Cloning plants and crops is a simple method of growing a copy of nearly any plant in a garden. The word cloning sounds complicated, but the process is an easy way to grow more healthy plants. This guide will walk you through what plant cloning is, what tools you’ll need to start plant cloning, where you can get those tools and important facts about plant cloning.
Can Plants Be Cloned?
The short answer is yes! You can clone plants. Those who are involved in the horticulture business often use plant cloning when they are mass producing seedlings and when they want to reproduce plants in a more exact way than planting new seedlings. So how are plants cloned? While plant cloning might sound complicated, it’s a process you can add to your own home growing operation as long as you understand its step-by-step nature and what tools you will need to get started cloning.
What Is Plant Cloning?
If you want to grow a carbon copy of a plant that is already in your garden, cloning is the most reliable method to use. Why might you want to grow a carbon copy of a plant you already have? Typically, you would grow a replica of a healthy plant you already have to avoid losing any of the initial plant’s strong DNA.
Let’s say you found what you consider to be the perfect thyme plant in your garden and decide to sell it to local businesses, or maybe you just want to expand your garden for cooking purposes. You couldn’t be sure if the other thyme plants you grow will come out as exemplary as the first one unless you succeed in cloning the original plant.
On a broader scope, the process of plant cloning from a stem entails cutting off a portion of a healthy plant from the tip of the stem or the middle of the stem at an angle. Then, you would dip the cut on your clone into a rooting hormone. You would then grow the cutting of the plant in its own space.
Benefits of Plant Cloning
The advantages of cloning plants include:
- Save on plant production: Some growers use plant cloning to cut down the costs of plant production. Why buy new seeds when you can take the clipping of one plant and grow new plants quicker?
- Gain consistent growing: If you grow your clone in the same environment as your mother plant, you can expect it to grow similarly to your mother plant.
- Develop pest resistance: Worrying about pests is common among growers, but with cloning, you’re able to reproduce mother plants that show resistance to pests.
- Grow fully matured plants faster: Cloned plants typically reach adulthood faster than seeds because they don’t need to germinate.
- Enjoy consistent plant growth: Cloned plants are genetically the same as their mother plants, so if you plan on using your cloned plants to produce more cloned plants, you can count on a consistent cycle of plant growth.
- Revive diseased plants: You can use plant cloning to revitalize diseased plants, such as fruit trees.
What Plants Are Best for Cloning?
While it is possible in theory to clone any plant, cloning plants with thick stocks and multiple branches is thought to be easier, and it is thought to produce more successful results.
Examples of plants with thick stocks and multiple branches include basil, chard, sage and mint.
Plant Cloning With a Cutting
When it comes to cloning, you can do so from a stem or clone a new plant from a leaf. This process can involve different methods depending on what kind of plant the leaf is from.
Cloning From a Leaf Cutting
Some ways you can clone plants from a leaf cutting include:
- Sessile leaves: If you have a plant with sessile leaves, you will vertically insert a whole leaf without its petiole — part of the stalk that connects the leaf to the stem — into your growing medium.
- Split vein: Cut your leaf along its underside veins, and then place it with the cuts down on whatever growing medium you’ve chosen.
- With petiole: Take a leaf from your mother plant, but leave about an inch of its petiole so you can place the bottom portion of it into your growing medium.
- Snake plants: Cut the leaf from your mother plant into two-inch sections. Make the top cuts straight across and the lower cuts slanted. Vertically place the cutting into your growing medium.
Cloning From a Stem
Methods you can use to clone from a stem include:
- Opposite leaves: Find a node and cut 12 inches above it and below it on the stem. Vertically insert your cutting so your node is touching the top of your growing medium.
- Woody stem: Cut around the leaf and the axial bud in a shield shape, and then horizontally place the cutting into your chosen medium.
- Alternate leaves: Find a node and cut 1/2 inch above and below it on the stem. You can insert your cutting either vertically or horizontally.
- Tip cutting: Find the terminal bud and cut it off along with 2-6 inches of the stem. Then, find a node and cut right below it. Place your cutting into the medium while making sure one node is under the surface.
