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Thursday March 3, 2022

By David Martin

Image of mother cannabis plant Growing

Take it from a commercial grower in Denver, of all the amazing reasons to create a mother plant in your grow, consistent cannabis tops the list. No more hoping it’s the same; no more trying to recreate that peppery strain all your buddies keep begging to smoke. The process is easy and you’ll be happy you took this motherly advice.

Keep reading and learn how to create a mother plant!

What is a Mother Plant?

Best explained by Abby Hutmacher, a mother plant is one that is kept in an indoor grow and meant for cloning purposes. They are used for keeping a desired strain in vegetative mode, never being allowed to flower.

The clones taken will be exact matches, as compared to seeds and their phenotypes. They can be kept in the 18/6 light cycle for a long time, pending the general upkeep. Eventually, mother plants are recycled or flipped into flowering.

How Do You Start a Mother Plant?

To seed or to clone, that is the question.

What’s the answer? Some growers might recommend growing new mother plants from the seed. The reason being that the roots can take a lot better to the soil. They found their home straight from the germination process and there is no transfer process involved.

The problems that could come with seeds are missed germinations. Often, the paper towel method will leave you with 75% success on three of four seeds. These things are not cheap. If buying, be smart and choose feminized seeds. Those will produce female plants that can later grow flowers, vs. the males which cannot.

Cannabis plant clones prepped to become mother plants
Mother plants can be created from seed or clone. Photo Credit: David Martin

Can you grow a mother plant from a seed you found in the cannabis flower you bought? Yes. But, this seed likely came from a hermaphrodite, meaning it wound up with both male and female structures. If you use seeds that are not feminized, you might end up with Mamas and Papas, aka a lot less “California Dreamin.’”

Start a Mother Plant with a Clone!

The reason to create a mother plant with a clone is the consistency. Do you know how many cycles it took that master grower to perfect that strain? At least enough times to where recreating it would be a pain. Not with cloning.

When cloning, you snip off a winning branch from another mother and presto! That same strain will grow, phenotype and all. Using clones is what the big players in the cannabis industry are doing. They know what people love and can grow these strains on repeat. It’s the difference in millions of dollars in business each year.

Better than that, using clones allows you to select the best of the best. Find those sturdy, vigorous looking branches and grow better cannabis. Weed out the ones that aren’t looking healthy. 

How Do You Make a Mother Plant from Cloning?

To give you the best information, we consulted with a Master Grower Kevin Altman, who cultivates for Callie's Cannabis in Denver (previously a head grower for Botanico). His 11 years of growing left us with this sticky advice:

Steps for Making a Mother Plant from Cloning:

Step 1: Choose the strongest plant available to take your clones. Consider how bushy they are, how good the top branches are looking, and the age of the plant itself. Clones shouldn’t be taken before two months or about two feet tall. Growers do this and it works but the results can dwindle. Taking wings from a chicken before it’s a bird doesn’t always fly. Each time you take a clone, two more should appear in its place. The process, if done every two weeks for 3 months, can lead to as many as 50 clones. When filling a commercial grow, you may need anywhere from 150-400 plants.

Step 2: Find yourself good trimmer shears and create a small bath/bowl/jar with diluted bleach water. Some growers say isopropyl alcohol works to kill the bacteria and viruses. Nothing will get around 10 minutes in bleach water, and it’s highly recommended you do this between mother plants in general. Viruses such as Hop Latent are easy to spread in grow rooms.

Step 3: Some growers debate this, but the best clones come from the top. They found the most light and those hormones are booming. Depending on the length, cut your clone under the 2nd or 3rd node at a 45 degree angle. A good rule to follow is holding out your hand, then matching the distance between your thumb and middle of the pinky. Weak cuts usually don’t survive. Some growers say the cuts need to immediately be in a cup of RO water. The process can be shocking to the plant. Be gentle.

Step 4: Ready at least one 1-inch rockwool cube, pending your needs. If doing multiple cuts for one growing tray, stagger the clones to give them space. Dunk the cube into your RO water.

Step 5: Dip the end of your clone into a rooting hormone such as Clonex, aka the sex of cloning. This purple goo makes magic. Place the dipped clone into your wet rockwool, then under lights on the 18/6 cycle. Presto!  Your new clone should be under a dome and misted with the proper nute mix to keep it growing. It will be strong enough to get under lights soon enough.

Step 6: As mentioned in Step 1, your new mother plant will need about two months before taking clones from it. The mother plant must stay under the 18/6 light cycle. If you switch to 12/12, it will begin the flower process. Not the worst thing ever, but not your goal.

How Long Can You Have a Mother Plant?

Theoretically, there is some crazy grower out there who has been harboring the same mother plant for 20 years or more. If that person took the right care and only so many cuts per year, it could keep going. But, eventually, the mother will wear down and you might not be creating healthy clones. At least, not as healthy as they could be.

mage of a mother cannabis plant growing in a planter pot
Mother Plants can last years if proper care is given but most people swap mother plants every year or so. Photo Credit: David Martin

Instead, you should change out your mother plants on a yearly basis. Let the old mothers finish their grow cycle on a 12/12 or toss them out due to depletion. Create a new mother from the best clone available.

Final Thoughts on Creating Mother Plants

After reading, you should know how to create a mother plant. The process is easy and will grow consistent cannabis for cycles to come. There is no guesswork in the phenotype and businesses can use cuts from cloned mother plants to build clients. Clone yourself a mother plant today and eliminate the guesswork.

Have you created a mother plant in your cannabis grow before? Share tips, tricks and experiences in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


David Martin David Martin

David Martin is a Denver native, commercial cannabis grower and reviewer. He has worked in grows for multiple Colorado cannabis companies; most recently, Callie's Cannabis. He has his M.S. in Sports Marketing from the University of Memphis, and previously taught E.S.L. His favorite pastimes are animated comedies like Bob's Burgers and Rick and Morty. You can often find him concocting new edibles on the weekend.

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