you snip off a small branch of healthy and fast growing material and repot it. Over a couple of weeks, if the conditions are favourable, the cutting will sprout its own roots and begin to grow as a new plant.
It is possible to take many cuttings from a single plant and turn all of these into a small farm of identical plants. That’s right. The plants “struck” or “cloned” from the original plant are all identical to the mother plant, and each other.
This is the magic of the process. The fact that you can work up a whole farm of identical plants from a single mother, is an amazing prospect. The system allows you, for instance, to preserve a specific strain, keeping it alive and thriving season- in, season-out. By keeping a healthy mother-plant, cuttings can be taken repeatedly for years. Some of the world’s best and most exclusive strains are “clone only.” This means that you cannot buy seeds, you must either purchase (or be gifted) a clone from the mother plant.
You can also use cloning to “test-flower” a plant. (Take a clone, establish it, and then force it to flower so as to indicate sex. Do this on the side while the main plant continues to vegetate. Once the clone shows its sex, you can decide what to do with the mother. After all, it could be a daddy!)
Other benefits of cloning include: the opportunity to distribute cuttings of a specific strain to fellow horticulturists, and the ability to save a pest-infected crop in an emergency.
No doubt, the ability to take successful cuttings is a great tool to have in your box of tricks. So, let’s look at how to take these cuttings or clones in a consistent and successful manner. Like many other techniques, a little practice makes perfect. But there are a couple of guide-lines, and a trick, that make process more sure-fire.
What you will need:
Glass of water
Rooting Powder (or gel)
Ensure that your scissors are sterile and that the water is pH balanced. You do not want to introduce any bacteria or create any shock. The Rooting Powder is available from any garden-supply store. It’s a hormonal growth enhancer and is sold specifically for the purpose rooting cuttings. If using the powdered version, be sure to wear a face mask. You do not want to be inhaling stray hormones!
Prepare the small pots, one for each cutting you intend to grow. Use the same medium that the mother or host plant is growing in. Again, we are trying to avoid shock. I tend to grow in perlite, and have prepared the pots in the photograph to reflect that. Soak your medium in a very mild nutrient mix and then let it drain off. Finally, poke a hole into the centre of each pot by using a pen.
Making the cut:
Your donor (mother) plant should be heathy and growing with vigour. The photograph shows a healthy branch on our donor plant. Using your scissors, cut the branch below one of leaves that’s well below the branch’s growing tip. Immediately drop the cutting into the water so that air cannot enter the cut. Such an air bubble (embolism) is fatal.
Now, and here’s the “trick” I alluded to earlier — you will make a second cut: Carefully snip off the lower leaf but leave behind a little nub (see photograph). By leaving this “bump” (where the leaf had joined the stem) intact you create a much greater chance of the cutting actually taking and rooting. Quickly — again to avoid embolism — dip the cut section into the water and then the hormone powder. The powder will cling to the cutting. Immediately place the cutting into the preformed hole in your grow pot. Tamp down the grow medium to hold the cutting secure.
Repeat for as many cuttings that you require. I can’t emphasise strongly enough about the import of leaving the little “bump” of material intact. For many years cloning had given me trouble, but this technique has solved the problem, ensuring a near perfect hit-rate.
Allowing for rooting:
Just as with other process for propagation, patience is the key when it comes to taking cuttings. Firstly, the cuttings must be placed under gentle and continuous light (such as fluorescent light) and then left undisturbed. You must not touch or handle them in any way for at least two weeks. Don’t be tempted to toy with them — any movement or disturbance can damage the beginning stages of new root formation. Keep them warm and out of the breeze. Check after two weeks. You should then find that the cuttings have begun to develop their own root systems. Once they have (see photograph) you can re-pot them in larger pots and allow them to grow as the brand new plants that they are — each identical, and the same biological age as their mother.
Mastering all three kinds of propagation will allow you to produce, maintain, and breed your favourite plants under almost all circumstances, indoors, and outdoors. You’ll always have options!
Best buds always…
About the Author J.B. Haze is an innovative grower favouring “the dazzling magic of regeneration” over the more traditional methods of cultivation. A true hippy at heart — well traveled, well-toked, and insanely curious — J.B. Haze brings an educational, friendly, and humorous style of writing to the cannabis genre. He lives in a fine state of mind with his cat and his guitars. Cannabis Regeneration: A Multiple Harvest Method For Greater Yields, by J.B. Haze is available from all good bookstores, online from amazon.com or with FREE airmail delivery from jbhaze.com.
Originally published in Weed World Magazine issue 131