Cannabis seeds and clones

Growing Cannabis: Clones vs Seeds

One of the first things you’ll need to decide when starting to grow cannabis is whether to start from seed or clone.

A cannabis clone is a small cutting from a mother plant and has developed its own root system.

It’s an important decision to make, because it is going to determine what timeline your garden is going to operate on, and largely influence the strategy you incorporate into your garden, especially if you plan on making clones to continue your cycle.

Both options present their own benefits and drawbacks.

The Benefits to Starting with a Clone Instead of a Seed

Here are the reasons why some growers prefer cannabis clones.

Benefit #1: Starting with a clone ensures that the gender of your plant is female.

They can still become hermaphrodite if they are stressed, but out of the gate, you at least know that there are no males.

Male cannabis plants do not provide the euphoric and wellness benefits that female cannabis plants do.

Benefit #2: This leads us to one of the biggest benefits of starting with the clone in that you know what you are getting – assuming the source you acquired the clone from is trustworthy and reputable.

If the breeder has samples or documentation as to what previous harvests have looked like, you get a rough yet fairly decent idea of what to expect from the clone.

Benefit #3: Another big benefit is that it speeds up the cultivation process. Seeds take time to sprout and grow into a plant. A clone already is a plant, and is several weeks ahead of the process compared to a seed that has yet to sprout.

Benefit #4: Clones are less delicate than seeds, at least in the beginning. A rooted clone is much easier to keep alive and nourish than a newly sprouted, delicate seedling.

Benefit #5: Growing from a clone is also easier than growing from seed. Clones are ‘plug and play’ so to speak, which is important for newbie cannabis growers.

The Drawbacks of Clones

Drawback #1: Clones lack a taproot. Instead they grow secondary roots also known as a fibrous root system.

For those who don’t know, a taproot is a straight root growing vertically downward from the plant base, forming the center from which other rootlets spring.

Basically, it’s one really big root that other roots spring off of, as opposed to a bunch of tiny roots. Many reputable growers believe that a taproot makes the plant stronger.

Drawback #2: Some cannabis clones carry diseases and/or pests.

Powdery mildew is particularly problematic because a clone could have a disease not yet visible to the naked eye yet.

Whatever the mother plant had, so too shall the clone inherit whatever nastiness ‘it’ may be.

This is why you’ll want to quarantine outside clones before bringing them into the rest of your grow operation.

Drawback #3: With clones, growers are limited to what they can find in their area. Dispensaries and stores are helping increase the variety in areas where they are allowed, but the variety still pales in comparison to most seed banks.

Drawback #4: Also with clones you either use them or lose them. Clones have a limited shelf life, so you either have to see them through to the end, or watch them wither and die.

Debatable Drawbacks:

Many people out there believe clones are weaker than seeds, less pest resistant, grow slower, and the buds are not as large. These claims are based on personal experiences, but it’s worth noting that there are a lot of reputable veteran growers who feel strongly about this.

There are also many people out there who feel very strongly that taking clones from clones results in ‘worn out’ DNA in the plant. We haven’t seen any science behind this, but again, there are a lot of very reputable growers who feel this way.

Why Growing Cannabis from Seed Is a Good Option

Benefit #1: Cannabis plants started from seed have a taproot, which many believe supplies more support for the plants.

Benefit #2: When you start from seed, you are not inheriting the potentially nasty pests and diseases from a mother plant. A seed is ‘clean’ so to speak.

Benefit #3: With seeds, there is much more variety out there. It can be risky to acquire seeds, but these days, there are many more stores and dispensaries carrying a much larger variety of quality seeds as compared to most clone inventory selections.

Benefit #4: Seeds last a long time when stored properly, which is a huge advantage to going the seed route. As stated previously, with clones you either use them or lose them. A seed, any kind of seed, can be stored safely for a long time and still germinate.

As mentioned, many growers feel that starting from seed results in stronger, more pest-resistant plants that grow faster and have bigger buds.

The Downsides to Starting with a Seed

There are a few risks a grower takes when choosing to start with a seed.

Drawback #1: A grower invests quite a bit of time before they know if the seed is male or female, even if the source they purchased the seeds from is reliable, it’s still a risk.

After about 6 weeks of growth, the plant will usually show signs of “pre-flowers” (female) or seeds (male). This will alert you to the gender of the plant.

Drawback #2: Seeds are very delicate after they pop. It doesn’t take much to kill them. This can be a very big problem for newbie growers who are still just trying to figure things out.

Plus, seeds take time to pop. Even if the plant ends up being a female, which is awesome, it still takes several weeks for a seed to reach the same size as a clone.

