Can You Clone Autoflowers?

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Added 13 May 2023

Autoflowering cannabis plants have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their unique characteristics and ease of cultivation. These plants have a predetermined lifespan and will begin to flower after a certain period of time, regardless of the light cycle they receive. 

When growing cannabis plants, one surefire way to multiply the plants is to clone them. Photoperiod strains can be cloned easily; however, there has been a common misconception among growers that autoflowering plants cannot be cloned. 

Contrary to popular belief, it is entirely possible to clone autoflowering cannabis plants. Cloning is a process of replicating a plant by taking a cutting from a healthy and mature plant and rooting it into a new plant. While cloning is relatively straightforward for photoperiodic cannabis plants, it can be more challenging for autoflowering plants, primarily due to their predetermined lifecycle.

In short, you can clone autoflowers, but is it worth the effort and time? That’s another matter altogether. Read on to know if you should try cloning autoflowers. 

If you don’t know much about cloning, it will serve you well to read the entire article, but if you’re a pro already, skip to “Can you clone autoflowers.” 

What is Cloning?

What is cloning?

Almost everyone who has grown a few cannabis plants knows about cloning. It’s one of the best ways to get a plant similar to its mother. 

Cloning cannabis involves taking a cutting from a healthy, mature plant and using it to grow a genetically identical copy of that plant. This process is often used by growers to create plants that have desirable traits, such as high THC content, strong resistance to pests or diseases, or a particular aroma or flavor.

Here are the steps involved in cloning cannabis:

  1. Choose a healthy mother plant at least 6 weeks old. She should be free from pests and diseases to ensure that the clone will have desirable traits and a strong genetic foundation for growth.
  2. Take cuttings during the vegetative stage when the plant is actively growing. During the vegetative stage, the plant is focused on developing foliage and root mass, making it the ideal time for cloning.
  3. Select a branch that is at least 4-6 inches long and has at least 2-3 nodes to clone. Although a small branch with no leaves can also be cloned, a few leaves at the tip ensures the cutting will have enough material to grow and develop healthy roots.
  4. Cut the branch at a 45-degree angle about 1/4 inch below a node using a clean, sharp cutting tool. This angle increases the surface area for rooting, and a clean, sharp tool reduces the risk of damage or infection to the cutting. Also, sanitize the tool before using it to reduce the risk of infection. 
  5. Remove the lower leaves on the cutting, leaving only the top 2-3 sets of leaves. Some growers cut parts of the top leaves as well, but it’s not necessary. Cutting off leaves helps the cutting conserve energy and focus on developing roots instead of maintaining unnecessary foliage.
  6. Dip the cut end of the cutting into a high-quality rooting hormone powder or gel. Rooting hormone contains natural or synthetic compounds that stimulate root growth in cuttings. In addition, it speeds up the process of rooting the clone. 
  7. Plant the cutting in well-draining soil or rooting medium, keeping it moist but not waterlogged. The cutting must be moist at all times, so you can make a DIY dome by placing the cuttings in a transparent plastic box and covering them with a lid. The humid environment will encourage the cuttings to root faster. However, remove the lid every now and then to let some fresh air inside the box. You can also get a cloning kit if you prefer. If you have a single cutting, you can cover it with the top of a soda bottle to create a dome. Well-draining soil or rooting medium ensures that the cutting doesn't get waterlogged, which can prevent root development.
  8. Place the pot in a warm, bright area and maintain optimal growing conditions with a temperature between 70-80°F (21-27°C) and humidity between 80-90%. Provide bright but indirect light for 18-24 hours a day using fluorescent or LED grow lights to make sure the cutting can develop foliage without getting burned or stressed.
  9. Monitor the cutting regularly to ensure everything is okay. You can check regularly after a week to see if the cutting is developing roots and that the growing conditions are favorable for healthy growth. 
  10. Transplant the clone into a larger pot or directly into the ground once it has rooted. Once the clone starts developing more leaves, water it regularly so it stays hydrated and can develop a strong root system.

All this begs an answer to the question, “Why should you clone cannabis plants?”. If you’re growing plants from seeds, there’s less work involved. You just pop the seeds, and they grow in a while, and the plant pretty much takes care of itself. 

