🇺🇸 Retired veteran, father, rock-climbing expert & rosin connoisseur.
Cannabis cuttings, or clones, are pieces taken from a mature plant and then grown into a new plant. Taking cuttings is the most efficient way that a grower can propagate a desirable cultivar. When growers remove sections of branches from a cannabis plant and then place those cuttings in the right environment, those cuttings will form roots and eventually grow into mature plants. Knowing how to take cuttings is a powerful skill for any grower, and offers distinct advantages over growing from seeds.
So how is growing from cuttings different from growing from seeds?
Seeds need time to germinate and mature from tiny sprouts into strong and hardy plants, but cuttings already have a head start. Although cuttings still need to develop a root system, they already have a sturdy stem and healthy leaves which can generate a lot of energy for the new upstart.
While growing from regular, non-feminized seeds will yield both male and female plants, cuttings taken from female cannabis plants will guarantee to produce female clones too. This eliminates the need to search for and pull male plants from the garden. Cuttings are exact genetic copies of their mother plant. No need for pheno-hunting when flowering out a crop from cuttings.
This means that growers can anticipate exactly how cuttings are going to perform, the cannabinoid and terpene profiles to expect from the resin, and the space that the mature plants will require in the garden. This makes planning and operations much more efficient.
Cuttings also develop to full maturation more quickly than plants grown from seed, saving time and maximizing the number of harvests possible in a year.
Let’s look at the gear we need to take a round of cuttings and then we’ll go through the process, plus uncover some potential pitfalls.
Tools and Supplies
- Razor blade
- Rock wool cubes
- Tray with dome
- Heating mat
- Rooting hormone
1. Choose the mother plant -The mother plant is the origin of your cuttings, the genetic stock you wish to propagate, and should be chosen with intention. Knowing how this plant performs in your garden is a good first step to selecting a mother plant. No need to clone a plant that doesn’t meet expectations.
Mothers should be sturdy, healthy, and in the vegetative stage when you take cuttings. Don’t take cuttings from plants in the flowering stage.
2. Adjust the pH of the rock wool cubes - Soak the rock wool cubes in clean, (ideally reverse osmosis) ph-adjusted water for 24 hours. It’s good to get the cubes to around a 6 pH level for the cuttings, as slightly lower pH levels are good for root growth.
3. Take Cuttings - Clean your razor blade with ISO alcohol. Then, take cuttings just above the nodes on the main branches of the plant. A node is where a smaller branch shoots away from a larger branch. Each cutting should be around 6 inches long, and each cutting should include at least two nodes to ensure it’s got good structure.
Cut branches away from the mother plant at a 45 degree angle. The 45 degree angle increases the surface area of the cutting for root growth.
Cut the tips of the larger leaves away, leaving each leaf around a couple inches long.
4. Soak in rooting hormone - Immediately after taking the cutting, soak it in a rooting hormone.
5. Stick cuttings into cubes - After you’ve taken all the cuttings you need from the mother plant, and left them soaking in the rooting hormone, place them into the cubes. Sometimes the holes in the cubes are too big, and will allow the cuttings to wobble around. Avoid this by puncturing fresh holes into the cubes, so that the smaller holes will hold the cuttings firmly in place.
6. Evenly space the cubes on the cloning tray - Be sure the cubes and clones are spread out evenly without crowding each other. As much as possible, minimize the layering of the leaves one on top of the other. When leaves press onto each other, or onto the side of the plastic dome.
7. Put on the dome and turn on heating mat - Place the plastic dome onto the tray, and place the entire set up on a heating mat. Hang a light over the tray, as the cuttings will need light to metabolize nutrients and create the energy to develop roots.
8. Feed the cuttings with nutrient solution - The cuttings will need nutrients, so formulate a nutrient solution that you can use to water and feed the clones at the same time.
9. Mist the clones every couple days - Don’t water too often or create a super soggy environment for the cubes. Cuttings do like an environment with high humidity, and warmer temperatures around the root zone, but too much water is harmful. More on this in the next section.
Watering too early
Your new cuttings will be sensitive to overwatering, so don’t think that more nutrient-rich water right from the start will lead to faster growth. It’s good to let around 50% of the original moisture evaporate from the cubes before adding more water. This might take around 5 days.
You can use the weight of the tray as a guide as to how much moisture is remaining.
Similar to watering too early, water can actually become too much of a good thing if your cubes stay saturated. Too much water will actually inhibit oxygen exposure to the newly-forming roots. And roots absolutely need an oxygen-rich environment to thrive.
Not feeding the cuttings with enough nutrients
Rock wool is an inert material that does not contain any nutrients. And cuttings do need nutrients to root and grow, otherwise they will use all the nutrients in store and then quickly become deficient. Be sure that you’re feeding your cuttings with enough nutrients.
Experiment with different concentrations, as the optimal levels will vary between cultivars.
Chopping off too much leaf mass
Removing the ends of the bigger leaves on the cuttings is a good idea, but don’t overdo it. Removing too much leaf material is counter productive. It’s a good idea to try to leave as many leaves as possible, and only remove what must be taken in order to fit all the clones comfortably inside the tray.
Overcrowding the tray
Cramming the cuttings too closely together and creating a tangled web of plant mass will invite disease and mildew. Keep the clones spaced out enough so each one receives full light without hindering its neighbor.
Cutting from tired mother plants
When moms have been giving and giving for years, it’s okay to let them retire in peace. Cuttings taken from very old mother plants will not perform with the same vigor as cuttings taken from younger moms. Older moms are also susceptible to more pests and diseases, which will be passed along to the cuttings.
Aim to keep mother plants for only 3-4 months.
In many situations where efficiency, predictability, and consistency are most desirable, cuttings are the ideal way to propagate cannabis plants. With just a few basic tools you can easily procure at most garden centers, plus a solid mother plant with noteworthy genetics, growers can quickly populate an entire grow room full of clones.
The right amount of moisture, nutrients, heat, and light will create an environment that allows cuttings to quickly root and start growing into juvenile copies of the mother plant. After a short couple of weeks in the vegetative phase, they can be flipped into the flowering stage, minimizing the growth cycle compared to starting from seeds.
What are your favorite cloning tips? Let us know in the comments!
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is a cutting?
A cutting is a clone of an existing plant, which is an exact genetic copy.
Is it better to grow from cuttings than from seeds?
It's not necessarily better to grow from cuttings, but there are some clear advantages, such as predictability, consistency, and efficiency.
What supplies do you need to take cannabis cuttings?
The main supplies you need to take cuttings are a healthy mother plant, razor blade, rock wool cubes, rooting hormone, tray, plastic dome, and heating mat.
How long does it take to flower a cannabis cutting?
After the new cutting is well-rooted (which takes 1-2 weeks), most growers keep them in the vegetative state for around 2 weeks before flipping them into the flowering phase, which is an additional 8-11 weeks. This is a total of around 12-14 weeks.
Do you need rooting hormone to take cannabis cuttings?
Rooting hormone will greatly improve your cloning success rates, and it's highly recommended.
What kind of light is good for cannabis cuttings?
LED lights are a great choice for rooting cannabis cuttings.