You may have heard that autoflowers - despite their many advantages - cannot be cloned. Why is this? Is it even true that cloning autoflowers isn't possible? In this article, we will explain whether it is possible to clone autoflowers and ensure a lifetime's supply of your best-loved strain.
What exactly is cloning?
In gardening terms, cloning is the same as taking a cutting. A clone is a small section of the cannabis plant that is removed. The cutting is placed in water or a growing medium and, after a short period, takes root and forms a new plant that is genetically identical to the original plant.
It is an economical and efficient way of cultivating weed, as it is quicker than germinating seeds and you can be sure that the new plant will have identical qualities to the original. If it is a female plant, for example, the clone will be female and if it produces good quality cannabis, the clone will too.
The benefits of cloning
- Growing large numbers of plants for massive yields;
- Save money on expensive seeds;
- Choose to clone your favourite plants with your preferred traits;
- Eliminate male plants by only taking cuttings from female plants.
The controversy over whether or not it is possible to clone autoflowering cannabis
To understand the method of cloning an autoflowering cannabis plant, one must understand the nature of an autoflower, how it functions, and why its clones are different from other strains of weed.
Autoflowers are strains that automatically switch from the vegetative to the flowering phase without the grower having to change the environmental conditions. As the plant matures, it will start producing flowers regardless of the lighting situation.
For comparison, a traditional variety - also known as a photoperiod variety - takes about 12 hours of darkness in a day to switch to the flowering phase. If you plant traditional varieties outdoors, they must be planted during spring to work with the sun and be ready for harvest before winter.
For an autoflowering variety, you only need a few months of warm weather all the time. The time zone and season are of little interest here, especially if you live in a place where the climate is moderate all year round. After the flowering phase begins, autoflowering plants must be exposed to direct light for 12 hours a day and should be ready for harvesting after a total of about ten weeks.
Cloning autoflower plants
While autoflowers feature great benefits to any impatient grower, due to the different flowering behaviour of these plants, autoflowering strains cannot be cloned as well as traditional plants.
There are some advantages to autoflowering strains, such as their rapid growth and the short amount of time they take to reach the flowering phase, multiple harvests in the same year, and easy seed production.
A disadvantage, however, is that these strains are known not to thrive so well when cloned. Clones share exactly the same genes with the mother plant, and that includes age. Photoperiod varieties thrive better when cloned because the environmental changes required for flowering allow them to grow and develop well.
What is the challenge of cloning autoflowers?
Because an autoflowering clone is as old as its mother plant and is not dependent on light, it follows the same genetic schedule as its mother. This means that it has less time to grow, resulting in a small plant and small flowers.
The fact that it is pretty much impossible to predict precisely when the plant will go into flowering makes cloning even more difficult. Some growers think it is a myth that autoflowering plants cannot be cloned, and others report that they have tried it successfully.
Whether it is true or not, it is highly unlikely that you will have a successful harvest with autoflowering clones, as it is simply impossible to bring the plant back to vegetative growth. It would be a very tricky undertaking to try it on a plant that has already ripened.
There you have it, technically speaking, yes, you can clone autoflowering plants. But is it a good idea? Not necessarily. If you can clone the plant before it reveals its gender, it might even work, but the window of opportunity is tiny. All in all, you can at most expect a small plant with a few flowers. If you are happy with it, you can consider cloning an autoflowering plant! It might be an interesting experiment, and sometimes it is best to learn by experience!
The main characteristic of autoflowering plants is the fact that they flower automatically and cannot be tricked into staying in the vegetative period by turning on the lights for more than 13 hours per day. This has led to the commonly held perception that autoflowering cannabis cannot be cloned since the cuttings from the original plant are obliged to follow its "genetic timeline" and flower according to age as it begins to flower. Following this logic, it would seem inevitable that the cuttings will not grow to a useful size, and the yield will be disappointing, to say the least.
If you are still determined to clone your autoflowers...
There are a handful of cultivators who believe that it is worth persevering, and who have successfully cloned their autoflowers and allowed them to continue growing in vegetative mode until they are almost as tall as their mother. Once they reach their maximum size, they start to flower.
Follow these recommendations, and you might be in with a chance of success!
- Only take cuttings from the lowest branches, which are more likely to be hormonally stable than the newest growth towards the top of the weed plant
- The information the plant received that it is time to flower comes from the apical meristem. This information filters downwards and takes longer to arrive at the lower parts of the plant, so there is a brief period between the first signs of flowering and the hormones in the plant tissues. Growers who believe that cloning autoflowers is a worthwhile activity insist that there is a window of opportunity to take cuttings that may only be a few hours long. Hence, it is vital to carefully observe your plants and understand the science behind the process. Cuttings have identical genetics as the mother plant, and their age is also the same. Photoperiod strains thrive when cloned because the changes in the environment they require to begin flowering allows them time to grow properly. Autoflower clones cannot be manipulated in the same way as they are not dependent on the light. A cutting is always the same age as its parent and would always keep to the same genetic timeline.
- Once the cuttings are set, they should be kept in a gentle, dim light with humid conditions until roots emerge. Once they have rooted, they will undergo vegetative growth until they reach about 80% of the size of the mother plant. And then will, hopefully, flower and yield crops that are comparable.
So, can you clone autoflowers?
It is technically possible to clone autoflowering plants. But the window of opportunity is extremely short.
As we have just seen, the idea is that the top parts of the plant are the first to receive the hormone signals that indicate the onset of flowering. It takes several hours for these hormones to filter down to the lowest branches.
Unless you want to spend hours with a magnifying glass waiting by the young plants for the perfect moment, cloning autoflowers, in our opinion, is not worth the effort. While cloning a feminized photoperiod plant is an excellent and economical way of enjoying repeated harvests, there is little evidence to suggest that cloning autoflowers will lead to anything but disappointment.
However, there is no need to despair. With a wide selection of high-quality autoflower seeds from Weedseedexpress, it is possible to achieve multiple productive harvests in a short space of time. Just not via cloning!