When a grower is particularly fond of a phenotype, i.e. characteristics of a particular plant such as smell, taste, growth speed and vigour, making it their mother plant means being able to reproduce exactly that bud, and plants that grow identical, over and over again.
In this article we tell you everything you need to know about what a mother plant is and what it is used for.
What is a mother plant?
A cannabis mother plant is basically a plant which is kept in a permanent vegetative state, and from which cuttings are taken and rooted in order to fill a garden with identical plants which produce identical buddy, cycle after cycle. Taking cuttings from a mother plant is a method that many cannabis growers make use of, and it differs from growing from seed in that the cuttings are an exact replica of the donor mother. The cuttings contain the same genetic material as the mother plant and, therefore, guarantee a copy it: the same aromas, flavours, cannabinoid profile, etc.
This being said, there are always variations in the result of the harvests because environmental and growing conditions affect the result (flower production, amount of resin, etc.). Growing from rooted cuttings instead of seed stock guarantees that the grower will be able to replicate the qualities that he appreciates so much of his favourite phenotype.
THC Rich .
THC Rich .
Happy Chill .
THC Rich .
Things to consider when growing with cuttings
When growing from cuttings, it is crucial that the mother plant is healthy, otherwise diseases or genetic deficiencies will still be present in the rooted cuttings that come from that mother plant. In addition, of course, the healthier the plant, the quicker cuttings will root, and the longer the grower will be able to continue to harvest new cuttings from that mother.
You should keep in mind that cuttings, also commonly called “clones”, will behave like the mother when it comes to growing them. As you pick up knowledge growing the same genetic over the course of more than one cycle, you’ll be able to optimize your growing techniques and maximize your yields and potency potentials from that specific phenotype and genetic.
Growing with cuttings will also guarantee you a 100% female crop, as they come from a female mother plant. To ensure that the mother plant always remains in the vegetative period, i.e., producing new branches from which to make cuttings, it is necessary to prevent its natural flowering phase. To meet this objective, the mother plants must necessarily be photoperiodic – not autoflowering – and be given at least 18 hours of light per day. In this way the plant never enters the flowering phase (less than 18hrs of lights on time per day will induce flowering. The closer to 12 hours on and 12 hours off this is, the faster this will happen), and will be able to continue to generate cuttings for as long as the mother stays healthy.
How to choose a Cannabis mother plant?
Unfortunately its not possible to take a look at a seed and know that it is a great candidate for being established as a mother plant. In fact, one of the most resource consuming parts about growing from cuttings and mothers, is going through the process to pheno-hunt and select a mother. Here is a step by step guide for hunting down and choosing a killer phenotype, perfect for setting up and establishing a mother plant:
- First choose the feminized or regular, photoperiodic cannabis variety you are interested in cultivating. In this example, we’ll choose Bruce Banner Fem, from Seedstockers seed bank. The first step is to germinate and plant a bunch of these seeds. Most cultivators agree that 100 seeds planted is a solid number of seeds to start with, when hunting down a specific phenotype of a genetic. You can start with as few or as many seeds as you have room for, but the more seeds you start with, the quicker and more likely you are to find that hidden gem of a phenotype.
- Once these Bruce Banner Fem seedlings have matured some, about 6-8 weeks after germination, its time to take a few cuttings from each plant. Be sure that every single plant and cutting is labelled for easy track-back.
- One or two cuttings of every Bruce Banner Fem Plant will be rooted and placed into a production room where they will vegetate for a decided amount of time and then flower.
- While these cuttings root, vegetate, and flower, our original Bruce Banner Fem plants are all temporary mothers, and are being kept under vegetative conditions.
- Careful notes are taken on how each of the different phenotypes grow, the yield of each plant, as well as any other characteristics that might be interesting for comparison later.
- Now that you have all of the plants harvested, based on the individual maturation time of each plant/phenotype, you can compare your notes and the bud that you’ve grown!
- Choose your favourite genetic based on how the plant grows, necessary flowering time, potency as well as smell and flavour! You can now cull or kill-off the rest of the temporary mothers and divert resources and focus towards producing huge amounts of the same bud you fell in love with, over and over again.
A mother plant must be carefully selected and love at first sight alone is not enough. A plant may contain a unique terpene profile that gives it a very special taste and smell, but a good mother plant also displays other characteristics like vigour, resistance to pathogens, and potency.
As a general rule, a favourable phenotype should have the following qualities:
- Vigour: the speed, and quality of growth starting at germination is an indication of genetic quality and stability.
- Root development: Good root development usually indicates a good predisposition for propagation by cuttings, a very important factor for a good mother plant.
- Vegetative structure development: This is an essential indicator of the robustness of the plant and there are several parts to take into account: main cola, nodes (inter-nodal spacing), and secondary branching. These parts of the plant will give you clues to the optimal cultivation method, as well as its growth rate and its ability to generate flowers.
- Leaf mass development: Leaves should be homogeneous in shape, size and colour and no deformed or wrinkled leaves should appear. The leaves of the plant play a key role in the flowering phase and are therefore a great indicator of its yield.
- High yield: The amount of flowers produced by the plant must be optimal to be considered a good mother plant and therefore the development of its vegetative structure and leaf mass are key.
