Cloning cannabis plants is a relatively simple and cost effective way of growing weed. However, cloning autoflowers has been a topic of debate among growers, with some saying that autoflowers can be cloned and others that say the exact opposite. Autoflowers grow in a very different to photoperiods so can they be cloned at all and is cloning autoflowers an effective way to grow them?
What is cloning when it comes to cannabis plants?
Cannabis plants are able to reproduce asexually, meaning that one mother plant can create lots of offspring using the cloning method. To clone a cannabis plant you need one healthy mother plant and by cutting off a section of the plant and repotting it you create a clone of the original. Because the new plant is an off cut of its mother it will share the exact same genetics. This is beneficial because if you are growing cannabis and have a healthy plant with desirable characteristics, you can use the cloning method to effectively duplicate this.
Is sowing seeds from a mother plant the same as cloning?
No. When you sow seeds from a mother plant, the offspring will certainly retain a lot of the characteristics, but in order to produce seeds you need a male and female plant and therefore, half of the genetics will be from the father. So if you aim to breed and combine two cannabis strains, this is the right route to take. From a growing perspective cloning is the best way to replicate exactly what you already have, but not necessarily for autoflowers.
What are the benefits of cloning marijuana plants?
Cloning marijuana does come with its drawbacks, but there are a few key benefits to using this method over growing from seed.
- Cloning allows you to produce multiple plants from one seed.
- If you are growing a particularly nice cannabis plant you can replicate those genetics exactly.
- It is a cheap way to produce multiple plants and achieve good yields from one seed.
- Cloning female plants means all of your clones will be females too.
How do you clone a cannabis plant?
Photoperiod cannabis plants don’t grow much once they reach the flowering stage as most of their energy goes into budding at this point. Therefore, it is important that they are cloned during the vegetative stage. This allows the clone enough time to grow fully before it enters the flowering stage.
Fortunately, when you grow photoperiod strains indoors, you get to decide when the flowering stage begins, therefore you can give yourself a little more time to get those cuttings and give the clones plenty of time to reach full size too.
It is possible to clone a plant that is in the flowering stage, however it will not grow very much as it was taken too late during mother plants life. It will most likely begin flowering early while it is still very small and therefore produce very little useful bud.
Ideally a cutting should be taken during the vegetative stage, after at least 4 weeks of growth and once a plant has about five or six nodes. At this period it is vital that the plant is getting 18 hours of light to prevent it from entering the flowering stage and ruining the clones. You can effectively keep a photoperiod plant in the vegetative stage for as long as you want to continue using it to produce clone after clone.
Once you have your cutting the next stage is to treat it with a rooting hormone solution before planting it in your growing medium. It is best to use a seedling tray to do this and keep the cuttings covered in partial darkness, this keeps them nice and humid and helps them to develop their own roots. Once your cuttings have rooted the clones can be introduced to light and they will grow as though they are just entering the vegetative period as a new plant.
Can autoflowers be cloned?
In short, cloning autoflowers can be done, but its likely that the clones wont grow very big due to the shorter vegetative stage.
Unlike photoperiods that flower according to their light cycle, autoflowers flower automatically once they reach weeks 3-4 of growth. Autos are like any other plant and so it is possible to clone them, however, more often than not it won’t be very successful. This is down to the way that autoflowers grow and have different life cycles to photoperiod strains.
What happens when you clone an autoflower?
Autoflowers are from the ruderalis family of marijuana. The ruderalis species are native to cold, harsh climates such as Siberia, Russia and Eastern Europe. Because of the short daylight hours in these regions, ruderalis plants have developed the ability to flower automatically. The advantages that this offers are huge. Autoflowers are able to grow from seed to harvest in as little as 12 weeks, which is almost half that of photoperiodic strains. They can also withstand colder climates and do not need their light cycle changed meaning they can be grown outdoors almost anywhere in the world.
The unique ability to flower automatically however, becomes a disadvantage when it comes to cloning. As we know autoflowers flower within around 3-4 weeks, this means that they go from seedling to flowering in an incredibly short amount of time almost completely cutting out the vegetative stage. There is very little that you can do as a grower to lengthen the vegetative stage of autoflowers and it is this characteristic that causes the problem.
You see, when you take an off cut from a photoperiod, dip it in rooting solution and then plant it in your seedling dome, it can take a week or two for the roots to take form. With autoflowering strains you don’t have the luxury of being able to choose when they begin to flower, it just happens. And remember once a plant starts flowering, its growth pretty much stops (except for its buds). If you were to attempt to clone an autoflower, it may well take and root successfully, however by this point it will most likely be in the flowering stage. The outcome would be a tiny runt of a plant that wouldn’t be worth the effort.
The other issue is that by cutting a plant you cause it stress. With photoperiod strains you can leave them in the vegetative stage until they are fully recovered, and any branches that were cut have grown back. With an autoflower you would need to take a cutting when it is only a couple of weeks old, not only is this too young for the clone, but you would also be damaging the mother plant right before it enters the flowering stage which is counterproductive.
Why there is no point attempting to clone autoflowering strains
Autoflowers have a built in system that allows them to flower automatically and grow from seed to harvest in just a few months. If you are trying to clone an autoflower you really are missing the amazing advantage of growing with them in the first place.
Autoflowers can grow in about half the time of a photoperiod strain so you will get much more from an auto if you grow it properly than if you attempt to clone it. Photoperiod strains even after being cloned will take about four to six months until they are ready to be harvested. Autoflowers on the other hand grow so quickly that they will beat their photoperiod counterpart to harvest even when grown from seed.
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Is it better to start with seeds or clones?
Well, this really depends on your preference. Starting with autoflowering seeds gives you a much more varied choice of the genetics that you can choose from and allows you full control over the grow from start to finish. Starting with clones on the other hand may save you the time and effort of germinating seeds and surviving the seedling stage, but you are usually limited on what genetics you can grow. The majority of growers that use clones end up either using off cuts from their current grow, or from a friend.
As we have mentioned, autoflowering plants grow so fast that there really is no point in attempting to clone them anyway. So if autoflowers are your weapon of choice you will be undoubtedly better off if you start your grow with seeds. If you want to get a little create with autoflower genetics you can always try to breed your very own cannabis strain.
Why do people clone cannabis plants?
Many growers clone cannabis plants so that they have a fresh batch of plants ready to go as soon as their current plant crop is half way through its life. That way you have a constant cycle of cannabis plants which is called a perpetual harvest.
Instead of using clones however, autoflowers can be used with a perpetual harvest cycle just as effectively. This is all thanks to the way that they flower. Because autoflowering plants can be grown on the same light cycle from seedling through to harvest, you can grow plants of varying stages of growth under the same lights. So, in effect you would have one crop in the flowering stage, one in the vegetative stage and one in the seedling stage at any one time. The result is a continuous cycle of cannabis plants and a constant supply of weed.