This article is for growers who have stepped up their game and are ready to scale their favorite strain to another level by growing a mother plant. The first time I grew a mother plant was in 2012 for a small-ish facility in Colorado. It was a fun but daunting mission and I was glad to have the support of an experienced team to show me the way. Now, it’s time for me to give that same support to you!
In cannabis cultivation, mother plants reign supreme. It is the mother from which all good things come: fresh, vibrant clones that give birth to your next generation of buds from a particular pheno. Let’s dive into how to grow a strong cannabis mother plant.
What’s A Mother Plant?
A mother plant, put simply, is a female cannabis plant that is kept in a perpetual vegetative state, ensuring it never flowers. Its primary role is to provide cuttings for clones. Once rooted and mature, the clones will flower and give you buds of a consistent genetic lineage to the mother.
When you grow from germinated seeds, on the other hand, you get slightly different variations of the strain with each seed. This unique genetic expression is known as a phenotype.
Choosing The Perfect Mother Plant: Pheno Hunting
The first step in establishing your mother plant is selecting the right candidate.
1. Germinate seeds
Start by germination a set of seeds that will be the base for your pheno hunt. The number of seeds that you plant is going to vary based on your space but I recommend starting with 10-15 seeds (for commercial growers you can go higher).
The more seeds you start, the more phenos you will have in your hunt.
2. Grow the plants until strong
Continue to grow the plants as normal until 18h of light for around 6 weeks. At this point, it’s time to take cuttings. Make sure that the plants are strong and have healthy roots so the cuts don’t damage the plants. After all, these female plants are your potential mothers and you wouldn’t want to hurt them.
Take 3-4 cuttings from each plant to ensure that at least one roots properly. Successful cloning can be tricky so give yourself the best possible chance. Use a root stimulator and microbes to improve your odds.
2. Keep the mothers in veg and grow the cuttings
At this point, you need to keep your mothers in a vegetative stage in a separate room that never flips to flower.
The cuttings, on the other hand, should continue to grow for the full grow cycle all the way to harvest. Keep a close eye on the cuttings to make sure that they are healthy plants with strong roots
Keeping mother plants in vegetative growth
A cardinal rule for every mother plant is to keep her from flowering. This involves a specific light cycle. How much light does a mother plant need? Typically, mother plants thrive on an 18/6 light cycle – 18 hours of light, followed by 6 hours of darkness. This simulates the long days of summer, preventing the plant from entering the flowering phase.
3. Select the mothers to save
After harvesting the plants, it’s time to dry & cure, trim and finally sample the buds. Take your time, look at each bud, smell them, and study them before breaking them down and smoking them. Keep tasting notes because you likely won’t be able to taste all variations in one sitting (unless you’re Snoop or Willie Nelson).
Note down the yield of each plant so you know which ones are big producers and as an extra step, you may want to introduce your clones to some fungi and/or other contaminants to see which ones are resistant to diseases and fungus. A good liquid Silica for plants can help give the plants stronger resistance to pests and decease.
After these steps (and this can easily take 6 months), you should have one or a couple of phenos that you love. Keep those mothers in veg and take cuts from them as needed.
Maintaining healthy mother plants
Now that you have your perfect plant, you need to take good care of it so it provides you with generation after generation of plants. Mother plant care is fairly straightforward, but there are a few things you need to think about.
Nutrients for Growing A Mother Plant
Just as humans need a balanced diet, mother plants need a mix of essential nutrients. The mother plant nutrients are different from those used in the flowering phase. During the vegetative stage, plants require more nitrogen. Supplements such as Amplify can further boost the health and vitality of your mother plant.
Pruning and Training A Mother Plant
Let’s discuss how to trim a mother plant and how to keep a mother plant small. Pruning and training is important or you will end up with a huge plant that takes over the entire grow room. Strategic pruning can help maintain the size of your mother plant so get rid of dead leaves and unnecessary branches and regularly trim the cannabis fan leaves to ensure your mother remains vibrant and healthy.
Taking Cuttings To Grow Clones
After establishing your mother plant, you’ll want to start cutting clones from the mother plant. But wait, “how old should a mother plant be before cloning?” you ask. Typically, after 2-3 months in the vegetative state, a mother plant is mature enough to offer her first cuttings. From a single mother, depending on her size, you can extract anywhere from 20 to 50 clones. It’s worth noting “how often can you take clones from a mother plant?” Ideally, every 3-4 weeks is a safe bet, but make sure she has recovered from the last pruning session.
Don’t take too many plant cuttings in a short period of time or you may damage the mother.
Keeping Mother Plants Healthy and Safe
A crucial aspect of nurturing a mother plant is ensuring her safety. This means keeping her free from pests and diseases. Regular checks, clean environment, and apt nutrients can keep potential threats at bay. Remember, a healthy mother means healthy clones!
Cannabis Grow Series
This article is part of the cannabis grow series where we want to teach you how to grow cannabis step-by-step in a simple and effective way. Explore the full series here!