- Dense trichomes: As a source of resin and cannabinoids, special attention should be paid to the trichomes of the plant. To analyse them you can examine them with a jewellers loop when approaching the flowering phase. Remember that while more trichomes generally means higher potency, laboratory analysis has found that there is a false correlation between volume of trichomes and volume of cannabinoids. In reality, not all trichomes are created equally and some trichomes have an ability to produce more or less of the compounds we’re after. This means, its entirely possible to have a totally frosted bud that tests with mediocre potency. GC or HPLC testing is the best way to gain information like this for phenotype hunting and selection.
- Resistance to pests and mold: Essential to obtain healthy cuttings and a long-lasting mother plant.
- Good taste and aroma: The long process of cultivation and growth of the plant will have paid off if it has passed all the above tests and has a taste and aroma worth preserving.
How to make cuttings from a cannabis mother plant?
To make cuttings, you must cut the branches of a living mother plant, which should ideally be about 15 cm long. It is entirely possible to root even small cuttings, however.
These are the steps to follow when making your own cuttings from your mother plant:
- Previously sterilize all the material you are going to use to prevent infections, fungi or diseases: Scissors, cutter, etc.
- Select healthy and robust branches.
- Make a diagonal cut to separate the branch from the mother plant.
- Immediately place the fresh cutting in rooting hormone solution and then place it in the jiffy or substrate you will use for rooting.
- Cut ⅓ of the outside of the leaves of the cutting.
- Place the cutting in a small rooting greenhouse where you will need to make sure that adequate humidity levels (around 85%- 90%), and temperature (around 23 degrees) are maintained. Cuttings need a lot of humidity because, unlike a plant with a fully developed root body, they absorb the water they need through their leaves.
A great way to maintain proper humidity levels is to cut holes in the sides of a medium-sized plastic, clear storage container. Add 4-6 cm of perlite to the bottom of the container and enough water mixed into that perlite that there isn’t any standing water. Place your cuttings in form-fitting containers on top of the perlite.
You should monitor the cuttings daily and check that they have everything they need to grow. By day 4 or 5 it is not uncommon for substrates to need to be soaked in a water or rooting solution in order to re-hydrate.
Cuttings may take 10 to 14 days to develop roots, but some may take longer. When their roots begin to explode out the bottom of a rockwool, or jiffy plug, they are ready to be transplanted. When this happens, and without the million dollar investment of Blade Runner, you will have created a whole army of replicas.
Pros and cons of growing from cuttings of a mother plant
Let’s remember all the advantages mentioned so far:
- Produce the same quality buds over and over again, at peak efficiency.
- Cuttings will give rise to female plants every time.
- You will get an exact replica at the genetic level of the selected phenotype.
- You can keep your favourite genetics for years and get stable crops from it.
However, some disadvantages should be mentioned:
- Constant maintenance: You will have to keep your mother plants indoors, this requires some space, care, and expense in the electricity bill, however this might be balanced out some because plants will need less lighting than autoflowering genetics during flowering.
- Aging: Although mother plants can be extremely long-lived, as time goes by, their chances of contracting diseases will also increase and these can be transmitted to their cuttings.
- Setup Expense: It takes time and resources to hunt down and select the perfect phenotype. This ultimately is a rewarding investment, however its not always affordable when you’ re first starting out or only producing a small amount of cannabis.
The best strains for exotic Pheno-Hunting
Seedstockers has a range of selected strains of great quality that have been obtained through long breeding processes. Genetics which, because of their qualities, can be ideal candidates to make mother plants at home and are known for having special phenotypes ripe for discovery. Here are four jewels of our catalogue that you should think about preserving:
- Moby Dick Fem: This killer whale is an ultra productive variety with a high effect thanks to its THC levels of around 26%. A monster of nature that produces generous harvests with citrus and eucalyptus aromas in only 9 weeks. In addition, it performs well both indoors and outdoors, the only measure you will have to take in indoor is to take into account its size, so be careful not to extend too much the vegetative period so that this beast does not exceed the limits of your space. Moby dick expresses several phenotypes which would make for great mothers.
- Bruce Banner Fem: Being one of the most iconic hybrid feminized strains in the United States, it is not surprising that many growers have started pheno-hunting for the very best version of it. With a high THC content (between 23 and 26%), this variety has a strong fuel aroma mixed with the sweetness of the fruity tones of Strawberry Diesel.
- Wedding Cake Fem: like the previous one, this variety is the result of crossing two elite clones of two American jewels: a Girl Scout Cookies phenotype and a powerful selection of Cherry Pie. It is a hybrid which produces a relaxing effect and contains average levels of THC which reach 22%. Its cultivation is very easy, and after 9 weeks of flowering it will be ready to harvest rich buds which give off a delicious aroma of fruity and sweet tones, and we’re sure you’ll find a phenotype with just the flavour of wedding cake you are after.
- Gorilla Cookies Fem: This Indica-dominant hybrid strain is ideal for growers with some experience and is definitely worth the effort. With a flowering time of only 8 weeks and impressive THC levels (23 to 26%), its consumption provides a pleasant and relaxing effect and its phenotypes a variety of terpene profiles that stand out for their sweet aroma of cookies with earthy scents.