- Medial cutting: Find a node and cut directly above it, and then cut 2-6 inches down the stem above a different mode. From there, follow the same procedure for this cutting as you would a tip cutting.
What Resources Do You Need to Clone Plants?
The right tools and resources can help you begin cloning your plants in no time. Gather these supplies before you start to clone your plants:
The first thing you need when plant cloning is a mature mother plant, which is the mature plant you ultimately want to clone, or make copies of. Make sure the mother plant is healthy in the weeks before you begin cloning.
To take a cutting from the mother plant, you will either need clean scissors or a knife that is also free of bacteria.
You may choose to use a rooting hormone to speed up the process of the plant’s rooting. Rooting is very important to the cloning process because it is how your plant will become grounded in place. There are synthetic options for root hormones, such as gel, liquid and powder options. Clonex Rooting Gel is an example of a gel option. If you prefer your growing operation to be more natural, you can always use honey or willow extract.
Plants do have the ability to create rooting hormones themselves, so you always have the option of avoiding rooting hormones altogether. Here are examples of rooting hormone products for each product type if you want to go that route:
Rockwool Cubes, Soil, Water or Cloning Machine
There are four main methods of growing your plant clone from a stem cutting, each of which will require certain resources or supplies:
- Rockwool cubes: After you apply rooting hormone to your cutting, you can stick its stem into a Rockwool cube that has been bathed in neutral water throughout the night. Then, make sure your cutting stays moist by misting it every day.
- Soil: Thoroughly wet your soil before planting your cutting.
- Water: For this method, you will fill a cup with room temperature water that has a pH level between 5.5 and 6. Then, you will place cling wrap or some equivalent over the top of the cup.
- Cloning machine: If you choose to use a cloning machine, you will be able to clone more than one plant at once while the machine makes sure your plants have enough water and air. Once you select and purchase a cloning machine, all that is left to do is follow the instructions that come with it.
Although hydroponic systems are not necessary for plant cloning, they can be very beneficial. If you are growing a large batch of clones, hydroponic systems use 10x less water by catching and re-using old water. If you’re environmentally conscious, then using a hydroponic system may ease your mind while growing. Also, using less water will be beneficial to your wallet in the long run.
If you’re looking to grow your clones indoors, a hydroponic system can help you do so all year round. Some hydroponic systems even offer designs that help you save space, depending on how it’s stacked or spaced.
Consider your options with these different types of hydroponic systems:
- Wick: These systems use a wick to siphon water from a reservoir up to the root of your plant, which you will plant in your choice of medium.
- Air-gap: These systems submerge half of your plant’s roots in water while exposing the other half to the air.
- Raft: Raft systems typically have a floating surface you insert your plants in. Under the surface will be water supplied with oxygen via a pump.
- Top feeder: Choose a medium for your plant to grow in. A reservoir will supply the top of the medium with water, which will move down into the root system and drain back into the reservoir.
- Ebb and flow: These systems are similar to top feeder systems, except their reservoirs pump water up into the root zone of your plants before it drains back down into the reservoir.
How Much Does It Cost to Clone a Plant?
The cost of cloning a plant from a stem cutting depends on what growing medium you choose to use, if you’re planning on using rooting hormones and what environment you can provide to your clone. In other words, cloning a plant can be as low-cost or as expensive as your growing operation and your budget require.
Different types of growing mediums you can use are:
1. Rockwool Cubes
If you’re planning on using this method for planting your clone, at the very minimum, you’ll need Rockwool cubes. Single Rockwool cubes tend to cost less than a dollar, but a more cost-effective method may be purchasing a Rockwool multipack. Your purchase will depend on how large of a clone you’re planting and how many clones you’re ultimately planning on planting.
The soil method requires soil and a planter at the very least. If you’re planning on planting one clone, we have cost-effective soil options for smaller-scale operations. Plan to clone and grow a lot more plants? HTG Supply offers buying in bulk options to help maximize your budget.
At HTG Supply, we also offer pots, containers, trays, grow bags and grow bags to complement your soil-growing needs. Small pots are cost-effective and great for small operations, while larger growing bags can still help maintain your budget.
