There she is! The plant you've always dreamed of! Stocky stem. Big chunky flowers and fruits. A nice lateral form. Vigorous! Pest and disease resistant. That's right. You've happened upon some awesome plant genetics. She's obviously going to be your new mother plant so that you can create dozens, hundreds, even thousands of genetic replicas. So how to best take care of this wonderful botanical specimen?
Your mother plant (aka donor plant) is arguably the most precious item in your indoor garden set-up. She is the source of all life in your garden. Once you have found that "special phenotype" you obviously want to keep her for longer than a season. A mother plant provides you with all your cuttings. Her importance, therefore, cannot be overstated.
Funny though—some growers kind of take their mother plants for granted. You'll find them legging up in the corner of their veg room. Alive, but not really all that well. What these growers seem to have forgotten is that the health and vigor of your mother plant sets the pace for every clone or cutting taken from her. So, do yourselves a favor and create an exclusive home for your mother plant. The easiest way to do this is to buy a grow tent—just for her!
First, if you haven't done so already, check out my previous article: How To Love Your Mother Plant! There are some good tips there. I'll try to build on them.
Instant Mother Room (well, two minutes)
We set up a mother plant growing environment in super quick time!
1. One well cared for mother plant can power a big indoor garden!
Select a big container—10 gallons is not over the top. Alternatively pick a productive hydroponics system like the GH Waterfarm, Aquafarm or Current Culture Undercurrent single bucket deep water culture system. You want to house your mother plant luxuriously! If you're cultivating fast-growing plants, you can easily take up to fifty cuttings a week from a well developed mother plant in an active hydroponics growing system. Some growers prefer fabric pots filled with their favorite potting mix as set-ups like this are more forgiving if a pump should fail.
2. Take cuttings from the lead growth tips
Think like a hair dresser when taking cuttings from your mother plant. It's all about what you leave behind! Try to encourage a wide, squat form so that your mother plant will be easier to illuminate evenly with your grow light. Yes, mother plants will tend to get more and more bushy as you take more cuttings from them, but this isn't necessarily a problem—just more potential sites from which to take cuttings in the future!
3. Choose a high quality metal halide lamp, rich in the blue part of the spectrum.
Sure, you can go for a T5 fluorescent fitted with 6500K (daylight) lamps—but for true canopy penetration (remember, mother plants can get pretty chunky!) and super high growth rates I prefer a HID metal halide lamp. 400 or 600 watts. For short-day plants (i.e. plants that flower when night times are 12 hours or more) I opt for 18 - 24 hours of light per day. 24 hours of light sure is intense (and you'll notice the difference in your power bill!) but it can sometimes make the growing environment easier to manage with no big drops in temperature (or spikes in relative humidity) during the off period. Remember, big changes in temperature often cause stem elongation making your plant more difficult to light efficiently.
4. Use vegetative / grow nutrients sparingly
The last thing you want is an over-fertilized mother plant (or any plant, for that matter!). Nitrogen deficiencies will show up in the older growth first as nitrogen is a mobile element and will naturally transport to the new leaves. Remove old and dead leaves periodically and clean up the plant regularly (whether or not you are taking cuttings). Don't wait for tip burn. FEEL your mother plant's leaves for signs of leatheryness. Remember, it's far easier to correct underfeeding than over-feeding. Some growers like to 'starve' their mother plants of nitrogen just prior to taking cuttings as they believe it helps rooting (the cuttings are hungrier) - but I've never found this necessary and this technique potentially causes more problems than it purports to solve.
5. Use a humidifier (if necessary) to maintain relative humidity at 60 - 65 percent.
I recommend using a humidifier connected to a controller (e.g. Titan Controls EOS 1) to maintain relative humidity levels at 60 - 65 percent—ideal for fast growing mother plants. No more transpirational stress! Your cuttings will be full of moisture and far more able to adapt to life inside the propagator or aeroponic cloning machine as they wait for roots to develop.
In the video I propose using a deep water culture hydroponics sytem for a mother plant. This is ideal if you want to take a LOT of cuttings but don't want to use too much space (and energy) for powering multiple mother plants as the growth rates are just incredible in these systems. However, a number of you pointed out some concerns that using a hydroponics system (not necessarily DWC) introduces an additional point of failure (i.e. pump). Many indoor growers prefer to keep their mother plants in a soil, peat, or coco-based potting mix in a large container, as pictured above—my beloved lavender! However, in the video I was really trying to max things out! Also, if the air-pump failed, you'd still have a few days to remedy the situation.