CARING FOR PARENT PLANTS
When choosing a suitable mother plant you need to look at the following attributes of the plant you are considering, these are: aesthetic qualities, shape, size, density of leaves, compactness, early maturation, clones well, produces strong plantlets and is disease and pest resistant. (As well as having a history of heavy fruit/flowering production of course.)
It is also important to remember that your mother plant should be a healthy and stress free parent. Cuttings from a stressed parent plant may root poorly, be slow in growing, produce poor mutated leaves and most importantly, produce lower yields. It is important to reinforce that the condition of the mother plant is of paramount importance to the success or failure of your cuttings. Vigorous genetic stock can be lost by cloning from a poorly cared for parent.
As a general guide, do not take more than 20 - 30% of the vegetative material off each mother plant at any one time, and do not take cuttings from the mother plant too often. Each time you take cuttings it is essential to let the mother plant rejuvenate for at least 2 weeks after each pruning.
Remember, if growing initially from seed you are in for a long haul. To achieve the desired result you must be patient. Select only the strongest genetic stock from your seedlings - you will identify a potential mother plant easily as it will be the best performer of the bunch. Keep in mind that seed stock will never produce the same consistent results that you can expect from cuttings, as they need to first grow to maturity before they show any sort of result.
Some helpful hints for the care of mother plants
Limit each cloning session to 16-20 clones at a time per mother plant.
It is advisable to only clone from a mother plant at 2 week intervals as the quality of the clones you take are dependant on the health of the parent, and a plant needs this time to recover.
If you have to take cuttings from a plant that is in flower, cut all the flowers off the clone you take as this will help reduce plant stress.
If planting clones outdoors, treat with care and slowly acclimatize them to the natural sunlight.
Always clean propagation trays thoroughly between cloning sessions. Use a weak "Hydro-Clear" solution as per the directions on the bottle. You would be amazed at how much bacteria and fungal spores can form in your trays. An unclean environment can lead to diseases such as pythium (root rot) and you don't want to get this in your propagation area!! Remember: cleanliness is very important.
How many times you take clones off your mother plant is really dependant on the health of the plant, and this is also relevant to how often and when you should replace her. I have seen mother plants that have been easily 2 years old and they have continued to produce first rate clones.
Do not reuse the propagation media as this can harbour diseases as well. Always start with fresh cubes, they are inexpensive and easy to store if kept dry.
Do not clone from a mother plant that is infested by spider-mite or for that matter any type of bug. Try and keep your mother plant free of pest infestation at all times as this can seriously inhibit your cuttings. Remember, they have little or no resistance to bugs at this stage and stress badly if attacked by bugs during cloning.
A stressed mother plant will produce very poor offspring, so try and fix the problem first before you take any cuttings as the weakness will be passed on to the cuttings. The faster your cuttings develop roots, the less stress the cuttings will be exposed to.
When trying to strike seeds or take cuttings it is always an advantage to have all the correct tools. Often the simplest of reasons cause seeds not to strike or cuttings not to take, and this could be something basic like not having a heat pad in the winter months.
Pictured and listed below is the Hydro Masta Propagation Station which includes everything you will need to ensure you have a 100% strike rate.
Use the check list below to see that you have everything needed before you attempt to strike seeds or take cuttings from your mother plant.
TWIN FLURO HOUSING: A simply designed and totally enclosed chamber which has two 18W grolux propagation tubes.
PROPAGATION KIT: 280mm X 340mm drip tray, seedling tray and vented grow top.
PROPAGATION BLOCKS: A totally inert material which supports the seed or cutting through its development.
HORMONE ROOTING GEL: A very viscous gel which seals the stem and stimulates the cutting to produce roots.
HEATING PAD OR PROPAGATION MAT: Keeps rootzone at a steady 25°C. Below this temp roots are slow to develop.
SEED AND CLONE STARTER SOLUTION: Complete plantfood for when the plant starts to developed tap roots.
ROOTZONE ACCELERANT: Stimulator for when cuttings have started to develop root nodes.
PLANTWAX FOLIAR SPRAY: Slows down transpiration rate which prevents fresh cuttings from wilting.
24HR TIMER: Set at 24 hrs for seeds and 18hrs for cuttings and seedlings.
CLONING KNIFE /SINGLE EDGE: You need a sharp knife so it cuts cleanly and doesn't tear at the plant stem.
1. When setting up and maintaining your propagation station you must take care to provide your seeds and cuttings with the best propagating environment possible, keeping the area clean is paramount. This will ensure a faster strike rate for your seeds and cuttings.
2. High humidity, 18 hours of light, proper air circulation, strict attention to cleanliness and correct bottom heat are absolutely necessary if you want any sort of success.
3. If air in the propagation room is dry, you can mist to raise the humidity. Black leaf edges, black spots on leaves and mushy stems are all indications of too much moisture and poor airflow.
