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Expand Your Repertoire: Try Growing from Seed (part 3)

Expand Your Repertoire: Try Growing from Seed (part 3)

Every grower gets into a rut at some point. Here in California, where there are an abundance of high quality clone nurseries, we’re a little spoiled. It’s almost too easy to pick up some quality clones, bring them back home and start growing. But nothing beats generating a plant the old school way, from seed. In part three of my “resolutions” series I explore growing from seed vs. clones.



Micro close up of cannabis seed photo by Professor P of Dynasty Genetics.

Cannabis seeds are formed when pollen carrying the “father’s” half of the DNA lands on the stigma (white hairs) and travels down the style to the ovary where it is combined with the “mother’s” half of the DNA to form a tiny plant that uses a combination of the two parent’s DNA. This tiny plant is covered in a protective seed coat (along with a food store), that once mature, separates from the parent plant and takes root elsewhere.

Learn more about Becoming a Cannabis Breeder

The Pros Of Using Seeds

  1. Seeds are the better choice when looking for variation, as they are the result of combining the DNA from the two parent plants. The less stable the line is, the more variation in the offspring.
  2.  Seeds are less apt to be infected with a pathogen or insect eggs than clones.
  3.  Seeds store easier for longer periods than clones.
  4.  Seeds develop a taproot to reach down further for resources.
  5.  Seeds must first reach a minimum age before they can flower, regardless of the lighting they are exposed to. In an outdoor setting, this means they can be started outside earlier than clones, without flowering.

The Cons Of Using Seeds

  1. Unless feminized, approximately half of seeds will develop into male plants, so at least twice as many seeds as female plants desired should be started.Feminized seeds are formed when a female plant is treated with colloidal silver, gibberlic acid, or similar to become monoecious and develop male flowers in addition to her female flowers. The seeds will be all female as there is no male to contribute a “Y” chromosome, although if forced incorrectly (for example by mild stress) they may have a tendency to spontaneously turn monoecious (hermie) which is undesirable.
  2. They take a little longer to germinate and get started. Most clones sold in a nursery or dispensary setting are roughly 14 days old. Two weeks can feel like an eternity when you’re anxious to generate a crop.

Learn more about How to Start Cannabis Seeds Right


Heathy cannabis clones.
Heathy cannabis clones.

Cuttings (clones) are made from taking a section of plant (including a growth tip and section of stem) and keeping the bottom portion of the stem moist and warm long enough to produce roots. This is possible because in the stem there are undifferentiated cells known as meristem cells that can be coaxed into developing into root cells instead of trunk, leaf, flower, or whatever sort of cell they were going to be before the cutting was made.

The Pros Of Using Clones

  1. Rooted cuttings share the same DNA as their donor (mother) plant. If you have successful plant or strain that you’re interested in growing again, you don’t have to part ways with it after harvest. Clone it and continue to work with it!
  2. Clones are the better choice when looking for consistency. This is because they share the same genotype (DNA instructions) they tend to have similar phenotypes (physical appearance).

Note of caution: Recently acquired clones should be quarantined for a couple of weeks to ensure that hidden insect eggs have time to hatch or other pathogens can be identified. Allow the plants a bit of time in isolation so that problems have a chance to manifest. Then they can be treated and eliminated before inclusion into the general garden population.

3. Clones are sexually mature, so will flower in response to long dark periods.

Since the cuttings will share the same sex as the plant they were cut from, they can be used to identify gender of both if either is sexed. As long as the mother plant is female, all cuttings from her will also be female. And, rather than growing vegetatively, as seeds do, they are ready to flower.

The Cons Of Using Clones

Many experts claim growing from seeds represents the only true way of cultivation. They insist cloning is something of an easy way out for newbies. I’m not one of these experts personally, but to each his/her own. There are limitations to cloning.

