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Seeds Vs. Clones: A Definitive Guide To The Pros And Cons
7 min

Seeds Vs. Clones: A Definitive Guide To The Pros And Cons

7 min
Growing Seedshop

Trying to decide between starting your grow from seed or clones? This impartial guide will walk you through all the advantages and disadvantages, explain exactly what a clone is, and review times when it's better to pick one method over the other. Armed with this knowledge, you can make an informed decision prior to your next, or first, grow.

Is it better to start your grow with seeds or clones? Asking that question is like starting a debate about politics, religion, or whether chickens precede eggs.

Even those who've never grown a single cannabis plant have an opinion, and all are sure theirs is the right one. The truth is, both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, and you'll have to make up your own mind. Here's an unbiased look to help you do just that.

GROWING CANNABIS WITH SEEDS

Growing cannabis from seed sounds simple enough. You take a seed, put it in your chosen medium, get it wet, give it light, and Mother Nature takes over. But, is it the best way?

GROWING CANNABIS WITH SEEDS: ADVANTAGES

GROWING CANNABIS WITH SEEDS: ADVANTAGES

TAPROOT

When cannabis seeds germinate, they shoot out a long, sturdy taproot. These specialised roots provide support to young seedlings, making them sturdier than clones. They also absorb more water and nutrients than any other type of root. Clones don't have taproots.

STARTS DISEASE-FREE

It's virtually impossible to infect your garden with pests and diseases when you grow from seed. Both can be transmitted from a mother plant.

PHENOTYPIC DIVERSITY

Seeds are full of possibility. Because of phenotypic variation, every bean you pop has the potential to grow into the next Girl Scout Cookies or Gorilla Glue #4. Both of these varieties were special, one-of-a-kind phenos that were only available as cuts when they first became popular.

LONGEVITY

If you'd like to keep seeds so you can use them years from now, you can. They don't take up much space and they can last for a decade or more if they're stored properly.

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VARIETY

Because they take up little space, it's easy to add lots of variety to your grow. In fact, with the number of distinct seeds available, you could grow hundreds of plants at the same time and not have any two of the same kind.

ACCESSIBILITY

Seeds are easy to get. You can order them safely from sites all over the web. In places where cannabis is legal to grow, you can find meetups where growers trade or give away seeds. And, you can even give bagseed a try if you have no other choice; that's how Chemdawg was first discovered.

NO SPECIAL SKILLS

No special skills are needed. Anyone can germinate a cannabis seed. Don't let anyone tell you different. It's as simple as growing a flower. It's true—not all will make it. But, if you can get your little seed to throw out a taproot below and two pairs of leaves above, it'll be very resilient and hard to kill.

AUTOFLOWERING POSSIBILITIES

If you want to grow autoflowering cannabis, you almost have to grow by seed. Technically, you can clone an auto, but it will be at the same maturity point as the mother. By the time it forms roots and recovers, you'll have lost two more weeks and you'll end up with a tiny little dwarf that won't yield much at all. It's just not worth it.

DECENT GROW TIME

Some will tell you that it's faster to grow from clones than seeds. That's only true if you don't count the time it takes a cut to develop a robust enough root system for it to be considered a viable clone. Those extra 7–14 days make them just about even.

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GROWING CANNABIS WITH SEEDS: DISADVANTAGES

GROWING CANNABIS WITH SEEDS: DISADVANTAGES

EXPENSE

Seeds can be expensive—especially if the seed is from a very popular strain. We'd like to argue that no matter how expensive the seed is, it's still cheaper to grow your own herb than to buy.

NEED A STEADY SUPPLY

If you start every grow from seed, you must have fresh seeds on the regular. That means you'll have to keep buying them, breed some of your own, or make friends with someone who'll give them to you for free.

GERMINATION RATE

Not all seeds will germinate. Cannabis is the only type of plant where people get bent out of shape if they have a few seeds that won't pop. For most vegetables and flowers, you over-plant, hope half sprout, and thin as needed.

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SENSITIVE SPROUTS

Beginners will kill some sprouts and seedlings. It's inevitable, but growing is also a learning process. Stick with it, and you'll be surprised by how few die after you have just two or three grows under your belt.

MALE PLANTS

You may end up with some male plants. If you work with regular seeds, about half will be males. If you work with feminized seeds, males will be quite rare, but they can still happen. Sexing plants the first time is frustrating, and you'll be filled with uncertainty. But, it'll be easy from there on out. Males show their sex well before they're ready to throw pollen (and before females of the same age are ready to accept it). As long as you're paying attention, male plants pose little risk.

GENDER EXPRESSION

Plants need to veg for about 6 weeks before they reveal their gender. By this time, you've invested a lot of time, resources, and love into your babies. And they do feel like your children. Culling a big, healthy male is heartbreaking for the average home-grower.

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GROWING CANNABIS WITH CLONES

Growing cannabis from clones sounds even simpler than using seeds, as long as you're not the one doing the cloning. It's no more complicated than growing a houseplant. The roots have been established and it already looks like a little pot plant. Half the work's already been done for you. Is it really that easy?

GROWING CANNABIS WITH CLONES: ADVANTAGES

GROWING CANNABIS WITH CLONES: ADVANTAGES

IT’S NOT CALLED A “CLONE” FOR NOTHING

Clones are an exact genetic duplicate of the mother. If the mother is a female, the clones will be female. If the mother (or usually the grandmother) produces fire, the clone will produce fire. Need high yields? Pick a mother who's already been used to make clones that yield like crazy.

