First off you may be asking…
What do you mean Mother of the Clones?
Well, the cannabis clones that we all purchase, trade, and grow our crops from come from Mother Plants that can be either female Marijuana or Hemp plants, and are maintained in a controlled vegetative state perpetually. In other words, it is a plant grown from a clone or seed that we keep in the Veg Room forever! Mother plants are used to make clones to grow more plants like the mother herself. The benefit of clones that they all usually grow the same, so it is easier to take care of larger batches of plants with the same feeding schedules and equal canopy height.
A Mothers plant can theoretically produce an infinite number of clones over her lifetime if taken care of properly. Normally a breeder will keep a mother plant for around 2 to 10 years before having to reinvigorate the Mother plant through Tissue Culture or a Fresh Batch of Clones.
*NOTE* A clone of a Mother is very much like that Mother, but not exactly like her. If you take a clone of a clone of a clone too far down the line, you will eventually weaken the plant to a point where it will only produce clones that have a hard time growing, have lower yields, and longer flower times. Essentially you will weaken your entire grow.
Sometimes Mother Plants can’t even be maintained any longer because they will force themselves into flower, they are so weak. Mother plants made from a Seed are the best, however they are the most time and resource intensive because you must cut the clones from the seeded mother and then grow the clones out before ever knowing whether the mother is good or not; this is usually only done with F7 progeny. So if you aren’t going to make a mother from the plant you have grown from seed, the second best option is taking a clone from a plant grown from seed that you think is the very best of the batch, and then make a mother plant out of a clone.
Now that we know what a mother plant is, the next question is…
How do we make Mothers Plants?
The short answer is keeping the female plant in a vegetative light cycle of 18 hours of light per day or longer. The longer, and more complicated answer involves a fine balance between mother plant health and keeping the conditions for your grow room balanced and optimal.
There are certain things you must check to maintain a healthy mother plant in a perpetual vegetative state. This includes regularly checking your mother plant(s), as well as the grow environment itself. Lets start off with the things you will need to check inside your grow:
GROW ROOM CHECKLIST
Let’s keep this simple, you want your grow environment to remain around 75F or 23C when lights are on and off. You will also want to stay within 10 degrees of that temperature for optimal growth, so 65F or below is going to be too cold and 85F or above is too hot over long periods of time for any mother plant. Heaters and A/C units will be your way of controlling your grow environment's temperature.
Your grow environment should ideally be between 30-50% to avoid any mold growth that happens at 60+%. I live in Colorado, so proper air flow and our naturally low humidity makes it easy to keep this under control. It is more important to control humidity in flower than in veg, but mold is mold. They have products that remove humidity directly out of the air but they are chemical based, so I usually use lots of airflow over my plant's canopies as well as air exchange in and out of the grow environment to reduce the humidity levels naturally.
Most people think the only reason you need air filtration such as a carbon filter or ionizer is to reduce the smell of your cannabis plants so that your neighbors don’t smell your super loud indoor crop that you are about to harvest! Crop Security is definitely one reason for proper air filtration. One of the other lesser thought of reasons for air filtration, is to keep your grow room and more importantly your plants clean. If you control the air coming into your grow environment with proper air filtration, your plants will stay cleaner and smoke better. Also, the cleaner your plant’s leaves are, the better they are at photosynthesis. Kind of like solar panels!
One of the key contributors to keeping your temperature and humidity under control in your grow environments is proper air flow. Carbon Filters, as mentioned before that are used to control odor, are also one of the ways to keep air circulating on your plants. The other way is fans that blow over the canopy of the plant to allow it to breath fresh CO2, and not sit in its own oxygen cloud that it produces. Another reason for direct fans is to move the hot air between the lights and the canopy of the plants away as quickly as possible, out and up to the top of the room so that it can be pumped out by the carbon filter.