For the water method, you’ll need a sterile cup, a pH tester and cling wrap. A sterile cup and cling wrap are common household items you can get at any grocery store. You’ll then need tools to test your water. HTG Supply’s range of pH testers includes cost-effective test strips. Or, if you prefer a reusable option that can save you money in the long run, especially if you’ll be cloning often, choose our high-end pH meter.
4. Cloning Machine
The GrowBright 8 Site Cloner Bucket at HTG Supply has eight neoprene clone collars, a 250 GHP water pump and a mister that will spray your clones with its 360-degree rotation. This product is a cost-effective solution, and you can be sure it will keep your clone’s root growth on track.
If you have more room in your budget, choose a cloning system like the EZ-Clone White Low Pro 128 Site. This set comes with a heavy-duty reservoir and lid, a 1,125-gallons-per-hour (gph) pump, EZ-Clone collars and more features that create a high-quality aeroponic cloning system.
5. Coco Coir
This growing medium is similar to traditional soil, but it’s made of the hairs and husk of a coconut. Coco coir is lightweight and retains moisture well. At HTG Supply, we offer single packet options, which are great for smaller growing operations on a budget. If you need a bigger order, we offer bulk options, including 40, 48 and 70 pallets.
Peat is often sold in pellet form. These disc-like pellets have a neutral pH and expand when you add water to them. If you’re up for trying this growing medium, we have the Jumpstart Peat Pellet pack, which won’t make too much of a dent in your growing budget.
7. Perlite and Vermiculite
Perlite, a form of obsidian, and vermiculite, a mineral, are typically used together with another form of soil to aerate the soil. At HTG Supply, we have 8-quart bags of perlite, great for small operations on a budget. Bulk options are also available to help maximize your budget.
We also have 8-quart bags of vermiculite, which come at a slightly lower cost than perlite. You’ll also find bulk options to get what you need for your growing plans.
At HTG Supply, we have gel, liquid and powder options for rooting hormones. We have several options to suit a range of budgets and growing needs.
There are many different resources you can use to support the growth of your clone:
- Hydroponic systems: We offer DIY hydroponics, hydroponic containers, hydroponic systems and water quality testers.
- Odor control products: HTG Supply can help you stay stocked up on carbon filters, ozone generators, aromatic odor control and odor-proof storage.
- Pest control products: We can help you find fungicides, insecticides, organic pest control and products to control spider mites.
- Plant care tools: We also have other growing accessories, such as books, harvesting tools, reflective films, lighting tools and plant care and maintenance tools.
How much light you provide to your clones depends on what stage they are at in their development. For the first two days, your clones will not need any light. Then, they will need around 18 hours of exposure to light per day.
If you don’t have somewhere to put your clones where they can get enough light, consider buying a grow light. Keep in mind, new clones don’t need a very powerful supply of light, so using fluorescent T5 Tubes or CFL bulbs with your grow lights will work fine.
At HTG Supply, we have a selection of grow lights and bulbs to help you find something that fits your budget. We also have options that sport the latest LED grow light technology, such as the HTG 4.0 270w LED Grow Light.
A humidity dome works to trap moisture and humidity for your clone. You would typically use a humidity dome if you can’t provide a good environment for your clone to grow in or if you don’t want to worry about misting it every day.
What Is the Process for Cloning Plants?
With all your supplies in mind, how do you get a clone to root? You can approach cloning with a stem cutting step-by-step. If you follow this approach, you’ll be less likely to be caught off guard by any issues that may come up along the way of your plant cloning journey.
The process of plant cloning from a stem cutting entails cutting off a portion of a healthy plant from the tip of the stem or from the middle of the stem at an angle. Follow these detailed steps to understand the plant cutting and cloning process better:
Choose a Mother Plant
Rather than using a clone as your mother plant, use a plant that you’ve grown from a seedling. That way, you’ll know exactly what conditions your clones will eventually thrive under. To grow your plant, purchase a batch of seeds that will grow successfully in the temperature and environment you will be providing them with. One of these seeds will eventually become your mother plant.
Provide your seeds with the proper amount of light, oxygen, water, fertilizer and supplement, and then wait for them to mature.
