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How to Select a Mother Plant for Cloning Marijuana

How to Select a Mother Plant for Cloning Marijuana


Why do I need a mother plant?

Once you have learnt the basics of cannabis cultivation the next step is to get yourself a mother plant and start cloning. There are three main reasons for this.

  1. The first is economy; quality cannabis seeds are not cheap and unless you are cultivating marijuana for seed production you will want to avoid having to lay out big bucks on new seeds every time you start a grow.
  2. The second reason for using clones is that they speed up the start of the marijuana growing process. Clones avoid the need for germinating seeds and the time it takes waiting for them to become established.
  3. The third main reason for cloning your plants is to do with quality. Some of the best strains of cannabis have varying phenotypes and when you find yourself with a great phenotype that has all the qualities that you desire, it only makes sense to repeat this by cloning the plant to produce genetically identical offspring.

The trouble with this process is that it is not until your plant has flowered that you can tell her true qualities, and this is obviously too late to turn her into a mother plant without having to revert her to the vegetative stage, which can stress the plant. So here is what you do.

How to select a mother plant

When you receive your new batch of seeds [start them off as you usually would]. Once they have established themselves and are growing well, take cuttings from each plant. This will normally be during the third or fourth week of vegetative growth. It is important to take cuttings before the appearance of pre-flowers. Clones have the same biological age as their donors so cuttings taken from a flowering plant will continue to flower even if they are only a few inches tall. Taking clones from plants during their vegetative stage allows you more control over the outcome.


Clearly label the cuttings to correspond with each donor plant. You can keep the cuttings in the same room as the donors under 18 hours light, or whatever lighting regime you prefer.

Once your clones have become established you can separate them from the donors and begin to flower the donors by changing the lighting to 12/12 as usual. Remember to keep the cuttings on their vegetative light cycle.

As soon as any males appear you should remove them immediately, as usual, and remove the corresponding clones. These will no longer be of any use to you.

If you are using a strain of cannabis that has a particularly long flowering period, like some of the [Hazes] for example, the clones may become too big to be manageable and will want to start flowering. If this is the case, simply take clones from the clones and continue to veg these second generation clones.

As the flowering phase of the donor plants begins to develop you will start to get a feel of which individuals are of most interest to you. All of us have our own particular preferences, but the main qualities you will be looking for break down to six main categories

Taste/Aroma– You will not have been able to sample your produce yet but the aroma they are beginning to give off gives a good indication of the quality of the final product. This is of particular importance if you are growing good tasty strains like Blueberry or Super Lemon Haze.

Vigor – You will want your mother to be a robust, healthy plant that will grow strong and give you many generations of cuttings. It will be easy to see if any of your plants are growing stronger and more vigorously than the others.

Yield – A plants potential yield is often associated (although not always) with the vigor with which it grows. If you are more concerned with quantity than quality, then the plant that is the greatest yielder will be the one of most interest to you.

Potency – Potency is something that is more difficult to ascertain without sampling the final product. Aroma can often be a good indication of a plant’s potential potency.

Phenotypes – If you are growing a particular strain and have done your research, you may already know which particular phenotype you are looking for. For example, if a strain review tells you that a certain strain has two distinct phenotypes – a short one and a tall one – it should be easy to spot them at a fairly early stage.

Appearance – Some cannabis strains are renowned for their attractive appearance. If you are looking for a particular structure or coloration you will be able to spot this trait as soon as it begins to show itself and select accordingly.

So, you may be able to reject some of the clones before flowering has finished. However, it is only after drying, curing and sampling your crop that you will be able to make a final selection on which individual clone you want to make into your mother plant. The more individual plants you start with, the greater the chances of finding a really good quality mother for your future generations.

To sum up:

  • Germinate and grow as many seeds as possible to give a good sample;
  • As the young plants become ready, take cuttings from each one and label them accordingly;
  • When they are ready, put the original plants on to flower;
  • Remove any males that show themselves, and their corresponding clones;
  • If the clones become too big to manage whilst the original plants are flowering, replace them with clones of themselves;
  • Remove any clones that correspond with individual plants that do not show the traits you require;
  • Harvest, dry and cure your original crop. Select the most desirable individual:
  • The clone that corresponds with this individual is the one you want, either remove all of the other clones, or flower them anyway (waste not want not J);
  • Do not flower your chosen clone. This is now your mother plant and can provide many generations of cuttings for many years to come.

Before we discuss keeping a mother though, it is worth mentioning another system of cloning that is practiced by those who are do not have the space to keep a mother plant, who are limited by time, or who are simply not interested in the whole mother selection process.

Just in time cloning

This method allows you to reproduce plants without the need to buy new seeds each time, but it avoids the mother selection process, or the need for keeping a mother plant at all. Simply put, if you have a single plant you can take a cutting from it just before you switch it to flower. You can then veg out the clone whilst the original plant goes into flower. Once the clone is ready to flower you will take a cutting from it and then put it into flower beside the original plant. The new clone can veg out while the first one is finishing and the second one is starting flowering….. and so on.


