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Mum's The Word - Mother Plants Explained

Mum's The Word - Mother Plants Explained

Alex Grady

Your mother plant's the key to your best plant genetics - look after her!

The healthier the mother, the healthier the cuttings. Here's how you choose, maintain and take cuttings from a mother plant.

Why Keep a Mother Plant?

Seeds are like a box of chocolates... you never know what you’re going to get.

Plants grown from seeds all have a different genetic make up. They grow to different sizes, at different rates - results are inconsistent.

Plants grown from cuttings are direct genetic clones of the mother plant. You know exactly what you're going to get, and is a great way of protecting plant genetics.

Mother Plants

It's fine to start off from seeds...we all have to start somewhere. And it's better to start from seeds than it is to use cutting from somebody else's grow room (cross-contamination!).

If starting from seeds, take cuttings from all plants. Once you know what your best performer is, turn a cutting from that plant into your mother. From that mother, you'll get good, predictable cuttings from 6 months to 3 years.

How to Choose

Look for good genetics characteristics. Some of these include:

  • Fast growth rates
  • Good yield
  • Smell, colour, taste
  • Easiness to root cuttings
  • Resistance to rot

When starting from seeds:

You will need to take cuttings before you really know which plants are performing best.

Labelled seedlings in rockwool

For this reason, you should:

  1. Take cuttings from all plants in vegetative growth

  2. Never try to take cuttings in flowering

  3. Label plants and their cuttings - so you know which clones came from each seedling
Before long, you'll know which cuttings are worth keeping, based on how their parent plant performs.

Turn at least one of your cuttings into a mother plant by keeping it in constant vegetative growth (18hr light cycle).

Keeping a mother plant

It's not too tricky to maintain a mother. Here's are the basics.


Taking clones in soil

You can keep your mother in almost any media or system.

Most people use a large pot of soil for their mother plants.

In soil, build a root mass in a small 10cm pot for 3 - 4 weeks before moving the plant into a 11 Litre pot.

This should be big enough for most small to medium size mother plants (up to 5 foot).

The only media you can’t use is coco.

Coco tends to hold on to potassium (P) during the first 6 - 8 weeks and then slowly releases it during the flowering cycle, when plants need it.

For a standard grow, this is fine. Coco nutrients are formulated with this in mind. However, for mother plants, it means that you are no longer feeding them the the right ratio of NPK for veg.

Lots of people steer clear of hydro systems, too.

Mothers get big and bushy quickly. As a result, they produce too many cuttings and are tougher to maintain. Unless you want lots of clones, it's best to keep a small - medium sized mother.


Your mother plant has unique environmental needs to keep her in a continued state of vegetative growth.

Mother Plant Light:

To keep your mother plant in vegetative growth, you need to:

Use a blue grow light

Run an 18hrs on + 6hrs off

A 125W - 250W light will do the trick. Nothing too intense - just something to keep it ticking over. Any of our propagation grow lights will work.

Mother Plant Tent:

Mother Plant Tent Kit

If you've got a vegging tent, your can keep your mother here.

Just bear in mind she'll be a different height and size to your other vegging plants. This means that:

  1. She'll shadow nearby vegging plants, causing uneven growth.

  2. The light hanging height won’t be the same for your mother as other vegging plants.

For best results, keep your mother in a tent of her own. You can actually buy a kit for her.

Pruning your Mother Plant

Cutting Mother Plant Stems

To stop your mother getting too tall, and to maximise space, keep her well pruned.

You can take tips, branches or cuttings from anywhere on the plant, to help utilise light and space.

Over time, your mother will inevitable get too big and bushy. At this point, to preserve your genetics, you can take cuttings from her to make a new mother plants.

Feeding your Mother Plant

You don't want to push growth where your mother plant is concerned. Instead, focus on keeping her ticking over.

pH adjustments

In soil, don't adjust pH of your feed - just use good grow formulas and additives at 1/4 strength (like SHOGUN Samurai Terra Nutrients, Plagron Terra Nutrients or Plagron Alga Nutrients) to replenish micro nutrients in your media.

In hydro, try to keep the pH of the nutrient solution between about 5.8 and 6.7. Use a good hydroponic grow nutrient. A gentle formula that you'd feed cuttings is a good bet - like SHOGUN Start or Formulex. But you can use a 1/4 strength standard hydroponic grow nutrient, like SHOGUN Hydroponic Nutrient.

2 weeks before taking cuttings, whatever your media, feed your mother Nitrozyme to produce a fresh flush of new shoots.

Never use feeds and additives designed for flowering plants.


When to Take Cuttings from a Mother Plant

A good time to take cuttings is any time during veg, after your plants are established. Weeks 3 - 4 and onwards will be about right.

Where to take Cuttings From a Mother Plant

You can take cuttings from anywhere on your mother.

The lower branches are older and woodier. They have less sugar and more carbohydrates. Cuttings from these branches may root quicker and be less susceptible to rot.

The newer top shoots, once rooted, may grow quicker.

Either will make good cuttings.

How to take Cuttings from a Mother Plant

Once you've prepared your equipment and identified your cuttings sites, you can take cuttings.

Make clean, diagonal cuts (with a sterile scalpel) where the branch meets the stem.

You can then remove any new leaves and shoots from the bottom half of your cutting.

As a rule, you need to take twice the number of cuttings that you actually need.

For more guidance, see our step by step instructions on taking the perfect cuttings.

When to Replace your Mother Plant

As your mother gets a bit big and bushy, replace her with a cutting from herself.

This is a really good idea if she's spent a long time in the same pot or system - we don't want bacteria or disease to start or spread.

You can keep a mother plant for anything between 6 months and 3 years before the plant starts to break down and lose its vigour, yield, smell or other characteristics. At this point you need to find fresh, new, vigorous stock from seed and start the process all over again.

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