Drawback #3: Germinating seeds is a skill that not everyone possesses. It takes experience. As such, the only way to get ‘good’ at germinating seeds is to do it as many times as it takes to get the process down.

If you are a new grower:

If someone is notoriously awful with plants, starting from seed is likely not a good idea.

We recommend that if you are a newbie grower, to start with clones and work on perfecting your seed skills in the meantime until you are ready to make the transition.

How to clone cannabis plants

A clone is a cutting, such as a branch, that is cut off of a living marijuana plant, which will then grow into a plant itself. A clone has the same genetic makeup as the plant it was taken from, which is called the mother plant.

A typical clone is about 6 inches in length, give or take, and after cutting it off the mother plant, the clone is put into a medium such as a root cube and given a hormone to encourage root growth.

After roots develop, it is then transplanted into a pot or the ground, and it will grow like any weed plant.

Why clone cannabis plants?

If you don’t want to mess with seeds, clones can be a great option for starting a marijuana plant. Growing weed from a clone will save you time—even though they need time to root out, you don’t have to germinate seeds, which will shave off a month or so of the growing process.

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Clones will also save space in your garden—with seeds, you have to grow many and sex them out to identify and get rid of the males. Also, usually some seeds don’t germinate. You’ll need extra space for all those seeds, and they might not even turn into full plants.

If you take a clone from a plant you already have, they’re free! You just need to invest in some supplies. Although, you can buy clones from a dispensary if you want.

One of the best things about clones is they are exact genetic replicas of the mother plant from which they were taken. If you have a particular marijuana plant you like, whether for its appearance, smell, effects, or something else, you can take clones of it and grow it again, ad infinitum.

There is some speculation that clones can degrade over time based on environment stressors and other factors, but that is open to debate.

What is a cannabis mother plant?

A mother plant is any cannabis plant you take a clone from. Mothers should be healthy and sturdy, as their genetics will pass on to the clones—if you have a sickly mother plant, its clones will also be sickly.

Mother plants always stay in the vegetative stage as clones are clipped off. It’s important to not take cuttings off a flowering weed plant—this can cause the clone to turn into a hermaphrodite and may also damage the flowering plant.

Some growers have dedicated mother plants only for taking cuttings, but this setup takes up a lot of space and materials—you’ll need to keep the mother plant alive, but you won’t get any buds off it because it’ll always stay in the vegetative stage. Some growers find it hard to justify devoting time, energy, and space to plants that won’t produce buds. If your grow space is tight, this might not be the best setup.

Another method growers employ is to take cuttings off a set of mother plants before they flower, then flip the mothers into the flowering stage. The next generation of clones is grown, and when those get big enough, cuttings will be taken from those before getting flipped into flower. Because clones are genetically identical, each generation will be an exact copy of the first-generation mother and all subsequent mothers.

Cannabis mother plants guarantee genetic consistency, so each new generation of clones taken will have the same taste, flavor, effects, and other characteristics. Clones will also generally grow at the same rate as the mother, produce a similar quality product, and grow with the same vigor, allowing you to dial in your process and really get to know how to grow that particular weed plant.

Clones also guarantee that all of your weed plants are females, so you don’t have to spend time growing from seed, sexing plants, and discarding males.

What to look for in a mother plant

As genetics are identical between a mother and a clone, it’s important to choose a good plant as a mother. A wilty plant, or one that doesn’t produce good buds, won’t make a good mother.

Growers usually look for these qualities in a mother plant:

  • Sturdy, vibrant growth
  • Great aromas and flavors
  • Big yields
  • Dense trichomes
  • Resistent to pests and mold

How to clone a cannabis plant

What do you need to clone cannabis?

Cloning cannabis is relatively easy and requires just a few key items:

  • Scissors (for taking cuttings off the mother plant)
  • Razor (for trimming up cuttings)
  • Rooting setup (tray/tray-cell insert/dome/root cubes/heat mat, or an auto-cloner)
  • Rooting hormone

Choose a rooting medium and setup

Common rooting mediums include rooting cubes, rockwool, or other non-soil equivalents like peat or foam. Rockwool is melted rock that has been spun into a fine thread, and it has terrific airflow and moisture retention. You can find any of these cubes at most grow stores or online.

If you’re using cubes of any kind, you’ll need to invest in a tray, a tray-cell insert, and a dome. The clones will go in the cubes, the cubes into the tray-cells, and all of that sits in a tray which will hold water. To keep in humidity, make sure to use a dome over your tray, and you may even want to use a heat mat.

