....Or the asexual reproduction of a plant via taking cuttings of that plant, is one of the hardest things for any beginning gardener to get down. In this tutorial I will be debunking many myths about cloning as well as going over what I believe to be a relatively sure fire way to get 100% of your clones to survive. First, let’s go over the basic tools that are used in this process.
Almost all cloning gels consist of what we call IBA or Indole-3-Butyric Acid. IBA is a growth hormone that stimulates the formation of initial root growth.
***Some examples of cloning gels include:
Indole-3 Butyric Acid ……….….. 0.4%
*I would like to point out that I have personally had the best luck from this particular rooting gel. It also contains Vitamin B1, which has been used as a transplant shock mediating agent for thousands of years. It has a lesser concentration of IBA than some of the other products listed below, showing that more is not always better.
*****UPDATE: (see, you guys get the good stuff) I recently used "Mad Farmer's Root It" gel because I ran out of Clonex. It was the only thing I changed in my rockwool soak recipe, method, etc and the roots came out of the bottom far more vigorously than usual, and far more fibrous as well. *****
Dip’N Grow Liquid Rooting Concentrate:
Indole-3 Butyric Acid ……….….. 1.0%
1-Naphthaleneacetic acid …… 0.5% (another rooting hormone, this one is entirely synthetic and does not occur in nature)
Rootech Cloning Gel:
Indole-3 Butyric Acid ……….….. 0.55%
Mad Farmer’s “Root It”:
Indole-3 Butyric Acid ……….….. 0.54%
A good pair of hand trimmers is essential for any gardener and this is never more true than it is with taking cuttings.
Fiskars is a very popular snip and what I prefer both for trimming and taking cuttings, although I make the final cut that goes into my Rockwool cubes with a razor blade. But, we’ll get to that.
Fiskars “Soft Touch” Floral Snips:
Fiskars “Comfort Grip” Floral Snips:
*I personally switch between the two sets of snips above. Whichever pair of snips you end up choosing, make sure it’s something you’re comfortable using for long periods of time, particularly if you’re a large scale grower taking hundreds of clones.
Presoaking Rockwool cubes (or other media of your choosing)
Before beginning to take cuts for clones, it’s important that the Rockwool cubes be pre-soaked with properly pH balanced water, and if our media is inert (nutrient-less) it’s important that we start clones with some nutes and rooting agents. The same goes for any type of Coco media, whether you’re using Coco plugs or just plain Coco in pots. Rapid Rooter cubes can also be used and should be pH balanced as well.
***Soil Note: If you are putting your clones directly into soil, ignore this step as soaking your soil with plain RO (Reverse Osmosis) water, or even tap water should be just fine. If you are using a quality soil it should already be properly pH buffered to a more acidic pH, and should have enough nutrients to sustain plants.
For my Rockwool soak I like to mix everything up in a 1 gallon container. I’ve found that 1 gallon is easily enough for 30+ clones at a time. If you need more for your particular grow just multiply the ratios used here by the gallons you are actually using.
All measurements below are in ml/gal. I use the following products for my Rockwool soak:
-Roots Excelerator ................................
-Multi Enzyme ................................
-Drip Clean ................................
-Cal-Mag (only if using RO Water) ................................
-Silica Blast ................................
-Mad Farmer ‘NUTS’ (Nutrient Uptake Solution) ..................... 2.5 ml
-Mad Farmer ‘Be One’ ................................
***The experienced grower will notice here that there is nothing with an N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium) in the above list. I personally don’t feel it’s entirely necessary for a plant to have nutrients in the Cloning stage, but if you would like to, a quarter-strength dilution of your main A/B or A/B/C nutrient can be used. Alternatively if your particular product lists a dilution ratio for clones/cuttings you can use that measurement instead. For instance, I use Cocos A&B by House and Garden. Even though this is technically a Coco nutrient and I clone in Rockwool, I have added 2.5ml/gal to the above mix, which is a low enough concentration to not really hurt anything and some grower’s believe it helps to have some initial nutrients in their media of choice.
