Home cultivators looking to take advantage of medical marijuana allowances have two choices when starting out, clones or seeds. There are several things to consider when selecting which is best for you.
What is a clone?
A clone is a clipping from a mother plant that’s grown into a new, separate plant with identical genetics to its parent. Clones used to offer the security that your cannabis plant was female and therefore will produce. Now you can purchase feminized seeds so this is no longer a factor to worry about. Clones can easily be purchased at most local dispensaries or cut and developed from someone else’s plant (with their permission, of course).
The most important concept to understand when choose cannabis clones or seeds is phenotypic variation. All this means to you, the cultivator, is that seeds are like siblings. They will develop differences from each other. These differences may include size, shape, yield, flavor – just as siblings who share both parents may have different skin tones, height, hair and eye colors. A clone is just that – an identical twin. It will express itself exactly like its parent plant. The genetic stability of clones is what attracts people to them. All plants will show uniformity, including appearance, growth cycle and potency.
Since clones are generally purchased once they’ve been developed into sturdy plants themselves, you are taking a chance that they or the soil may be contaminated by pests or disease. If pesticides or chemicals were used on the mother plant, the contamination can make its way into your plants as well. Thus, it’s critical to purchase clones from a reputable source and check if they offer any guarantees or return programs. With seeds, you’re in control for the entire lifecycle of the plant.
Depending on where you live, you may or may not have access to clones. In this case, seeds are the obvious choice as they can be shipped. Some online sellers guarantee their seeds for up to 2 years if kept refrigerated, but seeds have been known to develop after more than a decade. You can purchase and store as many seeds as want.
Health and Vigor
Cannabis plants grown from seeds will develop a strong tap root, whereas clones develop a fibrous system requiring more support. It’s generally accepted that seedlings will develop more vigorously with stronger growth than cuttings, especially cuttings from older mother plants. Regardless of the type of root system, there should be no effect on nutrient intake or potency but cuttings may develop more slowly and take longer to produce the same yield.
So, clones or seeds?
- Easy to procure
- Lifecycle control
- Increased vigor
- Requires less initial set-up costs and space
- Variations mean staggered harvesting times
- Can be stored long term
- Plant sexing (unless purchasing feminized seeds)
- Longer to yield
- Variation in plant structure, potency, etc…
- Shorter time to harvest
- Consistency in terms of appearance, potency and yield
- Identical growth cycles
- Soil may be contaminated, cuttings could contain pesticides, chemicals or pests
- Susceptible to transplant shock
- Can be hard to procure
- Requires more space to start
- Unknown origin – possible diminished genetics