Another method is to use an auto-cloner. There is an initial cost for buying an auto-cloner, but if you plan on cloning a lot, they are worth it. Auto-cloners cut down on the amount of labor needed to care for clones. Using aeroponics, these machines spray the bottoms of your cuttings with nutrient water at set intervals to promote root growth.

Experiment to see which setup works best for you. Whichever method you choose, make sure your new clones get plenty of light—preferably 18 hours—and humidity.

For more info on cloning setups, check out our Guide to cannabis cloning equipment.

How to take a cutting from a cannabis plant

When selecting a mother plant to clone from, look for plants that are healthy, sturdy, and at least two months into the vegetative cycle. Don’t take a clone off a plant once it starts flowering.

Don’t fertilize mother plants for a few days leading up to taking cuttings. This will allow nitrogen to work its way out of the leaves. When you take cuttings, an excess of nitrogen in the leaves and stems will trick your clones into attempting to grow vegetation instead of diverting energy to rooting.

Be sure to work in a sterile environment. Use gloves and disinfect razors and scissors.

The beginning of a cannabis clone. (David Downs for Leafly)

To take a cutting:

  • Look for branches that are sturdy and healthy. You want at least two nodes on the final cutting, so pick a branch that is healthy and long enough. A sturdy clone will lead to a sturdy plant.
  • Cut the clone off the mother, cutting above the node on the mother plant. It’s OK to use scissors here; it may be hard to get a razor in the middle of the mother plant.
  • Then, using a razor, cut below the bottom node on the fresh cutting at a 45° angle to the branch. This will increase the surface area of the rooting surface, promoting faster growth.
  • Place your fresh cutting immediately into a rooting hormone. Then, put it directly into a root cube. If using an auto-cloner, put a collar around it and place it in the auto-cloner; you’ll put rooting hormone in the cloner after all cuttings have been taken.
  • Once done taking the cutting, remove unnecessary leaves toward the bottom and clip off the tips of the remaining fan leaves on the cutting. This supports photosynthesis, helping your clones uptake nutrients and water.

Transplanting your weed clones

Check your clones daily to make sure they have enough water by checking the bottom of the tray or auto-cloner. To increase humidity, you can spray water on the leaves with a spray bottle. If any clones die, discard them so they don’t cause mold in the rest of the clones and also to give the remaining clones more space.

Most clones will be ready to transplant into soil in 10-14 days, but some root out quicker, and some longer. You’ll know they’re ready when the white roots are an inch or two in length.

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When getting ready to transplant, be sure to keep the environment sterile. Transplant shock can occur, so be sure to use gloves when handling clones.

  • Put soil in your pots first.
  • Water the soil before transplanting so soil doesn’t move around once the clone is in its new home.
  • Once the water has drained, dig out a hole 1-2 inches deep with two fingers, or just enough to bury all the roots.
  • Put the clone in and gently cover with soil.

What to look for when buying a marijuana clone

If you live in a medical or adult-use state, you’ll be able to get clones from some local weed shops, but make sure it’s a reputable shop.

Most of the time, these clones come from growers who focus solely on producing clones, but sometimes cuttings will come from a third-party source. When purchasing clones for your home garden, always ask your shop where they came from. If you can’t get a legitimate answer, find another source.

It’s important to know the origin of your clones because that’s where problems originate—diseases, pests, incorrectly labeled genetics, and unknown pesticide residues can come with a mystery clone.

Never hesitate to research a dispensary or grow facility before buying clones.

Inspect the cannabis clones

Not all pests, diseases, pesticide residues, or genetic markers will be easy to spot with the naked eye, but give your clones a good look before introducing them to your garden. If they look sickly or weak, they likely won’t grow well.

Stem width

A clone’s stem width is a great way to get a sense of its overall health and vigor. Thin and narrow stems typically mean the clone was taken from a weak or less viable branch. These cuttings may be more prone to disease or death and their root systems may take longer to develop.

Pests

Be sure to inspect all areas of your clone for the presence of pests. Large pests such as fungus gnats and spider mites can be spotted relatively easily.

Check under each leaf and also check the soil medium, as some pests live there. Certain pests can also leave markers—spider mites leave spots and webbing, and other insects can leave trace bite marks.

Disease

Many diseases can be difficult to detect in cuttings, but there are a few visual cues that can be seen early on. A lack of vigor is a major cue—check for limping leaves, irregular or mutated growth, and discoloration.

Powdery mildew (PM) is a very common disease found on clones, and mold spores can transfer to other plants. Keep an eye out for white powder on stems and leaves.

It’s almost impossible to detect harmful pesticides or fungicides on a clone. Often, these applications leave zero residue and can stay on a plant for the rest of the plant’s life. If you see any suspicious residue on a clone, ask the grower about their in-house integrated pest management (IPM) and always err on the side of caution.

