A Basic Guide to Cloning
What is a clone?
Cloning is the process of taking a cutting from a plant and encouraging that cutting to root out and grow into a new, full-grown plant that is genetically identical to the original. Cloning is a practice that takes time and diligence to perfect, and to maintain! Play around with materials and methods until you find a process that is successful for you.
And remember, cuttings are never guaranteed to have 100% rooting success – all the gardener can do is help increase the chance of rooting.
What do I need?
- Sterile razor
- Sterile scissors
- Labeling tags
- Cloning gel– Clonex, Rootech, Dip’n Grow, Olivia’s, EZ Clone, etc.
- Temporary tray of water—reverse-osmosis or distilled is preferred
- Rooting solution – Rapid Start, Tappin’ Roots, Life, Vita Grow Anti-Wilt, Clonex, Clear
- Azos – nitrogen-fixing beneficial bacteria, great for cloning/transplanting
- Liquid kelp
- T5 fluorescent light fixture
- Seedling heat mat
- Spray bottle
- Rooting cubes– Root Riot, Rapid Rooter, A-Ok Grodan, Oasis, etc.
- Propagation tray
- Humidity dome
- Neoprene inserts
*Items in bold are required
Instead of purchasing the light, heat mat, propagation tray, and humidity dome separately, you can opt for an EZClone® or a Super Sprouter Premium Heated Propagation Kit, both of which include most or all of these materials.
What do I do?
Prepare your work area with required items for cloning. Use a new, sterile razor for cuttings, or use rubbing alcohol to clean used razors before getting started. A clean surface such as a cutting board is also helpful when slicing cuttings with a razor. Pour a small, usable portion of cloning gel into a separate container; this reduces the chance of contamination.
Now is a good time to start soaking your rooting cubes, if desired. Adding rooting solution, Slf-100, or liquid kelp to your soaking solution can help overcome the transplant shock your clones are soon going to experience.
From a mother plant of adequate size (a few weeks to months of growth), select stems about 4 or 5 inches long for cuttings. At this point, you can use scissors, as you will later create fresh cuts with a razor before the clones are placed into the rooting cubes. Cut from the bottom and middle of the plant first—these areas will root fastest and give you the best chance for success in the cloning of your plant.
Place the cuttings into the tray of water until you are ready to transplant them into your cloning tray or cloning system. Continue to take as many cuttings as you want/need for this cloning session.
Once you have collected your desired fresh cuttings, remove one and place it on a cutting board. Using a razor, slice off the lower leaves (leaving the top set or two), and create a fresh cut above the original cut, just above or below the node (where lower leaves were just removed). An angled cut of 45° is ideal, since it exposes more surface area. For this cut, use a mild slicing action with a razor, not scissors. The crushing action of scissors can make it difficult for new roots to grow. If you want, this is also the time to scrape off the top layer of the raw end of your cutting to expose even more surface area.
Immediately dip the freshly-exposed end of the cutting into your cloning gel, and place it gently into a rooting plug . Never dip your clone directly into the container unless it is a small, one-time-use size; contamination is a serious problem to avoid in your cloning methods! Repeat with all your other cuttings until your tray is as full as you want.
Place the tray of cuttings under proper lighting, such as a T5 fluorescent light fixture, for 18 to 24 hours of light per day. Endless light is okay for clones, so don’t worry about setting up a dark cycle. Just make sure they’re getting at least 18 hours of light every day. Clones need warmth in order to grow, too, ideally 75-80°. Placing the tray in a warm room or on top of a seedling heat mat can achieve the temperature you need to stimulate root growth. If your air is at all dry, you should set a humidity dome over the clones. Condensation developing on the inside of the dome is a good sign that your cloning environment is humid enough. Keep the dome closed for the first 24-48 hours. During this time, check moisture and temperature frequently, and mist cuttings with a spray bottle to keep the humidity up. After the first 24-48 hours pass, open the dome at least once a day to let it air out.
In the coming weeks, continue to monitor your tray daily, making sure the rooting cubes stay moist, but not soaked. The idea is to keep the humidity levels high without over-saturating the plugs.
After 7-10 days, begin inspecting the bottom of the root cubes for root growth. Once roots are visible, a light nutrient solution (1/4 strength fertilizer or a rooting solution such as Life) can be used when watering the tray of root plugs. At this time, you can also snip the tips off each leaf. This encourages the plant to send a minimal amount of energy into photosynthesis so that it has more energy to send into its new roots. If you see any cutting begin to rot, discard them and their plugs.
Within a few weeks, a strong root system should be established, and your clones will be ready to be transplanted into soil or an alternate growing media. Congratulations; you did it!