With practice and good timing this process can give you a continual supply without the need for a dedicated mother plant. You can practice it with however many individual plants you like. The only down side is that you have no control over selection, but as most seeds from the top seedbanks are stable and of guaranteed quality it can be a very effective method.

To sum up:

  • Germinate your seed;
  • Vegetate your plant until it is ready to begin flowering;
  • Take a cutting and keep the cutting under vegetative lighting whilst you place the original plant under flowering lighting;
  • When the cutting is ready to begin flowering, take a cutting from it and keep this second cutting under vegetative lighting whilst you place the first cutting under flowering lighting with the original plant;
  • When ready, crop the original plant, take a cutting from the second cutting and keep this under vegetative lighting whilst you put the second cutting beside the first cutting in the flowering room;
  • And so on, ad infinitum.

Keeping a marijuana mother plant

Now you have your mother plant. She is still in her early stages. If you have had to take more than one generation of clones whilst waiting for flowering, make sure that your chosen mother has had at least three weeks of veg before taking cuttings from her.


Remember, if you are running a larger operation that needs a high volume of clones, simply take several clones from the selected mother and grow these on to make multiple moms. They will all be genetically identical. However, one mother plant is normally sufficient for most personal grows.

Once you are sure that the mother is well rooted and into full vegetative growth you should pot her up. Many growers like to put the mother in a large pot and let her veg into a bush, providing many cuttings whenever they are required. This is an effective system, but it requires space. It is possible to create ‘Bonsai’ mothers that will provide you with a couple of dozen cuttings every two to three weeks, depending on your own individual lighting and feeding set ups.

How to create and maintain a bonsai cannabis plant


With a little care and maintenance you can create a Bonsai mother that takes up very little space.

The first thing to do is to pot up your chosen clone into a 2 ½ inch pot. It will make sense to use a square pot as there will be some root trimming involved later on and this process is made easier with a square pot. Make sure the clone is well rooted and use your own favorite soil mix for the process.

Although this article will concentrate on keeping a bonsai mother in soil, the principle is the same and you can adapt it to fit with your chosen hydroponic system.

Give your clone a few days to establish itself in the pot and for the roots to start getting busy in the soil. Once there are a few sets of leaves, trim back the top to leave three or four side shoots. These will be your main stems. The overall aim here is develop the whole plant into a cup shape, with plenty of space in the middle. Bear this in mind at all stages.

The top side shoots will grow the fastest. When they get to around 5 inches long, pinch them out, or snip them with sharp scissors. Remember to cut just above a leaf node every time. As the rest of the side shoots catch up with them, pinch them out too. Also remember to pinch out any shoots that grow inwards towards the centre of your cup shape.

You will now have around half a dozen shoots growing upwards from your plant. Once they reach about five or six inches they can be taken as your first batch of clones. When you cut them, cut them just above the first leaf node on the new growth. This will help keep your mother small and will thicken and strengthen the stems.

Now you will have between a dozen and two dozen new shoots growing, ready to be your next generation of clones, remember to keep pinching out any growth towards the centre of the cup.

This will be a good time to pot on the mother plant to a larger three inch pot. Pack out the bottom and the sides of the pot with good, fresh soil mix.

Repeat the process, always taking cuttings at the first leaf node of new growth and always removing inward growing shoots. Sometimes you will need to remove cuttings that you have no need for. You will just have to throw these away. Keeping your bonsai mother plant small and in her cup shape is crucial to this style of cultivation.

Eventually you will need to pot your mother plant up to a six inch pot. Do not go any bigger than this. If, after a few years, your mother becomes tired in her six inch pot and requires a change, simply trim her roots.

Root trimming a cannabis mother plant


Root trimming your mother plant is simple. Slip the plant out of its pot. The root ball will be an almost solid, square sided mat of tangled roots. Remove the loose compost from the top of the ball. Take a sharp clean knife and cut between a half inch and an inch from each side and from the bottom. Place some new clean potting compost in the bottom of the pot. Repot your plant back into the pot and pack out the sides with some new soil. Water and feed her well and she will bounce back in no time.

Feeding your mother plant

Do not over feed your cannabis mother plant. She will require a good quality, nitrogen rich food. Look for something about the 8-2-4 or 6-2-4 mark and feed her with half the recommended dosage.

Always use your own observations over what you read. Watch your mother plant. If she shows signs of over feeding or under feeding, act accordingly. If she shows signs of fatigue, first practice the root trimming described above. If that doesn’t work you can prune her right back to the three or four main growing stems and, with her well established root structure, she should spring back to life.

How long can I keep my plant?

How long is a piece of string? Technically it is possible to keep a cannabis mother plant forever, if you continue to provide her with the correct lighting and nutrients. There are lots of stories of mother plants that are still producing after 20 years or more.

Having said that, lots of people like to change them for fresh ones every two or three years. The process is simple, just keep one of her clones and let it veg on until it can replace her. The queen is dead, long live the queen!

At the end of her working life a lot of growers just throw the mother in the bin and carry on with the system. Personally, I like to let her finally flower and achieve her life’s purpose. But then, I’m a bit of an old romantic like that.

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