While your plants mature, record how they react to different environmental stimuli. From there, you can then follow these steps for choosing a mother plant:
- Look for a good candidate: Choose a mother plant with no active signs of disease and a thick stem. It should also show signs of reacting well to changes in the environment, such as temperature.
- Keep your mother plant in its vegetative stage: This stage comes before the flowering stage, and it is when your plant will do most of its developing. To keep your plant in the vegetative stage, keep the amount of light it gets the same after it begins its vegetative state. Your mother plant will require a lot of nitrogen during this stage, but make sure you taper off the nitrogen about a week before you plan on cutting your clone.
- Prune the branches: While it may seem wasteful to prune the branches on your mother plant, pruning stimulates the growth of more branches over time. Plus, your mother plant will grow tall in its vegetative state, so pruning at the top is especially important.
- Treat it for pests: If you’re looking to keep your mother plant around for a while, consider treating it with pest control. Whether this pest control is synthetic or organic is up to you. Remember, different plants are more susceptible to different pests.
Cut the Mother Plant
Cut your mother plant by following these six steps:
- Get your clean scissors, knife or scalpel and cut off a 4-8 inch portion of the mother plant
- Cut one of the mother plant’s branches at a 45-degree angle. Although a 45-degree angle is standard for cutting, some growers choose to make the cut straight across.
- Cut close to where the branch and the main stem of the mother plant meet.
- Cut a branch that is lower to the ground. These branches contain more rooting hormones.
- Cut off any leaves or branches that might be growing from the side of your cutting. This will allow your cutting to channel all of its energy into rooting. Leave any top leaves that your cutting may have or cut off about 50% of each leaf.
- Immediately place your cutting into a glass of water to prevent it from coming in contact with too much oxygen.
Dip the Cutting in the Rooting Hormone
It’s important to decide if you will ultimately use a rooting hormone. If you do decide to use a rooting hormone, it’s crucial to dip your cutting in the hormone for 15-30 seconds exactly where you cut it from the mother plant.
You can also spray rooting hormones on a mother plant’s foliage 12-24 hours before making your cutting. By the time you make your cutting, the hormone will have traveled down the stem of the plant.
It is possible to put your clone straight into the soil after cutting as long as the soil is moist.
Here are some products that can help root your plant:
- Powder: An example of a rooting powder is Hormex Rooting Powder #8, which is available at HTG Supply.
- Gel: Cyco Cyclone Rooting Gel is an example of one of the rooting gels we can provide you with. Gels typically work best when you are planting with soil.
- Liquid: At HTG Supply, we have liquid rooting hormone, such as the product Dyna-Gro K-L-N Rooting Concentrate. If you’re planning on using a hydroponic system for your growing operation, consider using a liquid rooting hormone.
- Natural: Honey is sometimes used as a natural rooting hormone.
Plant the Cutting
Planting comes with the following tips and steps, depending on which medium you’ll use:
- Rockwool cubes: After you’ve bathed the Rockwool in water overnight, insert your cutting into it, leaving enough space for the roots to grow. The roots should start to show after a week.
- Soil: After you plant your clone into some moist soil, you should see some roots forming within one to three weeks.
- Water: Fill a cup up with 3/4 cup of water 15-20 minutes before you place your cutting in it. Make sure the pH level is between 5.5 and 6.0 before your place the cutting in the water. Place cling wrap over the cup and poke a hole in the cling wrap that is smaller than the stem. Slide the stem through that hole until it is at least 5 centimeters underwater.
- Cloning machine: Slide your cutting 1-2 inches into a slot of the cloning machine. Pour water into the machine as indicated by the instructions, and the machine will mist your cutting for you.
Take Some Aftercare Steps
Follow up with your plants with some of these aftercare techniques:
- Provide your clone with at least 18 hours of sunlight per day.
- Mist your clone every day if you are growing it in soil or a Rockwool cube.
- If you’re growing your clone in a cloning machine, make sure the machine is running properly and does not overheat.
- If you’re growing your clone in water, make sure to replace the water if it somehow drains away or becomes contaminated.
Transplant Your Clone
When your clone’s root system becomes obvious, it’s time to begin transplantation. Use these tips when replanting your clone:
- There are options for maximizing your roots’ potential, such as Clonex Solution. Sprinkle this on the roots of your clone before your transplant.
