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  • Writer's pictureJon Mychal Heatherly

Clone plants from cuttings

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

Take a look as we sit down with a local hemp producer and community gardener, Jacob Seals, to discuss reproducing plants from clones.

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Recently, I spoke with a friend and fellow gardener about what to cover for this week’s gardening piece; his name is Jacob Seals. He suggested that we cover the topic of plant propagation — particularly with plant cuttings.

A skill like cloning plants would be handy information for other folks who garden or farm. This is especially true for novices who may only hear the concept in passing. Believe it or not, the cloning process costs little and is not too technical. So keep scrolling as we laser focus on cloning plants by taking cuttings (with pictures).

Jacob knows his stuff about plant propagation. He works within the up-and-coming cannabis industry in Tennessee. He cares for dozens of plants to produce legal CBD within the state. So, you can understand how this would qualify him to explain the process of taking cuttings to multiply your plants. We will now talk about how plants reproduce and narrow our subject to cuttings.

Any living population must reproduce to sustain itself across time, and plants undergo this process just like we do. Humans usually only produce one child at a time, and it takes years before we reach maturity. Not only do plants reproduce more numerously and quickly, but they also have offspring in various ways.

By Firn

Most people know that plants can reproduce from seeds, which is a form of sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction benefits the offspring by allowing it to have combined traits from both parents. Plants can also produce offspring asexually through many methods. One method of asexual reproduction is division. This is where you take certain varieties that clump together and subdivide the cluster.

Another example of asexual reproduction of plants is by taking cuttings and rooting them. Many plants can produce new offshoots of roots from their main stem, particularly with tomatoes. They have proto-roots all along the stem that look like tiny hairs.

Taking cuttings may sound complicated or cause concern about hurting the plant. But you can learn how to do so successfully without harming the mother plant. Now let’s get into the steps to take cuttings and root them for multiplication.

Step 1: Prepare container and growing medium.

Jacob used 16-ounce red solo cups for his container, and he chose coco coir (coconut husk) as his substrate. He packs it with a slight firmness into his cup. You can also grow in sphagnum moss, soil, and other mediums. Drill small drainage holes in the bottom of your container before adding substrate.

“It’s the Coco coir that I grow everything in, and I’ve already put nutrients in it.”

Step 2: Choose which plant to clone.

Be sure to sterilize your pruning shears. Jacob uses hydrogen peroxide as it turns into water after a few minutes exposed to air. Next, decide which plant you want to clone; Jacob chooses Thai Basil for this experiment.

Step 3: Take your cuttings

Be sure to clip a piece long enough that it contains several “nodes” along the stem. You can identify nodes where a leaf or twig attaches to its stem. Jacob takes several samples from the mother plant. Avoid plants with flowers and buds because they are focused on blooming and not growing — or vegetating.

Step 4: Remove the lower leaves

Good practice suggests sterilizing your instruments between plants. Yet, sterilization may not be as vital if you derive cuttings from the same specimen. Jacob proceeds to remove the leaves up the stem except for the top ones. Next, he clips the most prominent top leaves in half to encourage new growth.

Step 5: (Optional) Abrase the lower stem’s tip.

Jacob grabs a sterile plant scalpel and scrapes the bottom part of the cutting. Then, as we will shortly apply root hormone, he explains his logic:

“So we got our cut, and now here’s where the schools of thought differ: a lot of people stick that in the dirt. I remove that outer cell wall of the plant — just agitating it cause I want it to callous back up.”

Step 6: Apply root hormone.

Local gardening centers will have several options for root hormone. There exist natural or synthetic rooting hormones. We used a cheap, synthetic type for today.

Applying root hormone is as simple as dipping the bottom of the cutting into the powder — at least to the first node. Doing this stimulates lots of tiny roots to sprout. Do not dip in then main container of the hormone to avoid contamination.

Step 7: Poke holes into substrate

Simple as that, find a tool to pierce your growing medium. Jacob uses a chopstick to make spaces deep enough to bury most of the cutting. You can also use a pencil or something similar in diameter.

Step 8: Insert prepped cuttings.

He places several cuttings into a single container. You can keep yours together until they root, but repot this variety as it develops. For now, we want to stimulate root growth.

Step 9: Water cuttings and place in a well-lit, humid environment.

Jacob specializes in this work, and a friend gave him a spare grow tent. He uses this space to propagate his favorite crop — peppers. So, I joked and called him “Captain Pepper.”

Water them enough to set in the soil without dripping out too much. You can give your cuttings constant light. Since they have no roots right now, high humidity helps them intake water through their leaves. A small, plastic grow dome works well to keep humidity high.

“Your clones are going to need up to 24 hours of light. They’re no longer able to pull nutrients in through their roots; they can only get it through their leaves. Keep the plant healthy with all that humidity, so it has time to make roots. Otherwise, it’s just going to wilt.”

Jacob pulls out one sample after a few days. Look below at how dozens of roots sprung up along the part of the stem where Jacob lacerated and applied hormone. Without a hormone application, the time required to root increases.

Here is another example of where Jacob cloned a tomato plant. Tomatoes and peppers are in the same nightshade family, and you can see from the following photo how well this little one has rooted. Be mindful that it can take days or weeks for roots to develop, depending on the species and conditions.

See — if you thought cloning was difficult, it’s pretty easy. With a basic understanding of how plants work, you can clone to your heart’s content. As an experienced grower, Jacob knows how to propagate multiple clones from the same plant.

Now you can supply your neighbors, friends, or even local community garden with your favorite garden delights. Furthermore, if you find a plant you want, feel free to ask if you can take a sample or two to have one of your very own.

Here’s a short video by Everest Fernandez for further info:

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