The Growing Series: Starting From Seed Vs. Clone
Perhaps you’ve decided to take the plunge and start growing your own cannabis. But starting your own four-plant farm isn’t as easy as throwing a couple of seeds into a pot and hoping for the best: seeds need to germinate, which can be a hit-or-miss proposition.
Some experienced growers prefer to skip the seed stage altogether and build their crop by using a technique called cloning: cutting a sample from an already growing plant, then replanting it to develop into a plant on its own. Cloning lets you get a head start on your plant’s life cycle, and also allows a strain you already know and love to live on indefinitely. But cloning can come with some unique challenges newbie growers may not be able to easily navigate.
What’s better for an amateur grower? Starting afresh with a seed or circumventing the germination process by cultivating a clone? Each method has its pros and cons:
Growing from seed
Most first-time growers will start with seeds for a host of reasons, the primary one being that seeds are less expensive and so much easier to procure in Canada. Although recreational growers are fairly limited in the seed varieties that are legally available in Canada, they are fairly easy to order or pick up in a shop.
These seeds are feminized, meaning they will produce flowering plants. If you’re procuring seeds from another source, they may not necessarily be feminized. This means you’ll end up without any flowers, wasting both your time and your money. (Techinally, male plants also produce flowers but they are white or yellow petal flowers — not the smoking kind.)
While germination isn’t that difficult to do (the biggest downside is the time it adds to the process), Mother Nature doesn’t come with any guarantees and some seeds will inevitably fail to germinate. Given that seeds cost about $15 a pop, dud seeds can also result in some wasted money.
There can also be differences from seed to seed. In a bag of 10 seeds, you won’t be getting 10 completely equal plants — there are always different genotypes, so it’s a must for commercial growers to select the best cultivars.
For the hobbyist, it’s possible to use feminized seeds that are suitable for a single crop — that way they can try something different each time.
Seed quality can also be determined by colour: dark seeds with lots of banding are usually the healthiest.
Germinating your seeds
There are different ways to germinate the seeds. Either simply with a mason jar with some water in it, placed in a dark spot.
You’ll need to check on your seeds every day so you can place them in a cloning plug or substrate as soon as they start to sprout.
You can also use a humid paper towel between two plates in a dark spot or directly into a clone plug or the substrate of your choice.
Once those little seedlings start to sprout, it’s quite satisfying to watch them grow.
One note: sprouted seeds can be very delicate. Be careful moving them into a soil or substrate, or consider starting them in soil with a heating mat.
Once they get going, plants started from seed should turn into fairly robust plants. Since you’re starting from scratch, plants that start from seed have heartier root systems that allow them to than cloned plants and also won’t carry any disease or other problems that cloned plants may have picked up from their parent. Seeded plants will also likely give you a heftier yield, which is always a plus.
Growing from clone
Getting your hands on a clone can be difficult if you’re a first-time grower (unless you have medical authorization) — but it’s definitely an option if you already have plants on the go. There are a couple major advantages to growing from clones. First, if you’re already growing a strain you love, cloning takes the guesswork out of replicating the properties of that strain, since your clone will be a perfect genetic replica of the source plant.
The clone is usually the result of many selection tests, which provide more uniformity and regularity. It's more predictable.
Cloning’s other big selling point is that it’s a huge time saver. When your process starts with a good chunk of living plant matter, the journey from planting to flowering can be cut down by several weeks — waiting many months between germination and flowering can be frustrating, especially for new growers. Basically, you dip the cut stem in a rooting hormone, plant it, and you’ve got yourself a vegetative plant.
Cloning from existing plants is a bit of a complex process — it’s best to clone a plant before it starts to flower or to use a “mother” plant that is kept in a vegetative cycle. Cutting a plant that is already fully flowering means taking it back to the vegetative stage, which is incredibly stressful to the plant. Getting the timing right will require a little bit of organization. Because every household in Canada is only legally allowed to have four plants growing at any time, you can’t start a clone if you’re already at the maximum with your full plants.
Making clones is a bit of a process, but ultimately not as complicated as it sounds. All you need is a humi-dome, a tray, some cloning plugs, a sharp and sterile blade, cloning gel, a CFL or LED light and a mother plant.
Again, cloning tends to have a lower yield than plants grown from seed, since the root system is generally weaker. It’s also important to keep your eye out for any disease on your source plant — not only will the clone carry good aspects of the mother plant, it will also carry any problems.
Clones require a humid environment since they transpire a lot when they are freshly cut until they make their roots. It’s important to maintain a constant temperature to keep your clones healthy and thriving.
There’s not necessarily a more ideal method of growing and both cloning and growing from seed have their high points. Ultimately, the best method will be the one that’s easier for you to access, and the one you’re most comfortable with as a grower.
The Growing Series
Over the course of the next 18 months, Lift & Co. and Rambridge will be taking home growers — aspiring and experienced — through the cannabis growing process. Common issues, misconceptions, and myths will be addressed, and tips, tricks, and advice from industry professionals (including Rambridge growing expert Jordi Fontaine) will help guide growers assess their unique situations, experiment, and master their skills.
Have any questions? Ask Jordi, and learn from the master... grower!
Send your questions directly to jordi[at]rambridge.com.
Follow along with the series:
o So, You Want To Grow Cannabis
o Propagation: Starting From Seed Vs. Cloning
o Outdoor Growing: Benefits & Risks
o Indoor Growing: Benefits, Risks, and Configurations
o Choosing a growing medium
o Choosing a growing container
o Indoor Lighting: Traditional HPS/MH vs. CMH & LED
o Choosing fertilizers 7 nutrients
o Plant Minerals
o Understanding PH, EC, TDS & PPM
o Feeding and Watering Plants
o Stages of Plant Growth: Cloning/Seedlings, Vegetative, and Flowering Stages
o Air flow, air temperature, and CO2
o Odor Control, Ventilation, and Humidity
o Sexing Methods, Growing Cycle Timing
o Controlling Plant Growth and Height
o When to Clone
o When to harvest?
o Trimming: Wet vs. Dry and Curing
Growing cannabis doesn’t have to be intimidating. Let our experts guide you, challenge you, and open up the fun and exciting world of cannabis growing!