So, why clone cannabis plants anyway? Well, let’s get to the advantages of cloning to seek an answer to this question. 

Advantages of Cloning Cannabis Plants

Advantages of Cloning Cannabis Plants

There’s a reason many growers prefer clones over seeds despite the advantages of growing cannabis plants from seeds. Here are a few reasons why you may want to clone every plant you have as well. 

1. Consistency 

Cloning ensures that each plant will have the same genetic makeup as the mother plant, resulting in consistent traits such as growth patterns, potency, and flavor. This means that the final product meets a high standard of quality and consistency, which can be important for medical and recreational use. For commercial growers, consistency is key, so cloning is a blessing for them. Still, if you’re a home grower, cloning can help you get the same traits of the plant you love, allowing you to enjoy the buds every time you light up a joint. 

2. Efficiency 

Cloning allows growers to skip the seed germination and selection process, which can be time-consuming and unpredictable. This can save significant amounts of time, as well as reduce the risk of producing subpar plants due to genetic variation. Once a healthy mother plant is established, you can produce a virtually unlimited number of clones, eliminating the need to purchase new seeds for each crop.

3. Control 

Cloning allows you to exercise greater control over the genetics of your plants. What’s more, you can fine-tune and customize your grows to meet specific needs or preferences. By using the same genetics in each crop, you can fine-tune the growing conditions to maximize yield, potency, and other desired characteristics. This level of control allows for more precise and consistent results.

4. Cost savings 

Cloning can be more cost-effective than buying new seeds for each grow, eliminating the need for seed purchases. While the initial investment in a mother plant and cloning equipment may be higher than purchasing seeds, the long-term savings can be significant. If you’re very serious about it and want to grow a number of plants regularly, a nice cloning kit will be a fantastic investment; however, don’t worry about getting a kit if you just want a few clones. As mentioned already, a plastic box will work just fine as long as you monitor the clones. 

5. Preservation 

Have you fallen in love with a strain only to find that it’s hard to get? Cloning solves that problem. Not only can you preserve the genetics of a particularly desirable plant and clone it further in the future to get more buds, but you will also save a lot of money as exotic strains can be expensive. 

6. Quality 

Cloned plants are often of higher quality than those grown from seed, as they have already been selected for desirable traits. Clones are produced from healthy, mature plants, which are less prone to disease and other issues that can affect seedlings. Additionally, clones can be trained and shaped to maximize the use of space and light, resulting in larger yields.

In short, if you want to grow a lot of plants in a short period of time, you can clone a healthy mother plant and reduce the waiting period by at least a week or two. Cloning is a valuable technique if you’re looking to produce consistent, high-quality crops efficiently and effectively. 

Disadvantages of Cloning Cannabis Plants

Disadvantages of Cloning Cannabis Plants

However, there are a few disadvantages to cloning cannabis plants. As you’ll see, some people have no choice other than to grow plants from seeds. 

1. Space 

Cloning requires a separate room for vegetative and flowering plants. The clones will need at least 18/6 hours of light since they are still in their vegetative stage. So, if you don’t have a separate space for flowering, the mother plant cannot transition to flowering. In other words, you can’t reduce the light to 12/12 hours as you would when you want your plant to flower. 

The mother plant will have to wait until the clones get big enough to flower. And depending on the genetics and the speed of growth of the clones, it may take another 2-4 weeks. While this may not be a huge problem, you’ll have to prune the mother plant regularly to ensure she doesn’t outgrow your tent. 

2. Reduced genetic diversity

Cloning produces plants with the same genetic makeup as the mother plant, which can lead to reduced genetic diversity in the crop. This can make the plants more vulnerable to disease, pests, and environmental stressors.

3. Less yields

Sometimes, clones can produce less yield compared to plants grown from seeds as they don’t have a strong base. Seeds produce tap roots that later develop into strong roots. Since clones don’t have that advantage, they can sometimes fall behind. 

4. Limited lifespan of the mother plant

The mother plant used for cloning has a limited lifespan, typically producing viable clones for a few years before declining in health and vigor. This means that growers need to constantly establish new mother plants to continue the cloning process, especially if they want it for commercial purposes. 