Keeping your grow room clean is a must! If you do not cleanup the dirt, dead leaves, spilled nutrients, etc., your plants will be susceptible to bugs, mold, and diseases. Wiping down the walls and exteriors will also help Increase the reflectiveness of grow tent or grow room, giving you the best conditions for big buds not big bugs. Buds, being most important need to stay clean if you want only terpenes and cannabinoids in your end products, and not un-smokable and unusable product. Remember, growing Indoors is an oxymoron, so as my old boss used to say, “Clean... do your duties... then Clean again.” This advice will save your life, or at least your grow room!
Optimal Light Intensity
Proper light intensity at the canopy level for your Vegetative Mothers should be between 60,000 and 80,000 lux to keep them in a continual vegetative state and producing healthy clones. Of course, this is the lux for mothers that are already around 6 to 8 weeks of age from a rooted clone. Less light for the smaller plants is usually the rule of thumb. Your Mother Plants will want mainly a blue spectrum in Veg, so Metal Haloid lights and LEDs, or both, work best. I do not suggest Florescent bulbs for plants past 12” tall because their light intensity cannot penetrate the plant’s canopy very well. Fluorescents are good for new clones, seedlings, or young veg plants. Long-term you will need something larger like a 600w+ MH or HPS light. For LEDs I suggest a 3000w multi-spectrum light that actually runs at around 600 watts of electricity.
Make sure to keep your lights clean to maintain the proper brightness. Also keeping your lights at the right height over the canopy of the mother plants is crucial. MH & HPS bulbs will dim quicker over time than LED lights, so check the bulb life on the back of the box and make sure to keep track of the hours on each bulb; make sure to replace them when needed. I always check the brightness right under the light on top of my mother plant and at the edge of the mother’s canopy to make sure my lights are working at the optimal brightness.
MOTHER PLANT CHECKLIST
Watering for Soil Growers
If you are growing your mother plants in soil, which 98% of growers do, you want to be watering around every 3 days or so. But never water based strictly on a timeline, because you will start to over water or under water eventually. The best way to check a potted plant in soil is to do the “Lift & Check Method.” Every other day or so, go ahead and lift the pot of the plant up, if it is super light then in needs a watering. If your plant ever starts drooping because it is too dry, lift the bucket up before you water it; you normally would want to water a little sooner and heavier than this plant’s container that is now too dry. The “Lift & Check Method” is sure proof with proper training, even if your mothers are hypothetically in 25-gallon pots, you can still lift the side of a light mother plant and know that the she needs watering.
On the reverse side, NEVER water a bucket if it is heavy and has really any major water weight, or you will soon over water the plant and it will begin to suffer by slowing the plant’s drinking down, therefore slowing its metabolic rate. All you are left with is bad yields and a suffering plant that is absorbing less nutrients then it needs. *NOTE* Overwatering is the #1 error with new soil growers, and usually people that say they don't have a "green thumb".
You can also use a humidity meter if you do not want to lift the plant. But if you do, you still will have to double check with the lift & check method here and there to make sure your humidity meter is accurate. If you live, or your plants live, in a high humidity environment, it will take longer for a plant to drink; I work indoors in Colorado and California and Colorado watering is around every 3 days in proper plant pot size, and Southern California is around every 4 days or so because of its higher natural humidity, which is what we normally keep our mothers in.
For Hydro Growers - Check EC, PPM, Water Pump, & Pump Timer
Watering correctly for hydro growers is a little more complicated and that is why most new growers try soil first in general. If you are taking care of a plant or mother in a hydroponic growing environment, you will want to regularly check the EC (or Electroconductivity) of your water. If your EC is too high, this will tell you that the water in your reservoir has had to much use and needs to be changed. Along with this comes the water's PPM (or Parts Per Million), which shows you the total amount of nutrients you have in your reservoir. Your reservoir's water could have the perfect EC and PPMs, but your pumps could not be working, and your plants will die from drying out. So, make sure to always check your water pump and hear it once a day or so. Also check the pump timer so that you aren’t watering at the wrong time, or not even watering at all.