Clean and quarantine your cannabis clones

If some clones look OK at the shop and you decide to take them home, make sure to take a few last precautionary steps before introducing them to the rest of your garden.

First, transplant your new weed clones into a more permanent container and medium. Often the grow medium used to house fresh cuttings at the shop will be different than what you use. Also, pests may be present in its medium when you bought it—transplanting your clone to a cleaner space will help mitigate any potential root damage.

Take this time to properly clean your clone with whatever IPM solution you deem fit. A popular method for cleaning new clones involves dipping them into a light solution of whatever safe and approved pesticide you choose.

After your clones have been properly cleaned and transplanted into their new medium, make sure to keep them quarantined for a few days to a week. Doing this will protect the rest of your garden if they do develop problems, and you’ll be able to pull them out easily.

If they look good after a week or so, go ahead and introduce them to the rest of your garden.

Patrick Bennett and Trevor Hennings contributed to this article.

Clones vs. Seeds: What Grows The Best Cannabis?

Anyone interested in growing their own cannabis has two options: growing from seeds or using clones. Although some people claim clones are the better choice, we prefer to compare the pros and cons of cannabis clones and the prime seeds from the AG strains catalogue. That way, anyone can decide for themselves whether to search for clones or grow cannabis from the best seeds we can offer.

Cannabis Clones And Seeds

Before we compare clones and seeds, let’s make one thing perfectly clear. We can’t overstate the importance of using good genetics. As we say so often, any good grow starts with great genetics. In our AG online seeds catalogue, you’ll find some of the best seeds in the world carrying all those great genes inside. Nonetheless, growing cannabis can also be done using clones.

Cannabis clones are cuttings taken off a ‘mother plant’ and then carefully coaxed to grow into new plants. Clones are exact copies of their mother plant; cloning copies the genetic code present in plant DNA. This is very different from the natural reproductive strategy of cannabis plants, and that means clones differ fundamentally from plants raised from seed. So which is the better choice? As you will find out below, that depends – although we have good reasons to sell only top quality seeds online.

We Trade Seeds For Good Reason…

Genotype And Phenotype

Genotype

Clones are literally an identical copy of their mother. Because they are made by carefully cutting off a branch of a plant that has proven itself (through amazing flavor, mold resistance or potency for example), and letting that branch develop its own root system. If it works out, you end up with a cloned cannabis plant: a new organism with the exact same genetic code as its mother plant. In biology, the totality of an individual’s genetic makeup, encoded in its genes, is called ‘genotype‘.

Phenotype

Of course, you can’t see a plant’s genes from the outside; DNA is a code written in proteins, carried deep inside every cell of an organism. The genetic code represents traits expressed on the outside, be they broad or small leaves, big versus small buds, or any other property inherited from its parent(s). The totality of these traits make up the individual’s outward appearance. It is the sum total of all genetic traits included in its genotype. This expression of an individual plant’s genetics is known as its ‘phenotype‘.

Seeds are unique individuals, with unique phenotypes.

Growers and connoisseurs often refer to phenotype simply as ‘pheno’. Interestingly, cannabis seeds from the same strain, and even produced by the same female plant (single genotype), can turn into plants with different phenotypes. This pheno variance is due to natural reproduction: when pollen from a male plant touches the pistil of a female plant, the resulting seeds carry various combinations of both parent’s DNA (genotype). That explains why natural reproduction creates varied offspring with varying phenotypes. It keeps the species evolving, producing random new phenotypes that may be even better than the parent’s phenos combined.

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Natural Cannabis Seeds Versus Artificial Clones

Downsides Of Cloning

By taking clones you know your crop will consistently have the exact same grow characteristics, flavour profile, and overall phenotype as its mother. Unfortunately, clones also carry any flaws their mother’s DNA may contain. Clones can carry hidden genetic defects that may only express themselves months later while flowering. They can also carry diseases and vulnerabilities to pests and fungi inherited from the mother plant.

Moreover, mother plants are often treated with high quantities of pesticides. If carefully managed, one single mother plant can survive for years, providing growers with a stable harvest and new clones time and again. Pesticides are often used keep mother plants protected, and that can be a real drawback. Pesticides accumulate in the tissue of the mother plant; as a result, any clone cuttings will contain the same pesticides from the start.