5. Susceptibility to cloning-related issues 

Clones are more prone to certain issues, such as mold and rot, compared to plants grown from seed. Additionally, if the mother plant has any genetic issues, such as hermaphroditism, these issues will be passed on to the clones.

6. Limited experimentation 

Cloning limits the ability to experiment with new strains or genetics, as it requires an existing mother plant with desirable traits. In contrast, growing from seed allows for more experimentation and variation.

7. Higher upfront cost 

Cloning requires an initial investment in cloning equipment and a mother plant, which can be more expensive than purchasing seeds for each grow. This cost can be offset by the long-term cost savings, but it may be a barrier for some commercial growers.

In summary, while cloning can offer many benefits for cannabis growers, it also has some drawbacks. Growing cannabis from seed allows for greater genetic diversity and experimentation but also involves more risk and uncertainty in terms of plant quality and consistency.

Can you Clone Autoflowers?

Can you Clone Autoflowers?

As you can understand by now, cloning provides a great way for growers who love to preserve the genetics of any plant they like. As the new plant or clone will resemble the mother to a great extent, from the flavor to the potency and the way it grows, you can replicate one plant into as many plants as you like. 

Of course, you will need the space (separate vegetative and flowering space) to do that. Otherwise, you can take 4-5 clones from one plant and put them all into flowering once the clones are ready and call it a day, assuming you have enough space to grow at least 4-6 plants, including the mother. 

Cloning has quite a few benefits, the biggest being that you can save money. It’s like getting 5 plants at the price of one, as you can just take a cutting and create an endless supply of plants. Indeed, cloning is attractive to many growers. 

For those who grow autoflowers, it could be a better alternative. Firstly, autoflower seeds aren’t cheap, and they become more expensive if you’re looking for exotic ones. So, if you can take a cutting and create 5-6 plants from one mother plant, it’d be fantastic. 

So, the question is — Can you clone autoflowers?

Yes, you can. 

But before you run off to get clones from your autoflowers, just consider a few things. Cloning, as you may already know, requires some effort. You need to have a healthy mother plant, choose a healthy stem, get a cutting, root it with rooting gel, and then wait for it to grow. You won’t mind the effort if you can get lots of plants from one plant, but is it worth it for autoflowers?

Sadly, no. 

So, why is it so hard to clone autoflowers? 

The answer to this lies in the difference between how photoperiods and autoflowers grow. The primary difference between photos and autos is their life cycle. 

While photoperiod strains require specific light cycles to enter the flowering stage, autoflowering strains will flower automatically, regardless of the light cycle they receive. Photoperiod strains typically take longer to reach maturity, with flowering times ranging from 8-12 weeks or more, while autoflowering strains can be ready for harvest in as little as 8-10 weeks.

So, that’s the main difference. If you want to understand more about why cloning autoflowers won’t deliver impressive results like photoperiods, you need to know what sets autoflowers apart from photos. We will get into the differences between autos and photos in the next section, but the main difference lies in how autos and photos have evolved. 

Autoflowers originated in the northern parts of the globe. These locations don’t see a lot of sunlight, and the plants adapted to that environment. As a result, autos don’t depend on light to grow and flower. This doesn’t mean they don’t require light at all. Of course, like all plants, they need light for photosynthesis. However, they don’t depend on light like photoperiod plants to transform from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage. 

In contrast, photoperiod strains originated in locations near the equator, where the length of day and night is relatively consistent throughout the year. These strains require a change in the light cycle when you grow them indoors. Indeed, you’re simulating the approach of autumn, which prompts the plants to enter the flowering and seeding stages before the onset of harsh weather conditions. 

Unlike autos, photoperiodic strains rely on changes in light cycles to regulate their growth and development. You can control various aspects of the plant's growth, such as yield and potency, by carefully manipulating the light cycle. However, this process requires more attention and management than growing autoflowering strains, which are simpler to grow.

Understandably, autoflowering strains are very attractive to any grower who doesn’t want to pay too much attention to the light cycles. Or someone that can’t seal the grow room in a way to prevent light leaks. 

When you clone photoperiods, you get a replica of the mother plant. For instance, if you clone a photoperiod plant in its 4th week of the vegetative stage, you’ll get a clone of the same age. Then, you’ll wait for the plant to grow a bit more in the 18/6 cycle. Once you're satisfied, you’ll switch the plant to the flowering stage. All good there. 

