Taking cuttings or "cloning" is a popular way to propagate a plant and is a very good method to get multiple plants that are genetically identical to a "mother" plant. Many people feel intimidated by the process, and are a bit leery to attempt cloning. If you are one of those people, relax, it's a relatively easy process.
There are several reasons to clone a plant; the most obvious being that you don't have any seed. Another reason is to control the quality of the plant. Every seed, like every human being, is slightly different with no two plants from seed being genetically the same. So if your plant has characteristics and qualities you want, take clones of your special plant that will be genetically identical to the mother plant. Over time you could make about a bazillion gazillion (that's a lot) genetically identical clones.
One advantage of cloning your plants is that it's faster than starting from seed. Some cuttings will root and produce a growing plant from a clone before the seeds of the same plant can even sprout; saving a lot of time.
Items you need to clone are a sharp single edge razor blade, a back-up block of wood about 2"x 2", a shot glass or similar small glass, growing medium, a seed tray with a clear humidity dome, a good quality rooting hormone gel, solution or powder, a spray bottle and rubbing alcohol.
First, select a healthy plant. This might sound obvious, but you should only use healthy plants to take cuttings from. The healthier the mother plant is the better success you will have with your clones. You should take a few more cuttings than you need and then select the healthiest ones to use.
Next you will need to leach the nitrogen out of the mother plant by watering heavily with pH adjusted water only or a flush solution such as Clearex or FloraKleen (no fertilizer) for two or three days before you take the cuttings. This is an important step because the nitrogen stored in the plant will retard rooting.
For growing medium most people use Rapid Rooters, Rockwool, Oasis cubes, Pro Mix, coconut fiber or one of several other suitable growing medium. It has been my experience that Rapid Rooters result in a greater success rate than the other mediums. Rapid Rooters are organic, made from composted tree bark that has a naturally occurring rooting hormone that helps speed rooting. Do not use regular dirt or Jiffy Peat Pellets as they stay too wet and can rot the stem of the cutting. You need to pre-soak your growing medium in pH balanced water. Distilled water works best, but any good water source will work. Most growing medium needs to be soaked in water with a pH of 6 to 7. Rockwool needs to be soaked for 24 hours with water adjusted to a pH of 5.5.
Sterilize everything before you start because cuttings are very susceptible to fungi, viruses and diseases. Use rubbing alcohol on your hands, the razor blade and the cutting block. Rinse the shot glass (or whatever you are using) with alcohol, dry it and then fill it 3/4 full with a liquid rooting hormone such as Clonex or Olivia's to name a couple, and set it aside for now.
Work quickly, but carefully when you make the cut that separates the clone from the mother. You must get it into the glass with the liquid rooting hormone as quickly as possible to prevent air from getting pulled into the stem.
Take a growing tip from your plant 3 to 6 inches long with at least one leaf internode where the leaf connects to the stem, two are better, but not always possible.
With a sharp single edge razor blade, carefully cut off one or two branches or small leaves flush with the stem.
Make a cut approximately 1/4" below the internode where you just trimmed the leaves. Cut at a 45 degree angle near the base of the cutting's stalk. Hold the back-up block tightly against the stem where you are going to cut. The block supports the stem and protects your fingers. Make this cut as quick and clean as you can, you do not want to tear or crush the stem.
Quickly insert the cutting into the glass with the liquid rooting hormone. Let the cutting soak for 30-60 seconds in the liquid rooting hormone. If you are using a gel type hormone you just dip the cutting into the gel and then insert it into the growing medium. When using a powdered hormone you need to wet the stem with water and then carefully roll the stem in the powder.
Carefully insert the cutting into the growing medium, do not push the cutting all the way through the medium, and leave room for the roots to develop. Make sure that the cuts you made at the leaf internodes are below the surface of the growing medium.
Congratulations! You have successfully taken cuttings. Now the next challenge is to keep them alive long enough to root and become a plant.
Part 2 of this article will discuss what a cutting needs to successfully root and become a clone.
Don and Sandy Landers are owners of Dream Garden Hydroponics, LLC, 26380 State Route 7 Marietta.