Propagating Cannabis For Optimum Production

Explore the many choices available to start a crop before deciding on a plan for top yield.

An indoor cannabis propagation nursery with clones and young plants.

The best outcomes in cannabis cultivation result when there is as much control over a crop as possible. Beyond ideal nutrition programs, irrigation systems, or substrate choices, managing the actual plant material from starting the vegetative phase to an impeccable finish at harvest are an imperative for growing the best quality flowers with a maximum yield in weight for a given strain. 

From purchasing stock at various stages of maturity to growing your own plants from seed, several options provide ways to efficiently propagate cannabis for maximum production value. 

The Options have benefits, but also requirements

Propagating your own cultivation stock from seeds or from clones of your own mother plants offers numerous benefits for increased yields, earlier harvests, and better quality, especially in commercial production. In the pursuit of maximized profit from your investment of time and labor, it affords reduced costs with decreased outsourcing. For operational controls that lead to higher production of healthy crops, it also provides accuracy and efficiency. One caveat of doing everything in-house or by yourself is that it requires the correct space, equipment, and expert labor to complete the process properly.

Often, where quality clones (cuttings) or feminized seedlings are available from reputable nurseries or resellers, growers benefit from the purchasing availability and avoid expertise, equipment, and labor costs necessary to produce the starting stock. For production growers focused only on the cultivation phases of vegetation and bloom, clones or starter seedlings produced professionally are a very practical and cost-effective method of starting a crop.

In situations with a short growing window, a late start, or where growing space becomes available for filling in, stock in 1 gallon containers, often called “teens” offer yet another set of options. Although teens are more expensive than clones, the average plant height of 18 to 24 inches offsets the added price with plants that might have taken weeks to cultivate.

Decreasing the costs to grow marijuana is desirable for any size garden or farm, but increasing profit is essential to the long-term survival of any commercial cannabis operation. As inflation and the cost of doing business increase next to more farmers consistently entering the market, so must the growth of net income also increase for any entity in the cannabis cultivation business to remain competitive and viable, long-term. A principle method to increase income to profitability is to increase yields and decrease expenses. One way to achieve that is by producing your own stock for cultivation and as with most things cannabis related, there are many ways to do it, so explore them before deciding on your method.

Determine Goals With Schedules, Timelines and budgets

Some very good indoor growers are so precise and dialed into a production machine; they have the next crop planted hours after a harvest. By eliminating downtime between crops, growers can maximize the facilities and labor to peak efficiency. Accomplishing that sort of linear progress takes planning, but with a propagation schedule relying on plant growth stages, the next crop is always in the pipeline.

For example, for each indoor site, or grow room with plants of the same age or stage of maturity, replacement stock from seeds or clones can be ready if started or purchased with ample time before harvest using known (or even expected) vegetative and bloom phase periods. For the outdoor grower that may only produce one crop per year, early propagation of starting stock indoors or in a greenhouse until outdoor planting in the spring, results in bigger plants with greater yields since more vegetation occurs before changes in seasonal light begin the bloom phase. Auto-flowering strains begin flowering according to plant age instead of light diminishment to start the bloom phase of development; however, many auto-flowering cannabis strains often have smaller plants and lower yields than flowering types that rely on light changes to bloom.

Cannabis seedlings in cell packs are a common method of starting a marijuana crop.

Planting a successive crop does not need to begin following a harvest; it can start anytime at regular intervals if indoors, using lighting to control vegetative growth and bloom. A beneficial practice in propagation is use of the smallest container practical for each stage of growth with a continual transplant into larger containers until permanently planted. A common path of this stepped planting is a cell pack or a clone cube > 4-inch pot > 1 gallon pot > 5 gallon or larger pot (up to 100 gallon fabric pots) > permanent vegetative and bloom phase location until harvest. This not only uses space effectively, but irrigation and nutrition applications are efficient also.

As mentioned, there are several ways to begin cultivation stock; by seed (non-feminized require culling of males) by clones produced from proprietary mother plants or by clones, seedlings, or rooted container stock purchased from reputable cannabis nurseries. Some growers purchase clones, grow them to be mother plants and clone from those. Others grow their mother plants from seeds obtained from reliable sources. The point is that there are options available.

Worth noting is that breeders prefer regular, non-feminized plants for their work; both in maintaining existing strains and developing new ones.

When cloning cannabis, the cuttings lead to plants that match the DNA of the mother plant. In seed propagation, there is genetic variation in the resulting plants. In cannabis flower production, only female plants are desirable and without pollination from males. Regular cannabis seeds require sex discrimination to grow only female plants with males removed by lab analysis or when plants begin exhibiting sex organs at 5 weeks. Feminized seeds available in many strains lead to female plants and are very popular for flower production growers.

Stock production from seeds or cloning relies on access to an applicable indoor cultivation setup that makes disease prevention possible along with air, climate, and lighting controls until plants are mature enough for successive or permanent placement. While some success is possible from a greenhouse, environmental precision for maximum results is easier in an enclosed room or space. For best results in propagation, always choose a method that will produce healthy, vigorous plants.

Accuracy of Phenotypes

In production cultivation for any size grow, essentially all the plants in a batch are of the same phenotype. The reasons are obvious, especially from an operational stand point, but getting to that absolute uniformity requires a complete control; that is flawless sourcing, perfect labeling and methodical inventory management from start to finish. Growing your own propagation stock eliminates many opportunities for error if the seeds or mother plants have accurate and reliable identification with proper protocols that guide the process. It also underscores the importance of finding a reputable source if you purchase your stock.

Strain identification is imperative in cultivation and breeding, but also just as important to your branding and marketing efforts for finished crops. Consistent consumer experiences are foundational to building a brand and reputation; proper labeling that relies on accuracy for each generation of plants secures that effort, especially for raw flower production and sales.

Tailor Made Solutions

Maybe the most advantageous aspect of cannabis propagation is the ability to customize the process so any plan can become the best fit for specific needs of time, space, labor, and financial budgets. Equally important is that the options are available to growers despite how many plants in cultivation, making the selection of how you start your plants a worthy consideration for all grower pursuing a bumper crop of top-shelf flowers.

A cannabis cultivation blog by Fertile Pages. ©2019