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Cannabis Mother Plants

Last updated: 29 September 2023

marijuana mother plants

Cannabis plants can come from one of two sources: seeds or clones. While growing from seeds is a classic method, making clones is a more advanced technique. One way to procure clones is by keeping your own mother plants. Keeping a mother plant is one way in which growers can maintain their favorite genetics and ensure that every plant they harvest is exactly the same. However, keeping a mother plant can be a difficult task that requires significant space, nutrients and time. To help you, we’ve outlined the process of keeping a mother plant for cloning here.

What Is A Mother Plant?

A mother is a plant that a grower uses as a source for clones. When you cut a clone from a mother, it’s an exact genetic replica of the mother plant. It will produce the same quality flower and have the same yields if flowered in the same conditions. In addition, clones cut from a female plant will always flower as female plants. However, to be suitable for cloning, mothers must always be kept in the vegetative phase.

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Why Should I Keep A Marijuana Mother Plant?

Keeping a mother plant offers several benefits to a grower. First, it can streamline the growing process. A grower with mother plants can harvest their flowering plants and have clones ready to go the very next day. In addition, keeping a mother takes the randomness out of growing. Every clone you cut from the mother will be exactly the same, so if you find a plant you like, you can continue to grow it harvest after harvest.

Guide To Selecting Mother Plants For Cloning

Keeping a mother plant requires strict adherence to procedure. You’ll need to germinate new plants, flower clones from them, and get rid of any potential mothers that produce males.

what is a cannabis mother plant

Step 1 – Germination

All cannabis plants come from seeds at some point. The best way to start your mother plant is by buying a pack of seeds and germinating all of them.

how to select a cannabis mother plant from seed

Step 2 – First Clones

Once the plants take root, give them 2-3 weeks to grow. After they’re large enough, you can take a couple of clones from each. Make sure you label them! Let the clones grow in the vegetative stage for 3-4 weeks. For more information on cloning, don’t forget to check our guide.

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Step 3 – Flower The Clones

Keep your original mother plants in the vegetative phase by giving them more than 12 hours of light per day. Flower the clones that you took from them. Once the clones begin to develop their sex organs (pistils or pollen sacs), keep the females and remove the males.

how to keep a cannabis mother plant

Step 4 – Cull The Male Mothers

Remove the male clones from your flower room and their mother plants from your vegetative room. You can dispose of the male plants or find a way to use them in our article about what to do with male cannabis plants.

Step 5 – Grow Female Clones

Grow the leftover female clones to maturity and harvest them. This will give you an idea of the quality of each mother plant.

Step 6 – Decide Which Mothers To Keep

Once you know which plants you want to keep, dispose of the other mother plants. However, you can still switch them to flowering and eventually harvest them if you like.

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Maintaining Your Mothers

Growing a mother plant isn’t easy. They require plenty of space, the right nutrients, correct pruning and topping, and specific amounts of light.

feeding cannabis mother plants

Grow Space – What You Need

You won’t need too much space to properly nurture a mother plant. An 80cm2 (.09 ft2) grow area should be sufficient for a single mother. In addition, you’ll need some lights. The best light for mother plants are blue-spectrum fluorescent tubes, metal halide bulbs, or full-spectrum LEDs. You’ll also want a small fan for air circulation, as well as a hygrometer to check the temperature and humidity of the air in the room.

Nutritional Necessities

Even though mother plants can get extremely large, they’re always kept in the vegetative phase. As a result, mother plants need specific nutrients. You’ll want to feed your plants a fertilizer with plenty of nitrogen and calcium. Nitrogen is essential to vegetative growth, while calcium will help your plant develop strong cell walls. In addition, once mother plants start to get large, they’ll absorb water and nutrients very quickly. Don’t let them dry out!

pruning mother plants


Topping is an important part of taking care of mother plants. Not only does it help manage the height, but you can use topping for taking clones from a mother plant. Make sure you top your mother plants at a 45-degree angle, and you can then use the tops as clones. This way, you’re not wasting any plant matter.

Air Pruning

In addition to topping, air pruning is an important technique for anyone interested in learning how to trim a mother plant. To prevent your mother from becoming root-bound, you’ll need to remove the plant from its pot and cut the root ball to a third of its size. Make sure you wait a few days between cloning and air pruning to give the plant enough time to restore.

growing space requirements for keeping mother plants
18 hours of light per day

Stay In Veg!

One of the most important things you’ll need to remember when growing mother plants is keeping them in the vegetative phase. Cannabis plants switch to flowering when they start receiving 12 hours of light or less per day. You can’t cut clones from a flowering plant. That’s why you want to make sure your plant gets 18 hours of light per day – this is a safe amount of light, and if it gets less light than that, the mother may start flowering.

Protecting Your Mother Plants

There are several ways in which you can protect your mother plant to ensure it stays healthy. First, growing it in organic soil can help it build up natural immunities to disease. Because mother plants have long lifecycles, they’re also susceptible to pests. You can use pesticides like pyrethrin or neem oil to combat these. It’s also important to know how old a mother plant should be before cloning. Make sure your plants are firmly rooted and have about 3 weeks of vegetative growth time before you clone them – this way, the cloning won’t cause too much stress on the plant.

Ready To Create Your Army Of Clones?

Knowing how to grow a mother plant is an important skill for a grower. The majority of professional growers in legal states utilize mother plants to streamline their grows and make them more efficient. Now that you know how to keep a mother plant, you can apply these techniques to your own garden. Once you narrow down your favorite strains, you can churn out high-grade weed every harvest!

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