4. It is also essential that you provide adequate bottom heat "so don't try and skimp here". If you do, root development will be slow and the chance of plants crashing is increased. Even in sub tropical areas the night time temperatures can dip below 15°Cc.
MASTA-TIP: REMEMBER TO FOLLOW THE PROPAGATION BASICS
ROOTZONE TEMPERATURE 25°C.
PH LEVEL 6.3
NUTRIENT STRENGTH 7CF
AREA AMBIENT TEMPERATURE 27°C.
SEEDS AND SEEDLINGS
All a seed needs to germinate is warmth and moisture. The seed swells with the moisture then a little miracle happens and the seed actually begins the plant life process all over again. A seed has all the hormones needed in the husk of the seed to strike. Nutrients (mineral salts) cannot be absorbed until the plant has a root system, so don't waste your nutrient. The medium used to germinate a seed must be well draining, but remain moist to the touch. Although moisture levels may vary for different plant varieties, the medium must not be too wet as this will cause the seed to rot. The medium is best described as not dry and never very wet so when you press down on the media water pools.
Within a few days of planting the seeds in the medium, most of the seeds will have started to sprout. Once the seeds start to split and show the white sprout, you will need to monitor moisture levels even more closely. At no time during the germination period must the medium be allowed to dry out. Keep your seedlings in a place that has a constant warmish atmosphere, like a propagation box. This will create a high humidity environment and will cut out the need for daily watering.
Don't worry if all the seeds haven't made an appearance, if they are all from the same source, then the others will follow suit within hours; those that don't are probably duds.
Once a seed has sprouted it is a good idea to give it some indirect light in preparation for its first leaves. Lighting should be fluorescent grow tubes placed close to the tops of the seedlings, about 100mm. The seedlings will sprout with small leaves (cotyledons or water leaves), but when the first true leaves appear it is a good indication that the seedling now has the beginnings of a root system and you should apply a specific nutrient from now on. Seed'n'Clone solution is custom made for this application. It should be noted that the first two weeks of life are critical. If a plant does not have a good start, then you can generally say that the plant will not grow successfully.
Optimum germinating temperatures can vary from seed to seed, but as a guide, 25 °C should give you a very good strike rate. Using perlite and vermiculite mixes has been a professional method for many years, although rockwool cubes are becoming the most preferred method to start seeds as they hold their moisture for long periods. Remember that rockwool cubes are impossible to remove from the plant's roots without pulling most of the roots off too! When you transplant make sure you plant the seedling into the system with the rockwool cube attached. If they have a root trainer (plastic sleeve) on you can take this off at this time.
SEED RAISING FOR SUCCESS STEP BY STEP
STEP 1.   Mix seed & clone starter solution with rootzone accelerant at recommended dosage rates in a bucket of luke warm water. Pre-soak propagation blocks or medium until saturated. Gently squeeze the block to get rid of the excess solution.
STEP 2.   Place propagation blocks on your netted tray with the black drip tray underneath, you are now ready to plant out your seeds.
STEP 3.   Gently place one seed per hole no deeper than 5mm into the block or medium. Do not close
STEP 4.   Place clear grow top over both trays and do not water at all until all seeds have germinated or within 7 days which ever is sooner. The seed should strike within 7 to 10 days. If seeds do not germinate within 14 days they are either sterile, or they will become weak plants even if they strike after this time.
STEP 5.   When the 'water leaves' or cotyledons, also known as nursery leaves appear, open vents on the propagation lid half way. This will stop the seedlings stretching and acclimatize the should be only moist to touch.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE AGAIN - don't worry if some of the seeds haven't germinated. If the seed is worth growing it will have germinated within the 14 day time frame.
STEP 6.   When the first true leaves have appeared, lift the propagation lid completely off. This stage is called the hardening off period, whereby the plants acclimatize to the environment and the higher intensity lighting is required for this next stage of the growth process.
STEP 7.   By now also your seedlings should be stretching a little, and a tap root or two should be visible at the bottom of the propagation block. It is important at this stage to keep feeding your young plants every few days and be sure to pour off any excess solution.
REMEMBER - ROOTS MUST REMAIN MOIST!!
Cuttings can be taken from anywhere on the mother plant, provided they are tip cuttings and the stems are of the correct thickness i.e., 4 - 6 mm in diameter. Take cuttings with at least three to four sets of leaves plus the two crown leaves. The top growing shoots make excellent cuttings, however make sure the stem is rigid and not too soft and flexible. If you can bend it over it is not ready to cut from the mother. If you do take it as a cutting, more than likely it will not make it through the sensitive early stages of cloning. You may wish to take a number of cuttings at one time, if so, prepare all the cubes or media first, because any time that the cut is exposed to the air it can pick up pathogens and fungal spores which will lower your success rate. Before you begin to take cuttings it is a good idea to have all the equipment ready and in good working order. All your equipment should be as sterile as possible.
