How to Keep a Cannabis Mother Plant & Maintenance Tips - Happy Hydro

Cannabis mother plants are an in-house source of constant clones, which ultimately preserve a favourite strain's genetics. Growers with sufficient time and space benefit from keeping a mother plant to keep grow costs down, protect a lineage, and maintain a never-ending supply of clones.

A healthy mother plant guarantees healthy and vigorous cuttings. Special lighting, nutrients, and indoor space are required to support a mother plant.

While mother plant maintenance isn't for every grower (especially with the additional space requirements), many cannabis cultivators rely on a mother to supply their year-round harvests. Should you keep a mother plant? If so, what are the coles notes for maintaining one? 

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What is a Cannabis Mother Plant?

A mother plant is a female cannabis plant primarily maintained for ongoing clone production. It is kept in a static vegetative state, on a strict light schedule.

Mother plants are photoperiodic but stuck in the vegetative stage thanks to exposure to more light than dark during a 24 hour period. Typical schedules for mothers are anywhere from a 14:10 schedule for less vigorous green growth to an 18:6 program for a more consistent supply of new growth, and therefore clones.

All clones purchased through a distributor come from mother plants. Clone suppliers take cuttings from female mother plants, which they then root, and sell as clones to growers like you. Because it takes time, resources, and effort to maintain a mother and propagate clones, retailers can charge a hefty penny for this service. You can save on start-up costs by keeping one of your own plants in a true-mother vegetative stage, but keep in mind does take additional commitment. 

Mother's require a designated indoor grow space. That usually means a grow tent, which reduces the risk of light leaks and veg disruption. Through careful application of Low-Stress Training, Sea of Green, SCROG, and other pruning and training techniques, you can keep the mother plant as small or as large as required for your clone needs.

Remember, the larger the plant, the more clones you can harvest. A typical mother plant is happy within a 2.5' by 2.5' space, but this is flexible.

While it is possible to keep a mother plant for several years running and harvest clones for dozens of new grows, the older the plant gets, the lower her capacity. Keep careful notes, and photos from each successive grow to monitor for signs of stress and age. Eventually, you'll want to turn one of the clones into a new mother, to transition away from the original.

Cuttings taken from cannabis mothers with the intention of cloning rely on specialty nutrients and carbohydrates to kick-start the root development. Keep in mind the capacity for growing strong roots comes from a healthy mother. You'll need the right balance of nutrients to promote strong roots and vigor, but not legginess. 

How To Maintain a Mother Plant

There are several important steps to keeping a mother: genetics, light schedule, light spectrum, specialized nutrients, and space considerations. With these considerations, maintaining a mother is a breeze.

Start with Desirable Genetics

When choosing a plant to transform into a mother, it's essential to experiment. Grow several plants from seed into the veg stage, then clone the ones showing promise. Keep the original in veg stage, and grow out the clones all the way to flower. Keep careful notes on growth patterns, disease resistance, and bud development. Choose the best candidate to transform its vegetative cousin into a mother.

Stick with a Vegetative Light Schedule and Spectrum

Cannabis plants respond strongly to the light spectrum and schedule. Natural changes in schedule and spectrum tell the plant that winter is coming, and it is time to focus on flowering. To maintain a mother plant, you'll need to supply more light than dark in a 24-hour schedule. That means somewhere between a 14:10 and an 18:6 schedule. You'll also need a veg-friendly light spectrum, which is heavier on the blue end.

Use Mother Specific Nutrients

Straight veg-nutrients won't do. You'll need to supply mother-specific nutrients for maintaining your new clone-factory. Look for brands with specially formulated nutrients or even nitrogen to potassium split, with added calcium. Too much potassium may lead to nutrient deficiencies, and too much nitrogen promotes poor, leggy new growth (which is not suitable for clones). The added calcium boasts strong stems, branches, and structure, which is valuable for clone cuttings.

Space and Potting Considerations

To maintain a mother, you will need a designated indoor space. It cannot live within the same room where you follow a flower schedule, and it may even be on a slightly different veg schedule than your production plants in veg. A small grow tent with its own light program is ideal. 

Because mothers grow for years, they are prone to get root bound. Keep a close eye on your mother for signs of nutrient deficiency, especially as it ages. Don't be afraid to carefully cut back roots to maintain the mother. Fabric pots are useful to reduce the risk of your mother becoming root-bound over time.

Maintain a Healthy Mother for Healthy Clones

If time and space allow, it pays off to grow a mother plant. An in-house source of clones gives you the ability to run a tight schedule for never-ending harvests. Plus, if you have stumbled on perfect genetics, it means you keep those going for years to come.

Keeping a healthy mother for healthy clones and cuttings is just as easy as knowing how to veg. However, you will need special space designated for the mother, a strict veg lighting schedule, and appropriate nutrients. Stick to the formula, and you have a continuous factory of clones for years to come.

Author | Chris McDonald

With two decades of expertise, Chris leads Happy Hydro in redefining sustainable gardening and delights in backpacking adventures, mind-expanding journeys, and creating memories with his loved ones.

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