****** Important Note: Silica should always be added first to prevent it bonding to nutrient salts and falling out of the solution ******
Nutrients and Additives Used
Roots Excelerator - Let’s face it, Roots Excelurator is the best rooting agent on the market. I’ve lost count of how many growers I encounter both in the Hydro shop and out, that use Roots Excelurator even if they don’t use any other House and Garden Product. House and Garden is relatively secretive about what is actually in it, but I have it on good authority from a H&G vendor and friend of mine that it contains tons of beneficial bacteria, enzymes, yucca extract, and mycorrhizae. Many impersonators have tried, but in this grower’s humble opinion, no one comes close. It also has the lowest ml/gal concentration on the market so one bottle goes a long way.
Multizen is an enzyme treatment, and an excellent one at that. If there’s anyone that has enzymes down its House and Garden. This product is amazing, both for foliar spraying and as an additive to any nutrient recipe. Enzymes break down dead material on a plants root structure, cleaning up the roots and making them more efficient. Enzymes also Chelate, or break down nutrients, making them more readily available to the plant.
Drip Clean by House and Garden is an excellent product that is often overlooked. Unlike almost every other product on the market, H&G doesn’t have any competition on this product as it is literally the only product in its class. Drip Clean reduces salt buildups which can cause nutrient lock-out (not good!), and keeps mediums clean and free of build-ups that can potentially clog hoses or sprayers. Oftentimes Coco growers tend to have nutrient lockout problems. Hydro shop customers I talk to, as well as friends of mine are often shocked when I tell them that I give my plants nutrients with every feeding, in coco, and (knock on wood) I’ve never had nutrient lockout issues or Cal/Mag (Calcium/Magnesium) issues. I believe that Drip Clean has been my saving grace on this and everyone I’ve recommended it to for clogged hoses/sprayers, nutrient lockout, or Cal/Mag issues seems to agree.
Cal-Mag by Botanicare is pretty self-explanatory. As said above, Cal/Mag deficiencies are a common problem and if you are using RO (Reverse Osmosis) water for your garden, the use of Cal-Mag is essential. Calcium and Magnesium have so many different roles in regular plant growth that we’ll save further explanation for another episode of Grow School, but I will note that without Magnesium plants cannot properly make chlorophyll, the photosynthetic (Light-Energy Absorbing) part of plants that gives them their green appearance.
Silica Blast is a silica product. Silica (SiO2) strengthens plant cell structure, increasing overall health of the plant and helping it to thrive even in the most stressful conditions. Silica is taken up by the plants roots and deposited in cell walls, creating a more mechanically sound plant by improving stem and leaf rigidity. After using Silica, plant leafs are more waxy in appearance because of improved cuticle (the outer waxy layer of a plant) strength, which improves the efficiency of the plant to photosynthesize, or feed itself with light energy. Silica is particularly important in foliar sprays for cloning as it creates a moisture barrier of sorts, preventing the plant from evapotransporating (losing) too much water and consequently wilting.
******Important Note: I would like to take this moment while talking about Silica to warn about a particularly new product that I feel is fundamentally flawed:
Armor Si by General Hydroponics is the Silica product in question. Don’t get me wrong, GH is by no means a bad company that makes bad products. Several of their products I believe to be true “diamonds in the ruff” of sorts.
Floralicious Plus and Floranectar are both extremely excellent GH products that come to mind off the top of my head and I recommend these products persistently and consistently in the shop.
With that being said, I conducted multiple trials mixing Armor Si into both plain RO Water and tap, as well as separate side-by-sides where Cal-Mag was mixed in first and every single time, in varying degrees, Armor Si has proved itself to have a severe tendency precipitate, or fall out, of the solution either in large chunks or in a cloudy mess of sorts.
I fully realize that like most Silica products, it is recommended to be mixed first. But, it is also a common practice in Hydro shops to tell customers to always add Cal-Mag first. Even when Armor Si was added to plain RO Water or Tap Water first, there was far more cloudiness and small chunks than I have seen using Silica Blast by Botanicare, or Pro-Tekt by Dynagrow. It is not my intention to bash products here, just a little grower-to-grower warning here guys.
