The Clone Ranger Rides Again

HELLO-HELLO to all the growers out there in SKUNK land. First thing I want to say is that this is not a how-to regarding cloning your beloved cannabis, nope, this article is something else altogether. I will share a whole bunch of very true—as per my four decades of experience growing cannabis—and very useful (empirically gleaned) facts about clones. I get a ton of emails regarding problems many of you have with cloning and a lot of your problems occur after the cutting has roots in a bubble or aero-cloning machine. Let’s not waste any more time here on the intro; onward we go…

The Freshly Planted and Newly Rooted Clone Killers

Getting good at cloning really ups your game for quality and size of production

So,you get your cuttings to actually root and everything is looking great, until,you place the clone into its growing medium of choice, then disaster strikes;often going limp and becoming crispy fried in a 36-hour period of time. This happens because you have introduced TOO MUCH FOOD into the plant’s (root’s)environment too fast. Using a very powerful soil-mix (as in the photo above of the fried clone) can also do this; so can over compaction of the soil—lack of air. I seem to always do this about once a year, when I inadvertently place a freshly rooted clone into some of my supernaturally powerful TLO (True Living Organic) soil-mix. This is one of the reasons I always take a couple or a few cuttings at a time if possible. If you feed your plants from bottles, then you used too much bottled food; easy to stop doing in the future, just like with the soil-mix, you need to be super mellow with freshly rooted clones.

Over-watered youngster
Over-watered youngster after proper watering for five days

Another suspect here that will kill your clone a little slower but eventually just as ugly is: OVER WATERING! Usually this will start out looking like a nitrogen (N) issue on the lower leaves, the plants leaf blades will often have a curling-under type of a look, especially near the top of the plant. Lack of aeration is the actual culprit here because the roots cannot “breathe” under water (just like you and I) for very long without access to some air. So, what we want to do is make EXTRA sure the pot we put the cutting into has great drainage and is well aerated, also be vigil NOT to over (or under) water it for the first 7 or 8 days big-time. Use good quality pots that have plenty of drain holes for aeration and drainage, not “Kegger Cups” as these types of containers are infamous for lacking aeration and drainage; also, please don’t use Styrofoam, yikes.Mixing some perlite with your mellow soil-mix is always a good idea to add aeration and do not compact the soil once the clone is planted, very gently tamp the soil down … VERY gently.

If you still think those plastic “kegger cups” make good/fine pots for your plants, why not do a little side by side with a quality pot and see the difference for yourselves? I’m not kidding, this is a biggie.

Rev’s Supernatural Mix for New Clones:

This is very simple and easy to source. You mix equal parts of a good bagged soil-mix with earthworm castings (bagged is alright) and then cut that mix by about 20% with small nugget sized Perlite and add NOTHING else; Perlite is available at almost any good nursery and many other depot type stores. Boom!There you have it an awesome and simple soil-mix. No feeding of any type is needed here, the earthworm castings will have plenty of food.

Any quality bagged soil works well for freshly rooted clones

My favorite bagged soil-mix to use in the supernatural new clone mix is Gardner & Bloome’s (G&B) Premium Potting Soil, because it has some Mycorrhizal Fungus already in the soil-mix and it is made from all great ingredients; however, any good bagged soil-mix will work here, including Ocean Forest, Happy Frog, even BlackGold—just make sure it’s all natural/organic. Just a good bagged soil-mix and some perlite also works fine.

Rev’sTip: Never add ANY raw dry nutrients to your bagged soil-mix you plan on using for freshly rooted clones; never, anything, period. I think this is the number one reason many clones don’t make the transfer well once rooted.

Selecting Where to Take the Cutting From

A mother plant exclusively grown for taking cuttings from

This is one of the most important aspects regarding the survivability of your cutting until it actually starts putting out new roots from the stem. Probably thee most important criteria here starts with the fact that the cutting itself needs to be lush and green and healthy. This will indicate she is storing all needed nutrients and food she requires to tide her over while pushing out new roots and surviving on (good) water alone. The next most important selection criteria is how close the growing tip(s) are to the light before the actual cuttings are taken (outdoors this part is irrelevant, just use lower branches with the least amount of “woody stem”). If you were to take the cutting from a branch tip that was growing close to the bulbs your chances are not as good for success as they would betaking a cutting from a tip that is growing a bit further from the light source/bulbs.

Plenty of roots to take hold and grow in soil

The reasons for this are two-fold as I understand it. First and foremost, the growing tips closest to the light source have the highest levels of nitrogen stored in them, and mucho nitrogen storage in a cutting is not conducive to fast rooting. Next is the fact that the growing tips farthest from the bulb(s) have a lower ratio of vegetable fiber present, and this makes it easier for the plant to push out roots from the stem with less “rope” to have to push through.

Clone Roots vs. Seedling Roots

Clone roots are intense compared to seedling plant roots of the same plant

Now here’s a cool little info bit that I’m sure some of you know already but those that don’t will surely dig on it, because it’s all about quality and yield. So, a plant grown from seed, flowering in say a five gallon pot (US Dry Measurements) under a 1,000 watt lamp may yield let’s say 6-8 oz of prime fat buds—yields depend upon multiple factors, but just as an example—and that’s all well and good; but, the same plant, that is a clone, flowering under the exact same conditions will yield about 15-20% greater weight, and the potency will go up about the same percentages; not every time you clone it, but once the plant from seed is about 3 months old the maximum resin production is attained in my experience, no matter how many times you have cloned clones of clones from this plant, you always measure age from the original sprout’s age.  Additionally, the clone plant will require less food and water overall to some degree. All true amigos, all true.