- Find the right size container for your clone and re-home it there gently.
- Make sure your clone’s new home has enough room for its entire root system.
Facts About Plant Cloning
Plant cloning is simple once you have all of its tricks down. Here are some facts that will help your home growing operation become successful:
- Your clone plant will have the exact same genetic profile as your mother plant, so in theory, it should not be less potent than its mother.
- Don’t be concerned about your mother plant after you cut it. If done properly, the cutting should do it no harm, and its branches will grow back.
Plant cloning is a form of asexual propagation. Growers have been using asexual propagation for a long time. You may even eat some plants that growers have reproduced through this process. For example, the Bartlett pear and the Delicious apple have been grown using asexual propagation for decades.
Asexual propagation comes in many forms, and some processes are better for certain circumstances:
- Grafting: Grafting is a process you can use when your mother plant doesn’t have a strong root system.
- Cleft grafting: You would use cleft grafting if you plan on cloning a shoot or young tree during early spring.
- Bark grafting: If you want to clone a larger limb, bark grafting is your best bet.
- Whip grafting: If you want a strong graft for material that is 1/4-1/2 inch in diameter, follow the process for tongue or whip grafting.
- Chip budding: You can use the process of chip budding when your bark does not show signs of slipping.
- T-budding: T-budding is a process you would use if your bark does show signs of slipping. This is the most common type of budding.
- Patch budding: When you are working with thick bark, you can use the process of patch budding.
- Division: If you have a plant with more than one rooted crown, you would use division to propagate this plant.
- Layering: Layering is a form of asexual propagation that has a high success rate. You would use this method if you want to use a rooted stem to propagate.
- Air layering: You can use air layering to revitalize and propagate indoor plants with thick stems.
- Compound layering: If you want to propagate a plant with a flexible stem, you can use the process of compound layering.
- Tip layering: Tip layering is a form of propagation you can use as long as you have access to shoot tips from a mature plant.
- Stool layering: If you plan to propagate a currently dormant plant in the late spring or early fall, you can use the process of stool layering.
Rooting hormones are helpful for the cloning process. Check out some of these tips and facts about using rooting hormones:
- If you’re using a powder form of rooting hormone, wet the cut on your clone before dipping it in the hormone.
- The root hormone that plants naturally produce is referred to as an auxin by scientists.
- Some growers choose to use rooting hormones during plant cloning because when you cut your soon-to-be clone from the mother plant, you are exposing its auxins to the light, which causes them to break down.
- Look for rooting hormones that have indole butyric acid or naphthalene because these are both examples of auxins.
Here are some facts and tips about the growing process of cloned plants:
- Know how it roots: Wondering where the new roots for your clone will grow from? They will grow from the area you will cut and treat with rooting hormones.
- Be patient: It will take about one to three weeks for roots to start forming on your clone plant. If they have not formed within three weeks, they will likely never form.
- Keep trying: Not all of your clones are going to survive, so plan accordingly, and keep trying.
- Maintain the right temperature: For the best result, grow your clone in a room that is 70-75 degrees.
- Monitor your plant’s progress: If you don’t want to disturb your clone while its roots are forming, use a transparent pot to check in on its growth.
Here are a couple of tips about transplanting:
- Work with dry soil: Before you transplant your clone, let its soil dry so it is only slightly moist first to make transplanting easier.
- Use a similar container size: When transplanting your clone, don’t put it in a container that is much larger than its original. It will have a hard time adapting while it’s trying to grow.
Find the Right Equipment for Plant Cloning at HTG Supply
If you’re feeling intimidated by embarking on your own plant cloning adventure, visit our website or visit one of our locations so we can help you get started. At HTG Supply, we have all of the tools and resources you will need for plant cloning, such as grow lights, cloning machines, tools to house water and monitor its quality, root boosters and other nutrients, pots and other containers, soil and more. We also offer 100% organic products.
We offer a wide range of options for all of the products we provide so that you can customize your home growing operation with ease. Check out the options we have for our most popular products, such as our soils, nutrients, LED grow lights and grow tents.