When you’re growing plants and you find one particular plant that’s really good and healthy, you can grow a genetically identical plant through a process called cloning. In cloning, you take a cutting from a mother plant, let it grow roots, and plant it as a new individual plant.
This way, you can use a single healthy plant to generate as many plants as you want – you can just keep on cloning it and you don’t have to grow from seed anymore.
Cloning is also a superb way to get the most out of your grocery store herb/plant purchases, too!
How cloning works
Cloning is an important commercial means of propagating plants. It allows you as the grower to keep desirable characteristics in your plants. For example, if you have 5 mint plants and you notice that one of those plants produces consistently more fragrant and larger leaves than the other 4, you would be inclined to clone it to ensure your future plants also have larger leaves and a stronger fragrance.
Plants have a built in survival mechanism where a part of a plant can regrow roots to become a new plant. Often, this process takes a very long time but you can use plant hormones to speed the process up.
That’s not to say that roots cannot grow without hormones, though. Before plant hormones were commercially available, humans have been cloning plants naturally for thousands of years!
If you were to plant from seed, you’d be growing a new plant altogether – from a cutting, you’ve already got a healthy plant which is just “regrowing” itself.
How to take cuttings for a clone
To take cuttings for a clone, you need to find a stem which contains a number of leaves.
Some plants are generally difficult to clone, especially if all the leaves grow out of a single node. Plants with multiple stems and multiple leaf nodes will be easier to take cuttings from.
Choose a stem with multiple leaf nodes, and make a diagonal cut to separate it from the rest of the plant. Trim off the bottom leaves(very important), only leaving 2-4 leaves at the top.
Try to cut right below a leaf node(you’ll trim the closest leaves off).
For greater chances of success, be sure to take 3-4 cuttings as not all of them will necessarily root.
How to make clones root
Once you’ve got your cuttings, you can either drop their stems in glass of water, place it near a sunny window, and wait until you start seeing roots(a few weeks, usually), or you can use some rooting hormone, some grow media, and speed things up.
Since Unconventional Gardener is all about hydroponics, I’ll be talking about how to prepare your cuttings for hydroponic growing, but you can use this principal for soil growing too.
The best grow media for hydroponics is rockwool or coco coir bundles. Where I am, coir bundles are more easily available, so that’s what I used. You can use rockwool too.
Soak the rockwool with water until it is nice and moist. If you’re using coir bundles, place them in some shallow water and let them absorb the water and expand.
Use a bamboo skewer to poke a hole in the center of your grow media. This is where you’ll be inserting your cutting.
Dip the bottom part of the cutting into some rooting hormone(usually available as a gel or powder, either will work fine), and place it into the hole you made.
If you’re using a coir bundle, squeeze the bundle a little to pack the material around the cutting so it stays up nice and straight.
Rockwool can’t be squeezed per se – it would just return to it’s shape, so you can just leave it be.
To encourage rooting, place the cuttings in a humid area – use a humidity dome(a simple transparent plastic cover with holes in it to allow air circulation), or place it in a humid area of your home.
Since you’ve already got leaves on your plant, you need to make sure they get light!
Cuttings won’t fare well in direct sunlight, so give them shaded, indirect sunlight or use some grow lights set on a timer.
Cuttings can take anywhere between a week to two weeks to root, so you’ll have to be patient and prevent the rockwool or coir bundles from drying out during this time.
In a few days, you should see little roots poking out of the rockwool or coir bundles. At this point, they’re ready for transplanting!
What do after rooting
Once your plants have rooted, you can place them in your hydroponic system of choice.
The mint plants that I am cloning(I bought some mint, decided to clone instead of picking up seeds) will be going into Kratky containers. I’ve bought some 5 liter containers which should be sufficient for growing a single plant in them.
You can really use any method you like – deep water culture, Kratky, ebb and flow, whatever you are comfortable with and seeing results with.
Don’t place the plants into direct sunlight immediately – place them outside but in a shaded area, and them move them to an area getting full sunlight in a day or two to avoid transplant shock.
If you’re planting in soil, you’ll have to transfer pretty much to your final location – in which case don’t worry about it, hopefully the plant will survive!
Once your cloned plant starts growing and getting bigger, you can take new cuttings from the clone to propagate it even further!