N.U.T.S. (Nutrient UpTake Solution) by Mad Farmer. Aside from having a downright hilarious name, NUTS is an excellent Humic Acid additive. The reason for the name Nutrient Uptake Solution is that Humic Acids are Chelators, which help nutrient uptake by converting many elements into absorbable form. From the USAG (United States Agricultural Dept): “Humic acid chelates soluble calcium and protects the phosphates from the calcium/phosphate interaction. The amine functional groups of humic acid can then absorb the phosphate anions, improving availability for plant uptake.” – So they play a role in Phosphate absorption as well, which means better and more efficient flower production.
Mad Farmer ‘Be One’ is a B1 supplement that is not only a very high quality, kelp derived B1 supplement, but it also contains Humic Acids as well. So far everyone I have talked to that has switched their B1 product to Mad Farmer ‘Be One’ has been more than satisfied with it, including myself.
When you’re done mixing all of these fine products up, make sure to pH balance your 1 gallon jug to a Hydroponic pH range, which is 5.7 – 6.3. Always mix at the lower end of this as pH generally has a tendency to drift upward and different nutrients, trace elements and minerals become available at different parts of the range. I always shoot for an initial pH of around 5.7 – 5.8 or so.
After you’ve properly pH balanced your water, go ahead and throw all of your Rockwool cubes or other media into a container of some sort, and dump your mix in. They should be soaked until there are no longer air bubbles coming up. What I do is dunk them as deep as possible over and over and give the cubes a very slight squeeze while under water to help get out some of the air pockets.
pH Balancing the Rockwool Soak Premix:
In this tutorial I am using the Bluelab Combo Meter, a very reliable meter that I am more than happy with. Put the pH probe into the solution, like this:
As you can see, my meter is reading 6.3, and this is on the outer range of the accepted 5.7 – 6.3 that we are shooting for. So, I added 0.5 ml of Mad Farmer’s Get Down until it reached 5.7, like this:
Now that the pH of the solution is 5.7, go ahead and soak your rockwool cubes in the solution:
And give them a slight squeeze:
I put them upside down, meaning putting the pre-made hole side downward, so I can make my own hole in the cube with my Fiskars shears. Like so:
This makes a smaller hole than the pre-made ones they come with. I've found that the holes they come with are much too large and plants can end up falling over.
Let’s Get to Cutting Those Plants!
First, let’s start off by putting some of our cloning gel into a separate container than the one it came in. You never want to dip cuttings directly into cloning solution as bacteria/fungal spores can be transmitted into your product, eventually rendering it more harmful than beneficial. I like to use the bottom of one of the shot-glass type measuring cups, like this one from Hydrofarm:
Next, let’s go ahead and take our clones. Since I believe that so much of your success in cloning comes from the exact location that the final razor cut is made, I've made this cut sequence to demonstrate where that location should be. Note that the cut is made directly above a node. This is the point where the most hormones will be for new growth and will help it root more quickly.
Make sure that when you take the cutting that you are on a hard surface. I like to use the top of a 5-gallon bucket but use whatever you have handy. Using a clean, sterilized, washed (see note below) razor blade (or scalpel), make your cut at a 45 degree angle, directly above a node. I like to go a little bit through the node as well and have had great success doing this.
******Note on the cleaning of razor blades: Anyone who has worked with razor blades before knows that they tend to come soaked in some type of oil that the manufacturer uses to keep them from rusting. It is very important that this oil be washed off entirely before using razor blades. For this reason scalpels are used by many growers instead.
***The important thing about making cuts with razor blades is that it causes as little cell damage as possible; just as a clean cut on skin heals far more quickly than a jagged one, the same holds true for plants. Snips or other handheld trimmers tend to pinch the stem and make a jagged, smashed cut.
Directly after making a 45 degree cut with our thoroughly washed razor blade, the cut end should be dipped into cloning gel.
All parts of the stem that will be submerged should be lightly coated with the cloning gel. I’ve found that as little cloning gel as possible should be left on the stem so after stirring the cut end around in my gel to ensure that there are no air bubbles present, I like to wipe all sides of the stem off on the rim of my shot glass, like this:
Now that we’ve thoroughly coated the stem with cloning gel and wiped most of it off, it’s time to put the cutting into our medium of choice. In this tutorial I will be using Rockwool Cubes by Grodan, but this procedure should work whether you are using soil, coco plugs, Rapid Rooter cubes, etc.
