Mother plants, sometimes called stock plants, are used for plant cloning. Cuttings are taken from a mother plant to produce a plant with identical genes to the mother. Mother plants and clones are great for growers because some strains have desirable characteristics they want to replicate. Mother plants also save money on seeds.
Once a cutting is taken from the mother plant it needs time to develop roots. After all, a cutting is essentially a rootless plant. Without any roots, cuttings rely on water and carbohydrates already stored in their stems and leaves to help fuel new root growth. That’s where nutrients specific to mother plants can help.
Plant Nutrition for Mother Plants
Mother plants have different nutritional requirements than more traditional plants in the vegetative state. Where a plant in veg needs nitrogen for growth, a mother plant may not produce healthy clones if it’s fed a nitrogen-rich nutrient. Too much nitrogen in a mother plant’s diet results in soft tissues with low carbohydrate levels. While the excess nitrogen will result in quick plant growth, it does not help provide the fuel that clones need to produce healthy, new root growth. Clones need sturdy, carbohydrate-rich fuel.
When a plant is fed nitrogen, it will use up to 25 to 30% of its energy to convert those nitrates into a form of nitrogen that plants can use for vegetative growth. Using the plant’s energy for growth results in fewer sugars, or carbohydrates, in the stems and leaves. This reduces the potential fuel for the clones to create new root growth, leaving them prone to failure.
How Healthy Mother Plants Help Cuttings
Mother plants fed a diet specific to them will produce healthy clones. A good mother plant nutrient should always be formulated to improve the plant’s health, and not strictly focused on growth like nitrogen-rich nutrients are. Areas that mother plant nutrients should focus are things such as:
Clones taken from plants with thin cell walls tend to be more fragile and prone to wilting and infections. A fertilizer created for mother plants should help to strengthen cell walls, resulting in stronger clones.
Calcium is important for mother plants as it helps to bind cell walls together. A mother plant that is calcium-rich has stronger cells, and has improved water and nutrients uptake. In turn, this allows more carbohydrates to be stored in the leaves and stems.
Once a cutting is taken, both the mother plant and the cutting are under stress. A good mother plant fertilizer will provide the nutrients needed for stronger stress tolerance in the mother plant and the cutting.
One of the biggest indicators that a mother plant nutrient is formulated to focus on these areas is the inclusion of bio-organics. Bio-organics can improve calcium uptake and increase stress and disease resistance.
Overall, a healthy mother plant needs a specific diet to provide fuel that the cuttings need to successfully take root. A good mother plant fertilizer will provide lower nitrogen levels than a typical fertilizer, so the plant can focus on storing energy, instead of converting the excess nitrogen into new growth. A grower that wants to continue the genetics of their favorite strain will benefit from providing the mother plant with nutrients geared towards producing healthy cuttings.
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About the Author
Carissa Johnson runs the marketing department for Hydrodynamics International. She writes on all things grow-related, with a focus on plant propagation.