Every grow starts from either cannabis seeds or clones, which route to go depends on a number of factors that should be looked at before starting. We talked about this subject with Master Kroblo, an expert grower, winner of multiple Cannabis Cups and inventor of the Root Runner plug. In this article, we share what we learned about the (practical) differences between starting from cannabis seeds or clones.
A clone is a clipping from a larger plant that is grown into a whole new plant. Clones are genetically identical to their “mother plant” and will therefore have the same sex. This used to be one of the big selling points of clones, but this was before feminised seeds became broadly available. The main reason clones are still as popular as they’ve ever been is because of phenotypic variation.
A genotype describes the genetic features of acannabis plant, but a different genotype does not always mean that plants look any different. A phenotype describes all observable traits, rather than genotype. The phenotype is essentially the way a genotype is expressed. This includes how tall a plant is, how fast it flowers, what it smells like, etc. Cannabis plants can have the same genes, but still have different phenotypes. Think about it this way: you and your siblings have the same parents, but unless you’re twins, you will still see differences. If your brother is taller than you for example, we call this phenotypic variation.
Cannabis seeds will all grow into slightly different plants, even if they have the same parents! This is not the case with clones, as these will have the same phenotype as their parent plant. The process of looking for the best phenotype is called “pheno hunting”, which is common practice for people that sell clones.
Good breeders are always working on increasing the stability of their seeds so that they reduce the amount of phenotypes as much as possible. A perfect strain produces the same phenotype from every seed, but this is virtually impossible.
As opposed to plants grown from cannabis seeds, cannabis clones all have the exact same phenotype! This means that all of your cannabis plants will grow to the same height, finish flowering at the same time and produce equally potent buds. This level of uniformity makes cannabis clones the way to go for large scale indoor cannabis growing. While we take pride in having developed very stable genetics for every variety of cannabis seeds Spliff currently has to offer, nothing is as stable as a clone.
You can take this one step further when using clones from specific phenotypes, as this means you will only be using the best of what your genetics have to offer. Let’s use an example: you grow 5 Spliff Cheese plants and get your final product tested for terpenes. Each plant has a unique terpene profile, and THC ranges from 15-23%. By taking clones from your best plant, the one with 23% THC content, you can make sure that all of the resulting buds will test at 23% THC as well.
If you grow from cannabis seeds, this means you are in control for the entire lifecycle of a plant. Cannabis clones have already been alive for a while however, and if you get them from an external source you had better be careful. While growers or dispensaries that sell clones usually take excellent preventive measures, the clones you buy might be a host for pests and diseases. It is very possible that these won't be a problem in the environment they're from, but problems could arise after transplanting them and putting them in your own grow room. You wouldn't be the first person to get free mites, trips or powdery mildew with your clones. You can avoid this type of problem by making your own cannabis clones!
Cannabis clones also have a very difficult legal status compared to cannabis seeds. While many places allow the possession of cannabis seeds and growing a few plants for yourself, cannabis clones are often a different story. In the Netherlands for instance, the sale of cannabis seeds is allowed and growing for personal use is rarely punished. Buying or selling clones however is very illegal. In the legal states in the U.S.A. as well as parts of Canada there is a lot of discussion regarding cannabis clones. More and more dispensaries have also started offering cannabis clones for sale. Because medicinal cannabis growers are often limited to a certain number of plants, it can be unclear if and when a clone counts as a plant.
A clear advantage of cannabis seeds is that this is the natural stopping point in the cannabis lifecycle. Seeds can be kept for years without loss of germination rate and can be sent through the mail. Spliff Seeds guarantees that your seeds will be viable for at least two years if kept in the refrigerator. You can keep them for even longer though, we have found 75% germination rates after 5 years! Buying cannabis clones requires the right timing, and especially someone to sell them to you within driving distance.
While starting from cannabis seeds won’t get you a uniform crop, it does have other advantages. Plant vigour is a vague term that is used to describe how healthy a plant is. It is generally accepted that cannabis plants grown from seeds are more vigorous than cannabis clones. Many argue that as cannabis is a seasonal plant, it is not built to be kept in a vegetative state for years. As mother plants age they lose some of their vigour and become more susceptible to pests and diseases. Clones taken from older mother plants will also be less vigorous and have a lower growth rate and yield than earlier clones from the same mother. Growing cannabis from seeds makes for a more unpredictable, but often higher yield.
Root growth is also different between cannabis clones and seedlings as clones do not generate the strong central taproot that a seedling would. Instead, cannabis clones start growing a lateral fibrous root system from the stem straight away. This fibrous root system would usually be the secondary root system in cannabis seedlings. The main drawback of a cannabis plant without a tap root is that it will be less able to anchor itself into its growth medium. This is not necessarily a problem, but it does mean cannabis clones will usually need more support than plants grown from seeds. Water and nutrient uptake are not affected much by the lack of a tap root, nor is the final yield.
Some growers don’t mind a bit of variation in their grows and simply enjoy growing their own free cannabis. Differences in flowering time and terpene profile within the same crop is actually practical for many growers. Different flowering times can come in handy if you are harvesting by yourself because this means you won’t have to trim all your plants at the same time. Variation in flavour and effect means you won’t grow tired of your harvest as fast. On the other hand it is probably better to grow a few different strains if you are looking for different effects and flavours.
Slight variation can also help contain outbreaks of diseases or pests, even if different plants look the same. Because the crop is not uniform, some plants will be more resistant to these problems, which makes it more difficult for pests and diseases to spread throughout your grow room.
The main reason some people like variation in their plants however, is because they like to be surprised. While it is nice to plan things out and have a schedule to stick to, many growers simply love growing cannabis plants and seeing what nature can do.
It is also common belief that growing from cannabis clones is faster than growing from seeds because it allows the grower to skip the seedling stage. While this can be the case if your clones start growing roots right away, but in many cases clones can also take up to a week before they’ve grown enough roots to become a healthy plant. A grow space specifically for seedlings is also very easy to build, as seedlings don’t require much light or ventilation. This way you can start your seedlings as your current crop is finishing its flowering phase.
We have explained the main reasons to grow cannabis from either clones or seeds. If your setup requires uniformity due to the scale, or the specific medical benefits of a certain phenotype, clones are the way to go. A grower who produces for dispensaries will also prefer clones, as this means a single test of the terpene profile will be representative for the whole crop. If you want sturdier plants and don’t care much about uniformity it is probably better to start from cannabis seeds. If you can’t buy cannabis clones nearby and don’t have a separate vegetative room, you have no other options than cannabis seeds. If you're planning to grow using cannabis clones, make sure you also check out our article on "how to get cannabis clones". Of course everything also depends on your local legal climate. Whether you’ve decided to grow from cannabis clones or seeds, we wish you the best of luck with your next project!