STEP 1.   Pre-soak the propagation blocks or media with a mix of seed 'n' clone solution and rootzone accelerant into a bucket of luke warm water. Do this at the recommended dosage rates - we'll call this the bucket or batch solution so don't discard this yet. Soak blocks for about 20 minutes and pour off the excess prior to the cloning session. Then lay out propagation cubes in the tray. Use the preferred 50 x 50 cubes and you should be able to do about 20 cuttings per tray.
STEP 2.   Take the single edged razor blade and begin taking your cuttings. Take cuttings just below the third or fourth internodal junction of the plant at a 45 deg angle, then trim the bottom two sets of leaves flush with the stem. If the leaves are large, trim approximately 50% of leaves by cutting across the leaf surface. By doing this you will slow the transpiration rate down. Next dip the stem of the cuttings into the cloning gel to about 5 mm above the cut.
MASTA TIP Do not dip directly into the rooting hormone bottle. Instead pour some into the cap and use it that way. By doing this you reduce the risk of cross contamination and minimise the introduction of any bacteria or disease into the main container. Also store your propagation gel in a cool dark place. If you place it in the fridge be sure to bring it out well before each session to ensure it returns to the ambient room temperature.
STEP 3.   Now you are ready to put the cuttings into their propagation blocks. Slice a hole about half way down the block. If you are doing multiple cuts I would suggest you do this before hand. Gently insert the stem half way into each block or media pot, making sure at this time the stem does not protrude out of the bottom of the block. After all the cuttings are in the propagation blocks and placed into the tray you may find an excess of solution has built up in the drip tray. Discard this before placing the clear propagation lid over your new cuttings.
MASTA TIP Remember, you need to develop roots so limit the foliar feeding, if any at all, to every 3 to 5 days. A light spray of Plant-Wax would be only the only foliar spray I would use at this time. This will dramatically slow down the transpiration rate and stop your cuttings from wilting.
STEP 4.   Now the propagation lid is on place it on the heat pad in total darkness for 24 hours making sure you close the vents on the grow top as this will allow the hormones to take effect more quickly. After this you can set your lighting at 18 hours on and 6 hours off. Check moisture levels every 2 to 3 days, if blocks are drying out, saturate with the batch of seed 'n' clone solution you made up initially. Be careful that you do not have the solution sitting in the bottom of the tray, the blocks must be able to freely drain at all times.
STEP 5.   After seven days, open vents on the grow top. Monitor progress of clones for another 2 to 3 days. By this stage it should be time to take grow top off the unit and expose cuttings to the normal air. Monitor moisture levels in the propagation blocks and inspect the progress of the root development of the cutting. By day 10 you should be able to see roots appearing from the bottom of the blocks, a good sign. Healthy roots look thick, white and hairy, sickly roots look thin, yellowish, brown and hairless. The cuttings with the healthiest root system will be the same ones which will grow vigorously.
STEP 6.   When your cuttings are well rooted and have begun to show new growth, it will be time to transplant them into your growing system. Now you introduce them to a full strength nutrient, such as Masta-grow crop specific liquid nutrient which is specially formulated for this purpose as it is high in nitrogen and magnesium, needed by the plant for chlorophyll production.
STEP 7.   Place the clones under a H.I.D. light system, preferably a 400wt metal halide lamp which is high in the blue green colour spectrum needed by young plantlets to develop strong lush growth. It is important to remember! The new clones are tender and exposing them rapidly to a full strength H.I.D. lamp after the fluro's could be too much of a shock. Care should be taken to acclimatise your new clones to the brighter light. Start by raising the H.I.D lamp one metre above the clones for the first few days. Slowly lower the lamp over the next week till the lamp is at the correct height. This will ensure a smooth stress free transition to growing under H.I.D lamps.
STEP 8.   As soon as roots have appeared, a full strength nutrient like Masta-grow should now be applied. Refer to the levels stated on the charts below. If you do not have a nutrient tester follow directions on the nutrient label. Those of you using tank and pump systems should dump and re-dose each week.
NOTE - IF ROOTS HAVE NOT APPEARED, KEEP GROW TOP ON UNTIL ROOTS APPEAR, SLOW ROOT DEVELOPMENT CAN OCCUR SOMETIMES IN THE WINTER MONTHS
To sum up:
MASTA-TIPS:   FOLLOW THE PROPAGATION BASICS
ROOTZONE TEMPERATURE 25°C
PH LEVEL 6.3
NUTRIENT STRENGTH 7CF
AREA AMBIENT TEMPERATURE 27°C
CUTTING HEIGHT 100MM (3 TO 5 NODES)