The same happens even if you clone autos too. So, if you clone it during the 4th week, you get a small plant in its 4th week. However, autos will not wait for you to switch them to the flowering stage. In fact, many autos start flowering between the 4th and the 5th week. What happens is that you’ll end up with a clone that switches to flowering immediately. Since you have a tiny plant that hasn’t grown enough to produce buds, you’ll have nothing to talk about in terms of yields. 

Of course, you may end up with a bud or two, but you must ask yourself if it’s worth the effort. Thus, the answer is that while you can experiment with autoflowers to clone them, you’ll be disappointed at the end of the day. 

There are many more differences between photoperiods and autoflowers. Read on…

Differences Between Photoperiods and Autoflowers

Differences Between Photoperiods and Autoflowers

1. Light

Photoperiod strains require a specific light cycle, usually 12/12 (12 hours light and 12 hours darkness), to flower. Autoflowering strains do not require a specific light cycle to flower and will do so automatically after a set period of time. And this is exactly why it’s a waste of time to clone autoflowers. 

2. Yield

Photoperiod strains generally yield more than autoflowering strains due to their longer vegetative phase and larger size. Autoflowering strains are typically smaller and have a shorter lifespan, resulting in a smaller yield comparatively. Although many autos give a tough competition to photoperiods, photoperiods typically offer more buds. If you clone autoflowers, though, you’re sure to end up with little to no yield. 

3. Potency 

Photoperiod strains are generally more potent than autoflowering strains due to their longer lifespan and larger size, which allows for more resin production. Autoflowering strains are typically less potent but still offer a range of effects and flavors. Cloning autoflowers will drastically reduce the potency as the plant will not have enough time or size to produce lots of resin.

4. Growing difficulty 

Photoperiod strains can be more difficult to grow as they require specific light cycles and can be more sensitive to environmental changes. Plus, a small light leak can make everything go awry pretty quickly. Last, but not least, photos are not a good choice if you can dedicate only a small space for your grow. 

On the other hand, autoflowering strains are typically easier to grow, as they are more resilient and do not require as much attention to light cycles. And, light leak? No problem. Autos don’t mind. What about a small space? Perfect. Autos will fit pretty much anywhere, although a closet grow will not yield as much as you’d expect from a slightly bigger area.

5. Versatility 

Photoperiod strains offer greater versatility in terms of cloning and breeding, as their genetic traits can be more easily manipulated through selective breeding. Autoflowering strains offer less versatility, as their genetic traits are more fixed and less amenable to manipulation.

Now, you know the differences between autos and photos. Yes, you clone autoflowers but don’t expect great results as photoperiods deliver. In fact, it’s best not to clone autos because you’ll lose the yield from the mother plant too. 

Imagine you have an autoflowering plant growing beautifully in its 3rd week. You decide to clone it and cut a branch. You’ll root the cutting, transplant it, and wait for it to grow buds. However, since the plant is already in its flowering stage (remember, the clock is ticking with autos) it won’t grow too much or produce any buds worth your while. 

Meanwhile, the mother plant goes through a small period of shock because you’ve cut a branch. Not only will it stunt the growth, but the yields will also reduce significantly. Thus, as you can see, cloning autoflowers is a total waste of time. 

Summary: Can You Clone Autoflowers?

The major difference between autos and photos lies in how they evolved. While photoperiod strains rely on light to transform from the vegetative stage into the flowering stage, autoflowers do not have to do the same because they originated from the northern regions of the world with less sunlight.

If you want to clone cannabis plants, photoperiods are a great choice, as you can take a lot of cuttings and create an endless supply of cannabis plants as long as you have enough space for both the vegetative and flowering stages.

However, the same is not true for autoflowers. Although it’s possible to clone them, the rooted cutting or clone will be of the exact same age as the mother, and since most autos start flowering by the fourth or fifth week, you land up with a very small plant with negligible yields.

In addition, you'll also lose yields from the mother plant as you may have taken a cutting or to produce new plants. Some growers may have successfully cloned autoflowers, but you also need to consider if the end result was worth it.


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well explained!
@Mrs_Larimar, thank you!