  1. Since clones are basically the same plant grown in multiple containers, any weakness in one tends to be a weakness in all. For example, if the mother plant has a susceptibility to fungal infections, so will all her cuttings. The Gros Michel banana was devastated by this problem and Cavandish bananas are in danger from it (both are seedless bananas and as such are reproduced by cloning).
  2. Clones are sexually mature, and can’t be put outside as early in the spring as seedlings can without flowering.
  3. If all of your plants are clones of the same plant, all your jars will be filled with the same smoke. Even the best smoke can get monotonous without some variety.

    Ask Ed: Growers Questions And Answers From Ed Rosenthal

    Ed Rosenthal photo by Lizzy Fritz.
    Ed Rosenthal photo by Lizzy Fritz.

    I announced I was writing this article last week and asked for reader questions. I wasn’t prepared for the huge amount of responses. Many growers have processes they swear by and a #growyourown passion for cannabis.  Here are a few questions I wanted to respond to.

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    Is Cannabis Trioecious?

    @thecannabisplantwhisperer“Over the years, multiple professors of mine have said cannabis is trioecious and many have argued that fact with me on here. Some people even say that trioecious is an antiquated term but it seems to present itself in cannabis.”

    “Trioecious (also known as Trimonoecious) plants have three distinct flower types: pistillate (female), staminate (male) , and flowers with both parts (perfect). Cannabis is generally considered dioecious because it normally has female and male flowers on separate plants. Confusion arises because occasionally cannabis individuals will be monoecious (have both male and female flowers on the same plant), which is not the same as having both sexes in the same flower as it would if it were trioecious. Slang terms for a monoecious cannabis plant are “hermaphrodite” or “hermie” although this can be misleading as those are also terms used to describe “perfect” or “bisexual” flowers in standard botany.”

    ‘Damping Off’ From Seeds?

    @lepticyzer … “Maybe you can get into ‘damping off’ from seeds. I ran a few seeds back in the day with high humidity and not a lot of air circulation and although 3/4 got to third leaf stage, they all died off shortly after. One never made the surface. Read up on damping off and hasn’t happened again in 16 years.”

    “Damping off is an umbrella term for a variety of lethal fungal infections that can affect seedlings and sprouts. The culprit is most often too much moisture and not enough air circulation. The situation is similar to how leaving a wet towel wadded up in the corner of a bathroom can develop mildew. To help prevent damping off (or mildewed towels) don’t leave the media too wet for too long, and create enough air circulation to allow any excess moisture to dry before a pathogenic fungus becomes established. ”

    Indoors Or Outdoors?

    @kes5480“The tap root thing makes sense if in the earth but does it really matter in a No.5 pot? Very curious. Great topic.”

    “The presence or absence of a taproot makes the biggest difference when in the ground. If the taproot can drive down far enough to have access to additional resources over a rooted cutting then it can display an advantage. However, in a container small enough that the roots from a clone can reach the bottom as well as a taproot could, the advantage diminishes. This is shown in the preference many outdoor growers have for starting from seed, and the ambivalence many indoor growers have on the topic.  ”

    …Complete Guide To Growing?

    @_stoney.bologna“Was wondering if you have a complete guide to growing?”

    “Indeed I do. My Marijuana Grower’s Handbook has been an industry leader for over 20 years now. I’d encourage you to check it out. I’m currently working to revise it for a whole new crop of growers. ”


    ABOUT ED ROSENTHAL “THE GURU OF GANJA” Ed Rosenthal is a leading cannabis horticulture authority, author, educator, social activist and legalization pioneer. He writes the much loved and long-running cannabis column, ‘Ask Ed’, and his seminal cannabis growers guide, ‘Ed Rosenthal’s Marijuana Grower’s Handbook’ has become the definitive marijuana cultivation resource, inspiring millions to learn the best marijuana cultivation techniques. His upcoming book, Beyond Buds, Next Generation, is the indispensable guide for anyone looking for perspective on the next generation of cannabis innovation.You can order your copy HERE today.

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