If you’ve ever heard the phrase “mother plant” with regards to cannabis, and you didn’t know what that meant, this article will explain it for you.
On the other hand, if you are already maintaining a group of moms and want some tips on how to optimize what you’re already doing, we have some tips for you as well.
Why Moms are important: preserving favored genetics
Imagine you’ve found an amazing pheno. It is a strain you love, and this particular plant is better than any other plants of that same strain that you’ve always grown. You want to keep it forever. Can you? The answer is, “Yes!”
Once you have found a pheno that you really like, you absolutely want to preserve that pheno. After all, you likely had to conduct a large pheno hunt just to find this diamond in the rough. And you don’t want to have to engage in another hunt again.
For one, pheno hunting is so time consuming and requires so much effort, you have to limit the amount of hunting you do, unless you are willing to accept lower regular yields of your favored strains (because you made space for the new pheno hunt and had to flower less of your consistent winners).
Part of pheno hunting is dealing with the poor yields or the poor outcomes of some phenos that will ultimately be discarded. It’s a lot of time and resources spent on plants that will ultimate be thrown away.
The other problem is that you could pheno hunt the same strain again and still not find the pheno you once had, because they are all unique in their own way.
So if you have a particular pheno that you really love, what can you do to guarantee you basically keep this pheno forever? You create a mom out of her.
Mother Plants are large, immature plants, used for producing clones
A mother plant is a plant that is kept for the sole purpose of creating duplicates of itself, so that you can keep growing the same strain without having to resort to planting more seeds.
How do you create an exact duplicate of an existing marijuana strain? You cut a clone from the plant you want to duplicate.
What is a clone? A clone is a cutting from another cannabis plant that contains a “top” or a node. A small branch with a single node is sufficient to become a clone – an exact duplicate – of the existing plant it was taken from.
Therefore, the purpose of a Mother Plant is have a plant that is big enough to keep propagating clones as often as you need them.
How to create a Mother Plant
You can create a mother plant by simply leaving your plant in a vegetative state. Now while it is in this state, it will never flower; it will never develop into a mature state. Which is what you want, because your plant must remain immature in order for you to take cuttings off of it.
Once a plant goes into bloom, it loses that ability to perpetuate itself the way a plant in a vegetative state can.
However, in order to keep it in a vegetative state, you must keep the lights on basically all the time. At least 16 hours a day or more. And when you keep the lights on that much in a single day, your plant will just keep growing and growing.
So Mother Plants are usually giant, because they are never allowed to stop growing. In commercial facilities, Mother Plants are usually segregated from the rest of the vegging plants. The reason is that Mother Plants are usually much, much larger than the vegging plants that will soon be flowered.
Another reason is for segregating Moms is for the safety and security of those moms. Since the mom plants are the future genetics, you must ensure they remain healthy and disease free, and one way is to give them their own space and minimize traffic to that space.
Never Create a Mother Plant from a Seed; Create it from the Clone
Here is a pro-tip: Never create a mother plant from a seedling. Wait for the clone.
When you plant a seed, and it sprouts into a seedling/small plant, you should take a clone from that seedling. You can now either send the seedling into flower, or you can discard the seedling altogether. But that clone will be your future source of genetics, not the original seedling.
Take that clone and treat it as your mother. Now start cutting clones off of it and flower those clones.
Many growers have found that the original plant from seed just doesn’t amount to much. For some reason, the clone always performs better. We are not quite sure why, but over hundreds of tests, we are convinced that the clones are better than the seeds.
Additionally, the clone of the clone tends to be even better. We have found that when we conduct pheno hunts and we find winners, it is always round three that we really see the true potential of those phenos. The original product from seed is always the worst, and even round two with the clone is not as good as round three with a subsequent clone.
How Long can or should you keep a Mom?
The main consideration is the amount of space you have for your mother plants. Because moms are forced to remain in vegetative state, they never stop growing. As you take cuttings off of her, you are in a way reducing her size (you just removed branches, after all). And the act of cloning is a form of stress that will slow her growth.
But after your mom plant reaches a certain size, it doesn’t matter how many cuttings you take, she is still a giant bush (or maybe a palm tree if you’ve been cutting the lower half).
In that case, you can create a new mother plant by taking a clone and growing it up. Once it is of sufficient size that you can take clones from it and not over-stress it, you can discard the old mom.