Finding Good Clones Is Hard

On top of these drawbacks, finding good quality clones can be exceedingly difficult. Even if you do find a breeder willing to sell you some, they will be expensive. And that’s even before you start to try and keep the clones alive in your own grow setup! All in all, finding top quality genetics is much easier, cheaper, and safer when you order cannabis seeds online. Seeds are designed by nature to carry all the precious genes safely to the spot where the seed can germinate and grow into a new cannabis plant. That makes the case for choosing good seeds over clones pretty clear, but there is more to consider.

Root And Branch Development In Cannabis Clones vs. Seeds

As noted, clones are simply rootless branches cut off a mother plant. Obviously, the first thing they need to develop after you plant them is a root system. And that takes energy; a whole lot of it, in fact. Meanwhile, the existing leaves of the clones demand energy to grow and continue THEIR work: photosynthesis.

This means cloned cannabis plants will probably not develop optimal root systems. And that’s a shame, considering that root volume equals yield volume. In contrast to seeds, clones need a shorter vegetation period. During that time they’ll also grow faster than plants from seeds, because the clone is not an infant, but has the same age as its mother. Again, this may seem advantageous at first, but such unnatural growth comes with drawbacks, too.

Healthy roots, healthy harvest!

Healthy Roots = Healthy Harvests

Clones will not grow as sturdy as cannabis plants from seeds, though. After germination, cannabis seeds develop a fat taproot, which travels as far down into the soil as it can. The taproot serves like an anchor, increasing the stability of the plant. This vertical root will go on to develop lateral roots horizontally, ensuring a deep-rooted cannabis plant. And as we stated before, root volume equals yield volume. So a healthy and substantial seed-grown root system is all set to produce a healthy and substantial yield.

More Branches = More Buds

Apart from developing their roots differently, clones and seeds also develop differently above ground. On one of our latest strain hunting expeditions, we discovered that clones develop one sided nodes. Each time the stem of a clone splits into branches, it only develops one single branch per node. Cannabis plants from seeds on the other hand, develop two-sided nodes. Considering they develop double the amount of branches per plant and have a bigger and more stable root systems, weed from seeds potentially yields much more than clones.

Natural Cannabis Variants: Seeds Offer More Than Clones

Using clones means having an exact copy of a mother plant’s genotype to work with. That can be a big plus if you know exactly which phenotype you want to grow. If you manage to raise a clone the right way, you could theoretically produce more clones for your next grows. We will admit this is a benefit for some growers, but the extra effort involved convinces the majority of growers to work with seeds in the natural way.

Natural Seeds = Natural Variation

Some may find the genetic consistency of clones a good thing, but we know that most growers find the idea of clones unnatural and boring. After all, with all the wonderful variety available today, why stick to the same identical genetics when there’s so much more to explore? In contrast to clones, cannabis seeds from the same parents can each still have different tastes and grow characteristics. Perhaps that makes growing cannabis from seeds less predictable, but it does add to the excitement. Just like human siblings are not identical, neither is the natural offspring from cannabis plants. Let’s face it: if all your brothers and sisters were your exact identical copies, things would soon get boring at home, right?

As you can see in the pictures @JOHE420 took of our Lemon Ice (above), two seeds from one strain can give different looking and tasting buds. Since you can never tell which ones will taste better, grow larger, or produce more effects, there is an exciting element of natural surprise in every grow that uses cannabis seeds. That excitement is an important reason why most growers around the world prefer the natural pheno variation that cannabis seeds can offer.

Creating New Strains (For Cloning?)

Some growers with an experimental mindset like to develop new strains of their own. If they succeed, they can proceed in two ways: clone the new plant, or pollinate it to grow new seeds naturally? They’ll need to cross two existing strains first, though, and to do that they need cannabis seeds, not clones. Crossbreeding two clones with the same genotype is pointless. Moreover, clones are usually female plants, and attempting to two females is obviously problematic… Anyone interested in creating new variants using natural reproduction (between plants, that is!) is going to need male and female specimens. Our regular seeds are the best choice for doing so. These seeds, such as Critical Mass Regular for instance, become male plants in 50% of all cases; in contrast to feminized seeds that yield nearly 100% female plants.

Conclusion: Cannabis Clones vs. Seeds

Summing up, we can conclude that while clones are intriguing in certain ways, growing cannabis from seeds is more interesting, more natural, and generally easier for most growers. Of course, that still means truly great grows start with epic quality seeds… So what are you waiting for? The entire Amsterdam Genetics seeds range is waiting for you!

Packed with great genetics….

  • Quality Genetics
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The germination of cannabis seeds is illegal in most countries. Amsterdam Genetics cannabis seeds are exclusively sold as collectable souvenirs to customers living in countries where the cultivation of cannabis is illegal. All information on this website is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to incentivize people to engage in illegal activities.