how to choose a mother cannabis plant

What is a cannabis mother plant?

Cannabis plants come from one of two sources: a seed or a clone . Mother plants are needed in the cloning process—they are highly valued plants that growers take cuttings off of to create clones. The clones are genetically identical cuttings that can then be planted to grow into a new plant.

Mother plants stay in the vegetative stage as clones are repeatedly clipped from them. It’s important to only take cuttings off a plant in the veg stage, and not off a flowering plant.

Some growers will have dedicated mother plants that are only used for taking cuttings, but this setup takes up a lot of space and materials. With this method, the moms will never flower, so you’ll never get any buds from them. Some growers find it hard to justify devoting time, energy, and space to plants that won’t produce product. If your grow space is tight, this might not be the best setup.

Another method that growers employ is to take cuttings off a set of mother plants then flip the mothers into flower. The next generation of clones is grown, and when they get big enough, cuttings will be taken from them before getting flipped into flower. Because clones are genetically identical, each generation will be an exact copy of the mother before it.

Let’s take a look at why mother plants are so important as well as how to maintain and preserve the quality of a mother.

Check out these additional resources for more info on cannabis clones:

Why have a cannabis mother plant?

Cannabis mother plants guarantee genetic consistency, meaning that each new generation will have the same taste, flavor, effects, and other characteristics. Taking clones guarantees that all the plants in your garden will grow at generally the same rate, produce a similar quality product, and grow with the same vigor as the mother they came from. You’ll also get to know a specific strain or phenotype well from growing it over and over.

It will also guarantee that all of your clones are females, so you don’t have to spend time growing from seed, sexing plants, and discarding males. When growing from seeds, you have to deal with far more variability in growth patterns, nutrient needs, and other attributes.

Cannabis mothers will also save you time and money. Premium seeds cost upward of $10 a pop. Instead of buying seeds every time you want to grow a new crop, carry on genetics through cloning or have a dedicated mother plant to provide you with quality clones over multiple seasons.

How to select a cannabis mother plant from seed

Because clones are genetically identical to their mothers, selecting a quality mother plant is crucial for a successful harvest. While a pack of seeds are all the same strain, they will be different phenotypes, or different physical expressions of that seed.

This plant will be the beginning of your genetic legacy, so you want the best possible expression of that particular strain.

To select the best plant from a pack of seeds:

  • Step 1:Germinate the seeds.
  • Step 2: When the plants are big enough, take a few clones from each, making sure to label which seed they came from—this is important.
  • Step 3: Flower the clones while keeping the originals in a vegetative state. You have to flower the clones so they show their sex and you can identify the males.
  • Step 4: Discard the males and their corresponding originals in veg.
  • Step 5: Now that you have all females, grow them to maturity.
  • Step 6: Take another set of clones off the remaining plants, grow them to maturity and harvest.
  • Step 7: After harvesting, note traits like aroma, flavor, yield, bud structure, and growth pattern. Be sure to smoke them too!
  • Step 8: Whichever strain you like best, take the corresponding original in veg and discard the others. That one is your new mother plant.

How to maintain a mother plant

It’s a good idea to use the original plant from seed as your mother as opposed to a clone it produced. Plants grown from seed are known to have stronger, deeper taproots than their clones and also have stronger immune systems.

Some farmers also protect their mother plants by germinating and growing them in an organic base. “By starting out organic, you allow your mother plants to build up immunity to fight diseases as opposed to protecting them with strong non-organic mediums and nutrients,” said Cody Erickson, head grower of Khush Kush in Bellingham, Washington.

Once you have chosen your mother plant, focus its nutrient regimen specifically for a mother. It needs to stay healthy while handling the stress of having cuttings repeatedly clipped from it.

You’ll want clones taken from mothers with strong cell walls and high carbohydrate levels. Use nutrients that have a high percentage of calcium to help bind cell walls and increase the density of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates, plus water stored in the clone, will be used to produce roots.

Stay away from nitrogen-rich nutrients which cause a plant to grow rapidly, giving a plant thin cell walls and a lower density of carbohydrates.

Mother plants have a life cycle, just like all living beings. Even with meticulous care, your favorite mother plant will show diminishing returns over time. The clones taken will grow with less vigor, produce lower-grade cannabis, and leave you reminiscing of better days.

This can take anywhere from a year to several years. It’s a good idea to store seeds from plants you’re currently growing so that when the time comes, you’ll be ready to start over with the same genetics you love.

This post was originally published on May 11, 2018. It was most recently updated on February 27, 2020.

The key to cloning cannabis is to start with the right mother plant. Learn about mother plants and how to pick the best one for high-quality clones.

Selecting a feminised cannabis mother plant

This post will be interesting for both indoor and outdoor growers, although if we want to search for phenotypes and keep mother plants – clone mothers – we’ll need an indoor growing space.

