Mothers or no mothers?

Alright so here is a question I have had many discussions with growers about over the years. I’ve heard many things over the years, yet have never seen a convincing study that proves it either way.

Must you keep mother plants, or is it safe to keep cloning clones?

I am on the fence on this. I have cloned clones for many generations with what I believe to be no degradation, however nothing was lab tested to see if the thc/terpene profile was affected. I have also kept mothers for many months before re-moming a strain.

So, what are your thoughts? Or do you have any links to credible studies? I’d love to discuss this more.


I’ve been cloning clones for years with no discernable effects.

Problems can happen, they are called sport mutations. You end up with a point mutation on a branch and then clone it and it is slightly different from the original. It can be good or bad. Many apple varieties we enjoy today are sport mutations. For this to ruin a strain, it would have to be a bad mutation, that you ended up having as the only plant. This can be mitigated by taking clones from multiple plants (a reason to not use mothers).

I believe taking clones from the most vigorous part of the plant is the best thing to do. I believe cloning lower, older branches is a bad idea.

I have clones from the 70s that have never looked different in over a decade of cloning myself.

I haven’t kept mothers for well over a decade, I just cloned from veg super cropping back when I did indoor.

Now I do keep mothers to over-winter strains (6 of each strain from from 6 of the best looking field plants) and slam 2000 clones at once in spring, then I double those clones by cloning clones. The cloned clones always seem root much faster.

My only advice: If it looks like crap, don’t clone it.


I definitely agree with you. If you don’t start with a healthy plant, you can’t expect to have a healthy clone!

I’m mainly wondering about this because I see places spending a lot of money on a big room for their moms, when in my mind that’s another flower room, or veg room, or something to make the place more efficient.


Yep, I chalk it up to what old hippy lore. They use to think you couldn’t clone cannabis at all, then it was you could only do it a few times, then it was, well maybe, eventually, it will lose vigor. :joy:

I haven’t seen it, nor have I heard anyone think this happened to them. The rate depends on the plant, but for chrysanthemums, it is 1 spontaneous mutant ever 10 to 20 years. With X- and gamma-ray irradiation, you can speed that up a lot, as biotech does.

My indoor cloning area was just a small section of my veg area. Maybe 20sqft total. A few trays of cubes and domes, a few trays of starts, always going.


Just to add one more layer to this. Hops is a close cousin to cannabis. They can actually set seed on each other, though they are not viable seed. Good thing both hop and cannabis farmers only want the females! Just like cannabis, hops is propagated vegetatively. One of my most favorite varieties of hops is Saaz, traditionally used for Czech Pilsner. This variety is dated back to the 1850s. That is over 160 years of vegetative propagation.


Damn! I didn’t know that about hops. I figured the mom’s thing is more canna-lore than anything, but I haven’t seen a full out study of it.

If it’s a healthy plant and you take a clone, it’s an exact carbon copy, so I figure it doesn’t make much sense to me that the genetic would degrade.

I think it just takes up more space and money to upkeep big mom’s around the grow.


I agree, no real need to devote so much real estate to clones. Your chances of a problem are very, very low.


So let me get this right…you guys feel that mother’s are not as important as some make them out to be?
Basically, you guys just take a clone from a plant in your veg room right before flower? Say 1 or 2 clones per plant?
I’m doing up my floor plan right now and you guys are making me think I can reduce my mother room size.


There was a school of thought that the stage in the life cycle you decide to clone at will have a large epigenetic effect on the clone. I can’t find any reputable sources on the idea though, so I would definitely take it with a grain of salt, as epigenetics is very different for plants and animals.


I’ve done that for over a decade (12 years).

Healthy plant material makes a healthy new plant. Just don’t clone anything that looks outside of norm.

A sport mutation occurs on a single branch, generally it has a phenotype that differs from all of the other branches. I only clone fresh top growth. I won’t clone anything with leaves that looked bent, twisted, wrinkly, etc. Clone branches that look most ideal, skip everything else.