For hydro or soil growers, keeping your root temperature constant is the key to keeping your mother plants alive for a long time. If your root system gets shocked with too much heat or it gets too cold, your plant will die very quickly or become permanently injured. Soil temperature is easy to maintain because it retains a lot of its own heat compared to a hydro grow where your root zone is exposed to both air and water, so both need to be maintained at a constant temperature as to not hurt your plants. Both reservoir heaters and room heaters tend to be a must for hydro growers in cold climates.
Check Soil & Water PH
For Hydro growers, check the PH of your reservoir before each watering, and of course before and during nutrients mix-ins. If you would like to learn about PH, check out my video on it.
As for soil growers, a PH meter is not that reliable unfortunately, so I suggest the tried and true methodology of checking the PH of your water before watering your soil, and then catching the water running out of your plant’s bucket. If your PH coming out the bucket after watering is lower than the initial water’s PH than your soil is lower than the initial water’s PH as well. Same thing goes with a higher PH from your runoff means your soil is probably higher than your starting water’s PH. If you are using distilled water, you are starting at a neutral PH and probably won’t run into and PH problems as a soil grower.
This may seem like a no brainer but growing indoors in not easy or clean, and that is the goal here... To keep your plants clean. Keeping your plants clean and free of dust and dirt will help prevent pest infestations, keep your plants disease free, and most importantly keep your buds clean for smoke or extraction. YOU DO NOT WANT TO SMOKE DIRT!!!
How do you keep your plants clean? It’s pretty simple. One, have a carbon filter to keep the air that is blowing around your plants clean, and in turn your plants will stay cleaner as well. Two, in Vegetative state (no buds) you can spray your veg plants with water once every other week to clean off the leaves like you would dirt off of solar panels. By doing this, your plants will get more light. If you are in flower, make sure to keep your flower room clean including the floors, trays, and lights so that you have clean buds come harvest!
Thinning Your Mother Plant
The last and most important thing to maintain with any Mother Plant, is proper thinning practices. First question you need to ask yourself is, "Do I take clones from this Mother Plant regularly?" If the answer is no, because you only take clones once every month or more, then you will need to thin your mother plant regularly. This is a fine balance between stem and leaf thinning. If you thin only the leaves, your mother plant will get to branchy and stop growing large fan leaves that she needs. And adversely, if you trim too many stems, the Mother Plant will take longer to recover and give you fewer clones next time you try to cut some. As with all growing, this takes some practice to learn and perfect. If you are worried about over thinning, which you probably should be, then start off doing a little bit on one day, wait 48hrs for your mother plant to heal, then thin her one more time to where you think is best. This is usually around 3 layers of leaves under the top of the canopy so that very little light is penetrating all the way through the canopy but at the same time, not too many leaves are shaded and in dark. Shaded leaves do not collect light very well and will become a net negative for the plant in terms of energy used or gained.
A couple of cool facts about me to end this mother story with. I have seen a 13-year-old mother before, and actually helped thin and maintain her even though I was not the one responsible for her on a daily basis. That’s how I know they can live a long time if cared for properly. Secondly, Mother Plants can also be Father Plants, and can be kept right next to mother plants in some cases because they are in perpetual veg and cannot drop pollen. Actually, some of the best breeders have World Class Male Studs that they use over and over to pass on beneficial genetic traits. They do this especially when trying out new strain combinations by pollinating a new “clone only” mother like G13, Pre 98 Bubba, or MAC1.
You can see that proper mother plant care is of key importance to any master grower or breeder, especially once they have found the best plants. Maybe you popped a seed yourself that is going to be the next “IT” strain! One better than Girl Scout Cookies, Skunk, Super Lemon Haze, Maui Wowie, or any of its predecessors. Well, that’s what I hope you aim for at least! Once you find her, or a favorite plant from some OG Raskal Wifi seeds like the phenotype Wifi #3, make sure you turn her (or her clone) into the best mother possible so that you can grow her over and over again and share the best of what you have grown with the people you love!