SAME AGE AS MOTHER

Clones are at the same stage of sexual maturity as the mother plant. If the mother was vegged for at least 6 weeks before cuts were taken, the clones are ready to go straight into a flowering tent or room as soon as they reach the desired size. If you start your grow with a pre-established clone, it can reduce your time to harvest by several weeks.

RESILIENCE

In general, clones are harder to kill than young seedlings. That changes quickly as seedlings turn into young plants; this is only an advantage for a week or two at the most.

CHA-CHING!

If you have mother plants, clones are virtually free.

CONSISTENCY OF GROWTH

Clones can simplify a grow. Because clones are exact duplicates, each one will like the same type of light, the same amount of feed, the same pH levels—the same everything. Even if you grow all one strain from seed, you'll have some that can take heavy feed and some that get nutrient burn at the drop of a hat.

CONSISTENCY OF EFFECT

Medical marijuana patients need their cannabis to have a consistent chemical makeup each and every time they dose, year in and year out. Clones make that possible.

GROWING CANNABIS WITH CLONES: DISADVANTAGES

GROWING CANNABIS WITH CLONES: DISADVANTAGES

NO TAPROOT

Clones have a network of fibrous secondary roots without a taproot. That means they don't have as much to anchor them in the ground, and they don't absorb nutrients as well as seed-grown plants.

SPATIAL REQUIREMENTS

Making your own clones requires enough room and equipment to keep healthy mothers, as well as new clones that are still establishing their root system.

PUT IN THE WORK, OR LET THEM GO

If you want to take a break from growing, you'll have to either continue to nurture your mothers, or let them go. Unlike seeds, you won't be able to tuck your clones away for future use. They have a very limited shelf-life.

SOME EXPERIENCE DESIRED

Cloning is a little more complicated than germinating a seed. Not all clones will develop roots, and there can be a steep learning curve. Don't be surprised if it takes you several times before you get good at it (or even produce one clone).

BORED OF THE SAME SMOKE?

Clones lack variety. If you're cloning from your own mothers, your selection is very limited. If you're trading with other growers or buying from a dispensary, the options are a little broader, but the variety will never come close to the thousands of strains available to order from seedbanks.

PESTS AND DISEASE

Clones can introduce pests and disease into your grow room. If the mother is diseased, the clones will probably be sick too. And even healthy clones can have hitchhikers like spider mites that travel with them from dispensaries and markets into clean grow rooms.

NOT MUCH FASTER—IF AT ALL

Clones may not be faster than seeds. They need up to two weeks to develop a root system robust enough to transplant. Transplanting a clone causes some trauma and shock that needs recovery time too. If you're expecting to cut your time by more than a few weeks, you may be a bit disappointed in your new clones.

BORED OF THE SAME GROW?

Growing from clones can be boring. There's less of a sense of discovery and achievement. You could end up growing the same thing over and over, with the same predictable results and miss out on the surprise and wonder of nurturing a cannabis plant from the time it's a seed until it's fully mature.

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEEDS AND CLONES?

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CANNABIS SEEDS AND CLONES?

Plants make seeds to reproduce. It happens naturally when pollen from a male plant's stamens reaches a female plant's pistils and fertilisation occurs. Some plants contain both male and female sex organs, but cannabis has distinct male and female plants. That makes it unusual, but not entirely unique.

Cannabis seeds can also be made using only female plants. To accomplish this, the female must be stressed to the point it feels like the species will cease to exist if it can't reproduce. It will then form pollen sacs, and the "female" pollen can be used to produce seeds. Because no male DNA is present, the resulting seeds are considered feminized.

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Different Types Of Cannabis Seeds

The seed itself includes three parts. The seed coat is the tough outer shell that protects the contents. The endosperm is used to feed the emerging seedling, and then there's the embryo. The embryo is a dormant plant that stays in a state of suspended animation until conditions are right for it to burst forth from the shell and start to grow. Seeds are exactly like babies—other than the whole dormant thing. They contain some DNA from each parent, but won't be exact copies of either, although they should have similar traits.

Clones, on the other hand, are exact duplicates with the exact same DNA as their mother. Any variation will be because of the new replicant's environment as they develop from cutting into full-fledged plant. This can include substrate, light, training, feed, and any number of other things.

Clones are created by cutting a small branch from a cannabis plant and creating the right conditions for the stem to grow roots. Once the root zone is fully developed, it can be planted in either soil or hydro and will grow like any other plant. Clones are usually ready to go straight to the flowering stage because they will be at the same stage of maturity as the mother.

WHICH ONE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

Cannabis Seeds Vs. Clones: WHICH ONE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

You'll have to answer this question for yourself based on what you think is best. As discussed, both have their pros and cons.

However, there are some situations where one method is generally considered better than the other.

Seeds are better when you:

  • Don't have a mother plant or a way to get pre-made clones.
  • Take long breaks between grows.
  • Don't have enough space to keep mother plants.
  • Want to learn everything there is to know about growing cannabis.
  • Want to breed a new hybrid or find a special phenotype.

Clones are better when you:

  • Need to avoid any possibility of male plants.
  • Need identical plants in your grow, or identical cannabinoid profiles across multiple harvests.
  • Start a guerrilla grow and won't return to tend your plants until they're ready to cut.
  • Want to harvest as fast as possible.
  • Run a larger grow operation.

When it's all said and done, growing from seed vs. clones is a personal choice that can be made for any reason. Plus, nothing says you can't change your mind—then change it back—at any time. You could even do a side-by-side comparison as a final test. How will you grow?

Laura

Written by: Sherry
Featuring as a regular guest writer, Sherry lives in the wild heart of the American East Coast. Based at her family farm, she has developed a deep respect for cannabis, continuing to master and hone its cultivation.

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