Seeds, Clones, Phenotypes and Mother Plants (by Stoney Tark)
As a new grower, learning about working with regular, feminized or autoflowering Cannabis strains can be a lot of fun, as over time you discover the benefits of using clones over Cannabis seeds. Most home growers will typically start off with seeds, which is also the best way to learn about your plants. In this article we explain the benefits of using Cannabis seeds and clones, break down the meaning and purpose of phenotype hunting, list desirable traits, and explain about mother plants.
The benefits of Cannabis seeds
Everything starts from seed and where all cones and mother plants will originate from. Cannabis seeds are available in either regular sex or female form and can be germinated in wet tissue paper, into a glass of water or directly into the soil or growing medium. With more breeders and seed banks than ever before, the choice of strains available ranging from indica, sativa, hybrid, autoflowering and CBD is enormous.
One of the most practical things about starting with Cannabis seeds, is that they can be safely and discreetly shipped to your address, and will oftentimes come with the latest promotional offer. Breeders are always hard at work trying to make the next Cookies or Zkittles strain that will take the marketplace by storm.
* Cannabis seeds are the best way to learn about growing from seed until harvest.
* Using seeds means there is no risk of infected spider mites or contaminated clones.
* Regular seeds are used for breeding projects involving male and female plants.
* Having seeds sent to your home address is easy and practical compared to clones.
* Seeds are available to buy in regular, feminized, autoflowering or CBD dominant.
The benefits of Cannabis clones
Cloning Cannabis is an excellent way to produce a genetic replica of the plants you have been working with. By this point, you will have selected the best looking plants and can take a cutting off the plants during the vegetative stage, or early into flowering. Using a propagator and ensuring you have a high humidity and the correct temperature between 20-24 degrees Celsius, and soft lighting, the cuttings will root within 10–14 days later.
Some growers prefer to use rooting hormones when taking their cuttings, as this can allow for roots to grow quicker and with more vigor. When taking clones from Cannabis plants, it is possible to use a jiffy pellet, rock wool cube, foam cube or coco.
* Cloning is a cheap and simple way of producing multiple small plants in one go.
* Rooted cuttings taken from a Cannabis seed will grow with more vigor.
* Cuttings can be flowered almost immediately if necessary once a root ball is formed.
* Preserving mother plants and clones for decades at a time can be done through cloning.
* Clones can be easy to source and can save time compared to Cannabis seeds.
What are phenotypes?
A common term you may come across as a grower is the word phenotype or ‘pheno’ for short. This simply refers to the characteristics of a specific genetic trait grown from Cannabis seeds and can be expressed in a multitude of ways, depending on what desirable traits the grower or breeder is looking for.
Some of the different physical traits that a grower may be interested in are height, structure, leaf size, leaf shape, internodal spacing, rooting capability, flowering time, resin production, terpene profile, effect, potency, high CBD count, resistance to heat, resistance to cold and pathogens.
A perfect modern example is to use Gelato #33 and Gelato #41. These two plants had the best qualities as far as the breeding team were concerned, however were both different in terms of aroma, flavor and potency. Pheno hunting can be done with as little as 10 Cannabis seeds, all the way up to 1000 seeds. As long as you carefully label the seeds with their own unique number and name tag, then this will make life easy later down the line.
An example of different phenotypes using Karel’s Haze would read something like this: On the basis that, a grower plants 10 Karel’s Haze seeds and is aware that some plants will express the Haze side and others will lean towards the Chem OG traits.
Karel’s Haze #2 - Short size, haze dominant phenotype
Karel’s Haze #5 - Tall size, haze dominant phenotype
Karel’s Haze #7 - Short size, Chem OG phenotype Karel’s Haze #9 - Medium size - haze / Chem OG phenotype
Karel’s Haze #10 - Tall size, haze / chem OG phenotype
So what are mother plants?
A mother plant will be what produces the clones for the future harvests, and is kept in a permanent vegetative state under 18/6. Maintaining a mother plant is a case of ensuring the plant has plenty of available nutrients around the roots, providing the right lighting and allowing it to grow back once cuttings have been taken. In some cases, original mother plants of classics such as White Widow, OG Kush, Sour Diesel and Chemdog have been around for decades with no issues, and are commonly passed around amongst close circles.
Most times a mother will start life as a clone taken from a plant grown from Cannabis seed, then allocated to its new home where her job is to produce between 10-50 viable clones every 10 weeks for example’s sake in accordance with the crop rotation. Breeders will have a library of mother plants and in some cases father plants for their males, and large scale commercial growers will have a room dedicated to large sized mother plants to ensure things remain consistent and their business model never changes.
* Mother plants are able to produce a high volume of clones when a grower needs them.
* They are always kept in a vegetative stage under 18 or 24 hours of lighting.
* CFL lighting can work for mothers as long as the bulb is 6400k blue light.
* It is important to allow new shoots to grow back and grow into a bushy plant.
There are many pros and cons to working with Cannabis seeds or clones. It simply depends on what is more practical for you, as well as your skill level, experience and your country's laws regarding seeds and clones. Staring from Cannabis seeds is always the best way to learn about how plants grow and their requirements during their life cycle.
Clones can be highly convenient for the home grower and will often produce much faster growing and vigorous plants, however there is always the risk of outsourcing infected clones that come with mildew spores or worse case spider mites. Be prepared to start with Cannabis seed and take your own clones, and then decide which is best suited for your needs!