We’ll see how to keep a copy of the different phenotypes, how to select them and how to grow them again anytime we want, getting the same exact product than in previous crops, exactly the same as the mother plant.

The selection process can be performed with either feminised or regular seeds; as long as they are photoperiod strains, we’ll have no problems in keeping them growing under the correct light schedule. Thus, we can not clone autoflowering plants.

You’ll also see, step by step, how to make cannabis cuttings. As happens with any selection, it ended in a splendid cannabis tasting session.

With the results of the tasting at hand, it is much easier choosing the best phenotype, so we’ll finally have our mother plant. All the pictures from this post were taken during a selection of SuperJuani seeds.

A selected SuperJuani cannabis plant

Why should I select a mother plant?

Any grower with a bit of experience on his/her back asks this question sometime. And the answer is very simple: selecting a mother plant allows you to have uniform crops of the genetics that really meets your demands.

Normally, growers follow this criteria to select their mother plants:

  1. Yield
  2. Early flowering
  3. Smell and taste
  4. Effect
  5. Structure
  6. Ease of growth

Cannabis cuttings growing uniformly

Too often, a grower realizes that a plant which is already flowering (or even harvested) is something special and unique. To solve this problem, every time we grow seeds we should take at least one cutting of each plant, so we duplicate the phenotypes and keep them until we’ve tasted all the plants and decided if any of them is worth keeping. In this way, all cuttings taken from a plant will be exact copies of the that plant, with the same properties and features.

Logically, all this implies using indoor growing spaces, since we need a constant 18/6 photoperiod to root cuttings and keep plants in the growth stage indefinitely.

It should be noted that the first mother plant can be an outdoor plant (as long as it is growing, rooting cuttings of plants that are flowering is much harder).

A selected cannabis mother plant

Can I make a selection of feminised cannabis seeds?

Of course you can. Years ago, many people wrongly claimed that selections should be made of only regular strains. A whole another story is using these type of seeds for breeding, which is much more complicated.

As we say, we can use either regular or feminised seeds for making our own selections and keeping mother plants for as much time as we want.

What is absolutely impossible nowadays is keeping a mother plant from automatic cannabis strains. These plants do not depend on the photoperiod to bloom, so keeping plants in the growth stage is impossible even when under a 18/6 photoperiod.

Cannabis seeds for selection

How to select a cannabis mother plant?

First of all, we should get quality marijuana seeds and grow them. We can do it indoors or outdoors. Once the plants have grown enough, take 1-2 cuttings of each plant (phenotype). Carefully label each clone mother and the cuttings you took from each of them with the same name, so you always know who is who. Once the cuttings are rooted we can start flowering our mother plants (if necessary, you could also keep the mother plants and flower the clones in smaller pots).

For this post we used two 1,2 x 1,2m grow tents with 25 SuperJuani seeds. We grew the plants until they had developed nice side branches from which we could take the cuttings.

SuperJuani cannabis plant

If the side branches of your plants are not long enough when the bloom begins, you can take cuttings during the first days of this period, when plants often stretch notably.

Using lots of plants will make the selection process more problematic, since we’ll have a large number of plants to monitor and lots of clones to care for. As plants flower, we should write down the most desirable traits of each phenotype and observe the development of the plants.

Finally, once the plants have been harvested and dried, we can taste each phenotype and decide which will be our mother plant for following crops, breeding projects, etc.

Marijuana cloning

Every grower has his/her own tips regarding cannabis cloning. We can use different substrates such as rockwool, coco coir, soil, peat moss, even hydro/aeroponic systems.

What really matters here is labeling, especially when making selections. There is nothing worst than having a superb plant and not knowing which clones were taken from that plant. If that happens, we can repeat the process with all clones and identify our champion, but it will take another crop to figure out.

Labeling our plants is essential

A thorough selection process requires lots of labels

Proper cleaning and tidying are imperative when rooting clones.

Once the cuttings are ready, spray them with water.

Cuttings need to be hydrated

Place your cuttings inside an indoor growing space.

Grow tent for propagating clones

Wheter in grow tents or small plastic propagators, fluorescent tubes are enough to root cuttings.

Plastic propagators with clones

When the cuttings have rooted, it’s time to transplant them into small pots, so we can keep them relatively small before we harvest the mother plants and decide which one will be the “chosen one”.

Cuttings being kept awaiting for the selection

In this selection of SuperJuani, the Philosopher Seeds team was looking for a spicy plant, which actually was the most representative phenotype of the crop.

We did it! Here’s our baby…

A very spicy SuperJuani phenotype

We hope you enjoyed the post, if you have any comments or doubts please leave them here.

Selecting a feminised cannabis mother plant This post will be interesting for both indoor and outdoor growers, although if we want to search for phenotypes and keep mother plants – clone mothers