Misting the clones down, Foliar Spraying:
****** Important: I like to already have my foliar misting spray pre-mixed and ready to go so I can spray the cuttings after taking 3-4 or so to make sure they don’t begin to wilt before the dome gets put on at the end.
Once I’m done taking all of my clones I give the whole batch a thorough misting as well. My foliar spray regimen consists of: (all measurements are per quart)
-Silica Blast ................................
-Optic Foliar ‘Rev’ ......................... 7.5 ml
-Optic Foliar ‘Watts’ ...................... 7.5 ml
-Optic Foliar ‘Transport’ ............... 7.5 ml
-Multizen (House and Garden) ..... 2 ml
-Mad Farmer ‘Be One’ .................... 2 ml
Silica Blast is a silica product. Silica strengthens plant cell structure, increasing overall health of the plant and helping it to thrive even in the most stressful conditions. Silica is particularly important in foliar sprays for cloning as it creates a moisture barrier of sorts, preventing the plant from evapotransporating (losing) too much water and consequently wilting.
Optic Foliar is an excellent line of foliar sprays that I can’t speak highly enough of. The owner of the company loves what he does and is very passionate about creating not only products that work, but continuing to monitor quality control to ensure that it stays that way. ‘Rev’ and ‘Watts’ are the actual feeding part of the foliar regimen, and ‘Transport’ is a surfactant (wetting agent). Wetting agents essentially make water more ‘wet’ and in turn prevent plants from being burnt by water beading up and creating miniature magnifying glasses of sorts that focus the light into the center of each bead of water. They tend to make plants look very oily instead of seeing individual droplets of water everywhere.
Multizen is an enzyme treatment, and an excellent one at that. If there’s anyone that has enzymes down its House and Garden. This product is amazing, both for foliar spraying and as an additive to any nutrient recipe. Enzymes break down dead material on a plants root structure, cleaning up the roots and making them more efficient. They also Chelate, or break down nutrients, making them more readily available to the plant.
Thrive Alive B1 - As we went over earlier, B1 has been used as a transplant shock mediator for thousands of years. B1 promotes resistance to disease as well as initial root production. It is rich in natural growth hormones and highly beneficial to plants. Thrive Alive also contains Humic acids (another chelator) and is derived from kelp, and who doesn’t love kelp?
After a good thorough misting with the above foliar recipe, it’s time for the dome to be put on. I use a Mondi dome, but they're pretty much all the same.
When you're all done it should look something like this:
******I keep the vents closed on my dome for around a full week typically; don’t rush them! Then I slowly open each of the 2 vents 1/3 at a time, daily until they are fully open. Then, about 1-2 days later of the vents being fully open, I take the entire dome off and by that time they’re usually ready for their first real watering after the initial Rockwool soak. Once again, give very light amount of nutrients, about 1/4 – 1/3 strength should be fine.
Common Myths About the Cloning Process:
1. Clones need to be misted daily – False
-I only mist my clones right before the dome goes on and sometimes, rarely, the second day. At a certain point, misting clones becomes counter-productive. Not only do clones not typically like being misted after the first few days or so, but it can keep the clones too wet, creating an environment that is conducive to mold, bad bacteria, algae, and all that other bad stuff.
Also, part of the rooting process is the plant’s potential root zone beginning to dry out. Your medium slowly becoming closer to being dry triggers root production because the plant “thinks” that it’s root zone is going to dry out and kill it, so it sends roots out to look for water. When trying to initially strike roots, only water when the cubes become very light and don’t leave a wet mark when kind of wiped across the tray.
2. Rockwool cubes should be very wet during the initial Rockwool soak – False
-Even though it’s considered to be a bit of bad form to squeeze Rockwool cubes by a lot of growers, I find them far too wet for my liking so I do give them a very light squeeze before I throw them in the tray. I find that I strike roots far more quickly this way and the roots always tend to look more white, vigorous, and healthy than when they (finally) root through a super wet cube.
Any questions, comments, critique, or discussion are more than welcome.