Cannabis Strains

4 August 2021

Seeds Vs Clones – Which is better for growing cannabis?

Cannabis cultivators of all skill levels and techniques will encounter the question: seeds or clones? The best way a cultivator can learn what method works best for them is to do due diligence and then get their hands dirty.

When growers decide to start a new crop of cannabis plants, they can choose to germinate seeds purchased from a reliable source or use clones. If the plants are kept healthy, free from stress and pests, and harvested correctly, then dense, resinous, cannabinoid- and terpene-rich flowers are achievable regardless of how they began.

The challenges that a cultivator faces from choosing one way over the other are encountered long before any flowers begin to form and after harvest time.

The Case for Seeds: Accessibility, Discretion, and a Clean Slate

Access to high-quality cannabis seeds has never been easier. Many reputable seed banks go to great lengths to test their products for quality. Some, like Marijuana Grow Shop, even allow their customers to search for seeds according to variables such as desired effect and medical condition. 

First-time growers looking to learn more about a particular strain can find this information displayed clearly and can confidently make their choice. 

One distinct advantage of growing with seeds instead of clones is legality. Ungerminated cannabis seeds remain legal in most countries, while clones of cannabis plants are classified as illegal even before they develop flowers. New growers are likely to have anxiety about ordering seeds to their homes, and seed banks understand that discretion is key to their success in the cannabis industry.

To maintain a discreet profile, seed banks will ship orders with no additional information on the package beyond the customer’s address and the return address. Similarly, there will be no reference to the order’s contents, or cannabis, on any labels. Combined with order tracking and accessible customer service representatives, ordering seeds has never been easier.

Plants grown from seeds can produce higher yields than their clone counterparts. This is due to the taproots they develop, which promotes strong vegetative growth. Relative to clones, plants grown from seeds may have larger vascular systems, which allow for more transport of water and nutrients. This results in bigger, more vigorous higher-yielding plants.

Growing with seeds will provide cultivators with a fresh set of genetics. This can be attractive for cannabis cultivation as clones may carry diseases that impact plant health and product quality. By using seeds, cultivators are given a clean slate to grow their plants.

Seeds that are stored in optimal conditions, such as a cool, dark room or a refrigerator, may remain viable for years. Growers shouldn’t keep them stored for too long, however, as older seeds have difficulty growing successfully.

Cannabis growers who successfully manage a crop of plants from seeds can expand on their skills by breeding cultivars of their own. Cultivators with a plan can reap the rewards and grow their seeds for future use. This is attractive for growers trying to isolate and stabilise certain traits of particular strains such as flavour profile, THC and CBD concentration, and yield. 

The Case Against Seeds: Germination Rate, Genetic Variation, and Timeline

Despite the quality control measures seed banks have in place, even experienced growers may not germinate every single seed successfully. Seeds can decay or may simply arrive dead-on-arrival as duds. Therefore it is best to start a grow using many seeds, even if the cultivator is planning to grow only one to completion.

Old seeds that have been improperly stored may grow slower than their counterparts. As the rate of growth may not appear evident until after some weeks in the vegetative state, this may cost cultivators time and resources. One easy way of determining the viability of old seeds is to place them in a glass of water: if they sink to the bottom, there’s a good chance they remain viable. 

Price-per-seed is one more thing the prospective grower should consider. Seeds of famous cultivars cost more than lesser-known cannabis strains. This can make the costs add up quickly, especially considering that some seeds may have problems germinating successfully.

Marijuana plants grown from seed will exhibit a wide range of genetic variations, meaning that cultivators shouldn’t expect identical plants. This is important as desired traits may be expressed across a crop. This can lead to wonderful surprises of genetic expression, and it is up to the cultivator to either clone that plant or breed it with an equally outstanding plant to try and stabilise those traits.

Conversely, plants grown from seed batches can also express undesired traits such as poor resin production or loose bud formation. This can lead to frustration for cultivators who dedicate time and resources to growing such plants. One downside to using seeds is that growers won’t have a reliable idea of what to expect until after the seeds are germinated or either in the vegetative or flowering stages.

Growers using seeds should also keep in mind that they take an extra week or two to finish compared to clones, as this is the amount of time it takes for seeds to establish themselves.

The Case for Clones: Uniformity, Consistency, and Speed

Cultivators who opt to use cannabis clones to start their crop will find them attractive for various reasons. Clones are copies of the plant they were taken from. This means that the genetic variation expressed by seeds is mostly mitigated, and the resulting flowers from a clone will be more or less identical to what the mother produced.

Clones taken from a female cannabis plant will produce other female plants. This can save cultivators plenty of time and resources that would be dedicated towards growing male plants that will ultimately be destroyed.

Cultivators under pressure to deliver a crop or who may need to make copies of their plants will appreciate the versatility offered by clones. Rooted clones are ready to start growing straight out of the gate. This means that plants created from cloning will have a shorter growing period.

Clones can be made any time before flowering, which is useful for growers who want to share their genetics or if an external (non-genetic) threat puts pressure on the plants. This means that any plant can be cloned to create more copies of itself, establishing a reliable source of genetics. 

One of the most critical activities a grower can undertake is to make clones of their cannabis plants to be grown in the future. This will save growers time and resources that would otherwise be put towards sourcing more clones and is a time-honoured practice in the cannabis community.

The Case Against Clones: Availability, Diseases, and Fragility

Perhaps the biggest drawback when considering clones is availability. A prospective grower would need to know a cultivator (or a nursery) to provide new plants, which introduces degrees of difficulty. This makes the ease with which online seed banks can fulfil orders discreetly more attractive.

One more disadvantage when growing clones is their fragility. Clones that are poorly established run the risk of dying before they can grow, which could cost a grower weeks. Newly created clones are also a little more sensitive to light, have nuanced nutrient requirements, and require more care when establishing their root systems.

Clones are more sensitive to heat and moisture, especially if it hasn’t yet developed roots. The most critical window for a clone is 24-48 hours after it has been taken, and growers should check their clones frequently in this period. Clones require very specific environmental conditions such as optimal humidity and consistent temperatures.

By comparison, seedlings are more robust, thanks in part to their taproots.

Cultivators sourcing clones from other growers risk inheriting any pests and diseases that may have affected the mother plants the cuttings were taken from. This can be the case for cultivators of any scale, as nurseries in areas where cannabis is legal such as California, have unknowingly sold infected clones to growers.

Similarly, undesirable genetic traits such as the slow rate of growth expressed by the mother plant may carry on to the clones. It is considered good practice to research or ask questions about the qualities of the mother plant before committing to a crop of clones. The cultivator looking at clones should consider that the genetic fidelity that makes them attractive is a two-way street.

The best way for cultivators trying to decide whether to grow using clones or seeds is to do their research and consider their needs. For the novice grower, the accessibility of seeds may prove more attractive, while experienced cultivators may find the speed and genetic consistency of clones is the way forward. The grower with a plan may find a combination of both – beginning with seeds and then taking clones of robust phenotypes – the most viable way to go. 

MGS contains a jaw-dropping selection of high-quality seeds from the world’s most passionate growers and reputable seed banks, including a selection of feminised seeds, on-schedule auto-flowering seeds, and exclusive regular seeds. 

Post author
Martin
Martin is a production horticulturist with experience in commercial cannabis cultivation and sustainable farming from his time with Emerald Cup Award-winning farmers Esensia Gardens in northern California's Emerald Triangle.
See more from Martin

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

More articles you would like