9 Basic Steps of Plant Cloning

Clones are genetically identical individuals. The cloning of plants has many important commercial implications. It allows a variety of a plant with desirable characteristics to be produced cheaply, quickly and on a large scale.

There are several reasons why a gardener should propagate plants.

  • Cloning is a quick, easy and cost-saving method of making new plants. 
  • Cloning is an efficient way to keep the best genes as the new plants while inheriting the same qualities and characteristics of the mother plants. 
  •  When growing a plant; making a clone instead of the germination is another widely used method of producing a new plant. 

When the cuttings of the plants are inherently mature, they can also flower faster after rooting.  Cloning does not really affect the mother plant’s health. You can clone as many cuttings as you want as long as the original plants still have potency to grow. 

A clone, also known as a clipping or baby, is simply a branch cut from a plant. These branches are cut, dipped in a rooting solution and placed into a simple growing medium.

The step by step process of Plant Cloning,

1. Requirements

  • A healthy green plant
  • Sterilized sharp scissors or knife
  • Rooting solution/ gel
  • Plastic /humor dome to cover the cloner (optional)
  • Substrate / cloning machine

2. Rooting Solution/ hormones

By nature, plants can produce the rooting hormones themselves after a short span of time. They have the auxins hormones themselves, which aid in the initial root creation. Some plants like tomatoes are easy to clone because they possess lots of natural auxin hormones while others are challenging to do without using an added hormone.

The root hormones help stir the plant cell growth and establish roots faster. Rooting hormones can be organic (honey, willow extract) or synthetic in the powder, liquid or gel form.

Some prefer to let plants grow naturally and do not like to use synthetic hormones that may contain chemicals. But you can only clone easily for some crops like tomatoes, mint, basil, rosemary, peppers without using rooting hormones. Other types such as large fruiting or single harvest crops are hard to clone without applying the stimulant.

3. Selection

Select a healthy, well-established plant, which does not indicate any sign of diseases for weeks. Identify a vigorous branch that comes off from the main stem. You often see this as a “v” form, where you will see the new growth – new branch regrows after the cutting.

4. Section cutting

As new cuttings are very sensitive to microorganisms, bacteria, etc., be sure to clean and sterilize the scissors/knife /razor before doing. Take a cutting at a 45-degree angle close to (not into) the main stem as this helps to increase the surface area, making it easy for the roots to sprout. Then place your cutting into a glass of water immediately. Doing this helps prevent oxygen exposure because the new cutting is somewhat sensitive.

Choose the branches near the bottom of the plant, which possesses a higher rate of root production as they contain more natural rooting hormones.

The cutting should be at least 4 – 8 inches long. Then remove all branches and leaves on the cutting’ sides, except for the top, so as not to waste energy on photosynthesis, and let the cutting just focus on rooting.

If the top leaves are too long, you can cut and reduce them to prevent evaporation.

5. Different Substrates

Before placing the sample cut pieces into any substrate medium, dip the re-generating part into root hormone solution for 15-30 seconds. 

If the hormone is in the powder form, make sure the cutting’s end gets a little wet before applying. No need to dip the whole cutting into the hormone; just cover it on the bottom part of the cutting.

The following substrates can be used to successfully plant the clones:

a. Rockwool 

As rockwool naturally has a high pH level, you need to soak the rockwool cubes in neutral water overnight (or several hours) to bring their pH down. Now time to place the stem into the rockwool and ensure that the stem end must come into contact with the rockwool cubes.

b. Coir Grow Plugs

Grow Plugs are Seed propagating media made of Coconut Peat, designed for easy cloning. Coir Grow plugs have low EC value befitting faster root development. Coconut peat is covered by thin fabric cloth and has excellent water holding capacity. Only simple hydration and planting the cut part into a grow plug within the depth of 2 inches will do a lot better. 

c. Soil Potting

Traditional cloning with soil is an easy yet less-efficient method. You just need to get a fertile soil and root hormone dipped-cut and placed into the soil pot. 

d. Water Cloning

First, fill the cup/plastic bottle with 3/4 of tap/distilled water and maintain the water at room temperature. Ensure the pH level of your water is at between 5.5 to 6.0

Cut a piece of cling-wrap or plastic to cover and wrap over the top of the cup. Use a tip of a pen, or scissors to poke a hole in the cling-wrap or plastic. Make sure the hole size is smaller than the cutting stem to keep it tight into the pot. 

Now, put the cutting into the pot, keeping its end at least 5 cm under the water. Place the cloning pot under the indirect sunlight, or low grow lights.

e. Cloning Machine

Cloning machines seem to be the most efficient and quickest way to propagate plants. It is effective for some reasons. First, your cutting is not immersed in water but is constantly misted with low-pressure water, which avoids diseases for the fragile roots. Second, there’s plenty of oxygen for the roots. Third, you can do multiple clones at one time.

The most important thing is to get a cloning machine. And all the steps are very easy to do as follows.

  • Set up the cloning machine as per the manual. 
  • Fill with the water at the indicated level.
  • Then place hormones dipped cut into the neotypes. 
  • After that, run the cloning machines, and voila.

6.   Humidity

If your cloning environment is right, you don’t need it. If not, you should. The humidity dome does help keep the moisture and humidity for your clones. This is very helpful when you don’t want to mist your cloners regularly and want to spend less checking and maintenance of it.

7.   Temperature

Cloning works poorly in cold places, so keep it in warm areas. The perfect temperature is at about 70 – 75oF (20-24oc). If the surrounding environment is low in temperature, you can use a heater or a heating mat to keep the temperature in place.

8.   Light

If you cannot provide the cloners with enough daylight, you need to give it some grow lights. Since new cloners are weak, they don’t need full sunlight or intense grow lights. That’s why weak CFL bulbs or fluorescent T5 tubes work great.

The cloners don’t really need any light for the first 1-2 days, but some growers still put the clones under some soft lights for the first few days, and it is still fine. After that, you can turn the lights on 18/24h a day. The rest 6 hours of darkness is essential because it is mostly the time when the roots form.

9.   Transplantation

In about 7 –10 days, you can see the rooting. But other plants can take longer time, up to 3 weeks. 
If by this time your cutting’s roots still don’t form, they will never show up. You should trash it, and do another cloning.

When you see that the root systems have shown up enough time to do the transplantation. If making the clones in the rockwool cubes or cloning machines, you can immediately see the roots sprouting. But it gets a little harder when cloning with the soils because you cannot see inside of the pot.  You can check inside the soils after ten days or two weeks. A little trick is to let the soils dry a bit for easy checking and extraction into the new growing environment.

Another tip is to use a transparent pot with the soil or cloning method. You will see what happens inside it. And it’s advised that you transplant the new cloner into the correct size of the container. The new container size must not be too big as the young clone will need to adapt to a new environment. 

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