Cloning, Infant Plant Feeding, and The Difference Quality Cloning Gel Makes
While most plants are started from seed, it is possible to cultivate new plants from existing plant material through cloning. Knowing how to clone will free you from relying upon seed banks and outside sources, allowing you to preserve the genetics you’ve selected and continue to cultivate your favorite plants indefinitely. There are many different approaches growers take to cloning, but so far there’s only one of them that I’ve found to offer both rooting agents as well as and the essential nutrients that infant plants need to get a strong start.
What is cloning?
Cloning, as it refers to plants, is the process of creating a genetically identical plant through nonsexual reproduction, and generally involves taking cuttings or cultures from an existing plant. There are a variety of methods to encourage root propagation from your clone cutting, most commonly through:
- Hydroponic (water)
- Aeroponic (air and water), and
- Rooters (soil/root blocks/stone wool)
Rooters are the most common and simplest way to approach cloning as a beginner.
The Importance of Cloning
If you’ve never cloned a plant, you may question why cloning matters. Primarily, the ability to clone allows you to continue to propagate the same genetics (the same exact plants) over an indefinite amount of cycles. This has a variety of advantages, namely avoiding timely and costly phenotype hunts, having to sex plants for males and females, and allowing for the acquisition of harder-to-come-by genetics that you may want to keep around for a while. Plus, a genetically identical grow is also a more stable, predictable grow.
How to Clone:
While cloning eludes many growers, its principles are simple:
- Take a fresh cutting of new growth from your plant.
- Clean cutting and expose areas for root growth.
- Dress cutting and exposed areas with cloning gels and nutrients.
- Stick in rooting medium (rooter, rock wool, water, etc.)
- Wait and allow roots to form (can take up to two weeks in some cases)
Make sure the plant you are cutting from is still in a vegetative state (as opposed to flowering plants). Aside from these key fundamentals, extra attention should be paid to sterilization, the medium and approach used (rooters vs. aeroponic cloners, for example), and the nutrients involved.
What do you feed your clones?
The short answer is that it depends who you ask. The slightly longer answer is that cloning agents generally include rooting hormones or mycorrhizae that promote root growth. There are three general categories of cloning and root propagation agents:
- Mycorrhizal products that rely on beneficial associations between fungi and your cutting to encourage root propagation
- Aloe Vera or Aloe-based mixtures (typically organic honey and fresh squeezed aloe) that rely on the natural compounds and sugars found in aloe.
- Synthetic Indole-3-butryic acid (I3BA) and similar rooting hormones, most commonly known by branded names like Clonex.
Each of these approaches offers a different set of advantages and disadvantages, but they all fall short when it comes to feeding your clones. All three of these approaches to cloning nutrients focus on root propagation (an important task without question) but not the only important task. None of these methods provide any food for your infant plants.
The Difference Quality Cloning Nutrients Make
While your clones are rooting, and even after they’ve started rooting, what are they feeding on? If they aren’t being fed standard macro and micronutrients, they are likely feeding on those stored within the plant, a common cause of yellowing leaves in clones.
When I first started out growing, I swore by the Aloe and Honey method. I would dip my cutting in one and then the other, sticking it in a rooter, and within a couple of weeks, I had roots. It was a slow, arduous process, and my results were not consistent, but I was certain that it was organic and free from salts or adulterants that might shock my infant plants. I reached out to FOOP Organic Biosciences about their cloning gel after seeing a friend’s business get some truly impressive results: roots within five days with clones ready to transplant in seven days. This was half of the time it was taking me to clone, and I saw the evidence to back it up.
The difference between a quality cloning nutrient like FOOP Clone Gel and rooting agents like Clonex is that Clonex has one root catalyst, I3BA, while FOOP includes three rooting propagation agents in addition to a precise macronutrient and micronutrient balance tailored specifically to infant plants. FOOP’s gel includes organic willow water, organic aloe vera, and organic mycorrhizae, in addition to all of the nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, silica, and micronutrients that your young cuttings need to be at their best. Not only is FOOP Clone Gel delivering the rooting hormones and other rooting agents that promote root growth and development, but it is also providing plant nutrition that no other clone gel provides; it’s like the ultimate baby formula for your infant plant, providing stuff for roots to eat that is beneficial for plant, bacteria to break down small nutrients that are on tip of cutting, and silica to begin building cell walls as microbes establish themselves.
As someone who had only enjoyed mild success with cloning, I was thrilled to find a product designed with the whole plant in mind that could help boost my results. Whatever your cloning method, make sure that your efforts are sterile, and your solution is actively rooting your plants as well as feeding them to avoid yellowing and minimize transplant shock. If you’re considering improving your cloning process, consider a true cloning nutrient instead of a mere rooting agent that not only helps roots grow, but also feeds the entire plant even in its infancy.