The reality is a sport mutation will happen on a mother too. It might even be more likely due some of those clone sites being quite old in comparison. I do mothers now out of necessity. I still only take the most perfect examples of the plant, tops only, nothing below a foot from the top of the canopy. I get about 50 in round 1, 25 in round 2, and maybe 10 or 12 in the last round and then I think the mother looks like trash and I pitch her in the compost pile. Then I double those clones for the season, turning 2000 in 4000, by way of clones from clones.

When selecting next year’s clones from the field, I take 15 clones, 1 from 15 different individuals of a strain. I select the best plant in the best spot, down to the best plant in the worse spot. I pot up all of the clones and grow them in 1 gallons until they need to go to 10 gallons. Of the 15 clones I keep 6 of the best 1 gallons to transplant. If anything, I may catch a sport that provides a benefit to the genetics, and looks better! But I won’t hold my breath…

I think spreading out source material lowers your probability of problems. The only way to wreck your line is to clone that 1 solitary sport that happens every 10 to 20 years, lose every other clone you took, and your line becomes that sport, good or bad, usually bad.


I believe it, and that is why I like to take clones for across the field, even poor spots. Epigenetic shifts may cause my line to be more resilient over time.

Basically, field soil differs from square foot to foot in just about every way, but in a gradient. If I get a line of 15 stunted plants, but one of them is several times bigger. I want that clone!

Here is a good read about clonal poplar stress and epigenetics.


This is just briliant! I’ve got some thinking to do.

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Here is another good read on epigenetics in general.


Speak of the devil, this might be chimerism.

Not sure if it really is, but it has some odd things going on here. Way outside of norm, as you can see in the wide shot. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would clone this branch. I’m going to leave it and see where it goes, but I will eventually just cut it off and get on with my life.


Thanks for the links guys, good reads. I have always stuck with healthy plant=healthy clone.

I am still curious for some lab studies to be conducted on this theory. I wonder if in the right circumstances they can replicate mutations on will. I can’t wait til this plant goes federal, so we can finally start truly start researching the science into this, and many other things!


Maybe Monsanto will engineer a plant with trichomes the size of marbles?


@thatgatesguy said:
I am still curious for some lab studies to be conducted on this theory. I wonder if in the right circumstances they can replicate mutations on will. I can’t wait til this plant goes federal, so we can finally start truly start researching the science into this, and many other things!

You can certainly graft other cannabis plants’ branches onto an existing plant if you want to try replicating mutations at different stages in a plant’s life cycle.

You can also induce mutations using certain chemicals. Colchicine is a chemical that will double the number of chromosomes in a plant, so you could go from a 2n to a 4n plant. Cross that back with a 2n plant, and you’ll get a 3n plant, which will be a seedless variant (how seedless watermelon was invented).

(in case you’re curious, a lot of my undergrad work was focused on genetics, so I find it interesting)


That is awesome! I knew about grafting, but didn’t think about it for mutations. I didn’t know about the seedless watermelon that’s pretty cool.

But in our case wouldn’t that seedless variety still just be a female? Or since it’s 3n, maybe another mutation occurs?


One of the main uses of a triploid is to lock genetics down. Many conventional plant breeders, particularly flowering plants, maintain a line of diploid and a other of tetraploid, breed them and sell the triploid. The triploid is sterile, so nobody can breed with your line. Rather than rely on patents, breeders can lock a line down indefinitely with genetics. I think we will start to see more of this as time goes on for cannabis.


Usually polyploidy in plants results in what is called the “Gigas” effect, where the whole plant tends to be larger and thicker. I have heard of some cannabis growers experimenting with this to produce 4n, 6n, and 8n variants of cannabis, although beyond that, I hear the negative effects of polyploidy start to dominate.

The primary benefit for a seedless variant of cannabis would be as @Farmer_Dan pointed out, to lock down the genetics if you want to sell clones. If you’re an outdoor grower, it can also reduce or remove the need to remove pesky seeds (statistically, every 1/1024 attempted seeds will succeed, so it’s not perfect).

(Fun side note: Many of our current food crops are polyploid, which was caused by accident when humans selected for the gigas effect characteristics)