Clones always work better in containers, while seedling plants always work better in the ground or in raised beds.

My aero-cloner propagating away

This is all due to a few things. First of all, once a plant, or clone, or clone of a clone of a clone etc. gets about 80-90 days old (estimated from the time of sprouting not the taking of the cutting) from the seed plant, resin production increases, and flowering time even (fairly often) will drop a few days at least from the seedling plant’s flowering time. The plant is simply more mature and in tune with her environment, her roots have evolved to get the most bang out of whatever medium she is grown in. Since her roots are more efficient, hence the larger yields. I actually prefer flowering clones in containers rather than the original sprouted plant for these very reasons; try it and you’ll seeI speak the truth.

Of Course, Water Source Is Vital for Cuttings

Good water is essential for healthy potent clones and plants

Well here’s a big huge “Duh” for anyone who knows this already, but seriously man, your water is an absolute KEY to your huge success at keeping new clones and vegging plants happy, and growing, period… Keep your water consistent and free from crap (bottled nutrients). I recommend using either rain, distilled, or reverse osmosis(R/O) water, mixed with a General Organics’ product (liquid) called: CaMg+ at a ratio of 15-20 drops per gallon. It’s just calcium, magnesium, and a small amount of simple sugars to feed the microlife. Awesome product; however, a great source of spring water, river water, or well water can work, as long asit is not too full (dense) with dissolved salts/solids. Get a little TDS meter and check the PPM (parts per million) of your desired water source and as long as it reads below 120 PPM the odds are you can make that work well; this is always a bit of a crap shoot not knowing what the dissolved salts/solids in your water are actually comprised of, so for failsafe just go to the rain,distilled, or R/O option above with the CaMg+ and all will be lovely.

Just plain old tap water, chlorinated and all, works awesome in aero and bubble cloners, and the chlorine is actually a plus here in my experience. My tap water comes out at about 60 PPM and pH 6.9 and is perfect for this purpose. Beware of hard water, softened water, and water high in things like iron and sulfur, but otherwise you are all good with tap water.

I let cuttings soak in water for 24 hours before placing into cloner

This is kind of an update, and as some of you know I often “pre-soak” my clones for about 24 hours (and often even 48 hours)before actually placing them into their rooting environment—which in my case is an aero-cloner. In the past I have always used bottled spring water for this stage and it has always worked fine, however, lately I have come to find using pure R/O (or rain, or distilled) water for this pre-soaking period really makes a fairly large difference in how happy the cutting looks, and how fast it gets going rooting. I think this is simply due to the fact that those water types(virtually void of dissolved solids and pure H2O) are less dense and therefore easier for the plant to uptake. So, try this step and your cuttings becoming happily rooted clones’ success rate will go up-up-up!

You can use just plain old tap water for the pre-soaking stage as well, and this works fine, it just seems to me that the purer water sources work best for this stage and cause the cuttings to root faster once in the cloner.

Closing Points…

The end of the journey will make you smile for miles
  1. If you decide to top your plant, normally the genetics are not the prime consideration; however, they can be. The deciding factor is how much resources your plant will have. If you plan to flower a topped plant you will need to supply more food and water to achieve a larger yield than you would off of an untopped plant. You can accomplish this also by increasing container/pot size.
  2. You want to keep the metabolism of your vegging clones and clone mothers on the slow side, so just use good old “Shop Lighting” using Blue or Cool fluorescent bulbs. This way they age at a slower rate than they would under more intense lighting and heat. Clones normally kick 100% ass until they are about 2 years old—measured from the original sprouts age no matter how many clones of clones have occurred—but keeping mother clones under this kind of low energy environment can easily stretch that to 3 years before some of the plant’s natural resistance to things will begin to fade off.
  3. I don’t recommend 24-hour light cycles without any dark periods, this causes the plant a constant amount of stress—you would be stressed too—and I even root my cuttings under a 19/5 photoperiod (19 hrs. ON and 5 hours OFF every 24 hrs.) and I use that same photoperiod for mother clones and vegging clones/plants. Alright then Earthlings, let this stuff rattle around in your dome, then check it out and see if it doesn’t kick cloning ass! L8r G8rs…
The Rev
I'm The Rev, and I have been with SKUNK for about a decade now. I hail from Southern California, spent mucho time in Northern California, and now reside in Southern Oregon; always coastal. I am an all natural style cannabis grower and I have written a couple books on the subject - check out True Living Organics 2nd Edition on Amazon - I have been growing for over 45 years, and I have been breeding cannabis for over 30 years. Check out kingdomorganicseeds.com to see some exotic selections. Growing connoisseur cannabis is what I teach mostly, growing it in living soil without using liquid organic nutrients to feed the plant. I am also a highly skilled synthetics grower, hydroponics, aeroponics, DWC/SWC/NFT, Ebb and Flow, and soilless, but I cringe when smoking synthetic grown herbs, so for the last 15 years or so I preach the artisan style of all natural growing, specializing in container growing. Cheers and welcome aboard.