Cannabis is now legal here in Canada, as well as many parts of the United States. Hopefully the rest of the world will follow suit, as this is an invaluable plant ally for countless reasons. In fact, it’s one of the best plants to cultivate for medicinal purposes, so if it’s legal to grow in your area, it’s a good idea to add to your medicinal herb garden.
Why Propagate from Cuttings?
In my experience, growing cannabis plants from cuttings is far more effective than growing from seed. Seeds can be fussy, and you might spend a ton of money on them only to have them fail to germinate.
Your best bet is to take a cutting from a wonderfully healthy mother plant that’s thriving in your neighbourhood.
If you live in the cool and rainy Pacific Northwest, for example, and you’re trying to grow a plant that thrives in the Afghan Kush’s hot, dry environment, you may not have much luck. Growing clones from local plants is ideal because you know that if they do well in your neighbour’s yard, they’ll do well in yours as well.
This is true for just about any plant, actually, and is why we recommend growing local species whenever possible. The exception to this is if you’re growing indoors, or in a greenhouse, since you can control the environment very carefully.
What You’ll Need:
- A healthy mother plant that’s in a vegetative state—not flowering yet.
- A new, clean razor blade or X-Acto knife: don’t use scissors! They’ll crush the plant’s stem, which makes it more difficult for roots to form.
- A glass of water. Also some water for you, because you’re probably dehydrated.
- Rooting hormone powder or gel (like Clonex). Note: You can also create a DIY rooting gel with a mixture of cinnamon, aloe vera gel, and honey.
- Rooting medium like gardening rockwool or coconut fiber (coir).
- A growing tray with a lid: this will allow protect your cuttings as they develop their root system, and keep a humid, consistent temperature around them.
- Spray bottle full of water, for misting the plants.
Before You Start…
I don’t know whether you have the same relationship with plants as I do, but I do my best to treat them with respect and love. Because of this, before I prune or harvest anything, I take a few moments to sit with the plant and connect to its spirit.
Basically, I do my best to let it know my intention, so it has the opportunity to withdraw its energy from the branch I’m about to cut. Think of it like being warned before a medical procedure: it’ll hurt less if you know what’s coming, because you have the chance to brace yourself for it.
After I harvest, I offer the plant some compost tea or comfrey infusion in thanks. It’s a small act of courtesy and respect, honouring the interconnectedness of all life, with sincere gratitude.
Tips for Taking Cuttings:
- Don’t fertilize the mother plant for about a week before you take your cutting, and water it thoroughly a few days beforehand. This reduces the amount of nitrogen in the leaves. Why is this important? Remember that nitrogen is the nutrient that prompts plants to create vegetation: by reducing the nitrogen, the cutting will focus on growing roots, not new leaves.
- Choose strong, healthy, straight branches that can support a cutting that’s 6″-10″ long.
- Sterilize your hands and your blade with 90% rubbing alcohol beforehand so you don’t contaminate the cutting with any harmful bacteria.
- Cut just below a node, at a 45 degree angle. Not only will this increase rooting space area (which will make roots grow more quickly), it also allows the plant to draw up water more effectively.
- Keep a sterilized jar full of clean water close by, and pop your cuttings into the water immediately. This keeps the cut end from drying out, and also prevents air bubbles from forming inside the stem, which can damage or even kill the plant.
Next Steps: Rooting Hormone and Growing Medium
- Pour a bit of rooting gel into a sterilized shot glass.
- Prepare your growing medium by prepping it into the covered container, and poke holes that are just large enough to hold the cutting’s stem. Mist this thoroughly to make sure it’s wet all the way through.
- When you’re ready, remove one of your cuttings from the water, shake it gently to remove excess water, and dip it into the rooting gel.
- Once coated, pop that cut end into the growing medium (gently!) and press the medium around to hold it firmly in place. Mist the plant well.
- Then do the same for the rest of your cuttings.
Keep the growing medium moist while waiting for roots to develop, but don’t overwater unless you want the stems to rot. The best approach is to put some purified water (e.g. through a Brita filter) into a spray bottle, and mist the plants daily.
This regular misting—paired with the plastic dome or sheeting that you’ll keep over the plants—should help you maintain a fairly constant, humid environment.
You’ll know that roots have formed when you start to see new vegetative growth starting. This is when you can transplant the cuttings into a larger container. Plant cuttings generally don’t like to be handled or transplanted often, as it can make them go into shock.
As such, it’s best to move them into a large container so you don’t have to keep potting them up as they grow.
Why is Cannabis Such an Effective Medicine?
The Leafly website explained this so perfectly, I’m going to share what they have to say about it here:
Cannabinoids (e.g., THC and CBD) are the chemical compounds secreted by cannabis flowers that provide relief to an array of symptoms including pain, nausea, anxiety, and inflammation. These work their medicinal magic by imitating compounds our bodies naturally produce, called endocannabinoids, which activate to maintain internal stability and health. To put a complex system simply, they mediate communication between cells, and when there is a deficiency or problem with our endocannabinoid system, unpleasant symptoms and physical complications occur.
When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids bind to receptor sites throughout our brain (receptors called CB-1) and body (CB-2). Different cannabinoids have different effects depending on which receptors they bind to. For example, THC binds to receptors in the brain whereas CBN (cannabinol) has a strong affinity for CB-2 receptors located throughout the body. Depending on a cannabis product’s cannabinoid profile, different types of relief are achievable.
Cannabis contains over 85 types of cannabinoids, depending on the strain and cultivar. As you can imagine, this allows these magical plants to help with conditions ranging from pain and mood disorders to neurological conditions, autoimmune diseases, autism, gastrointestinal disorders, sleep disorders, and female reproductive issues such as PCOS, PMS, and endometriosis.
Healing Blessings to You
There are many different strains available, with different benefits. Do your research on sites such as Leafly to find out which strains might best suit your needs, and try out those strains to see how you react to them. Some people only tolerate sativa plants well, others (like myself) prefer pure indicas. There are also countless hybrids available, with different beneficial effects.
Once you’ve found a strain that you really love, see if you can find a local grower and ask if you can take some cuttings from their mother plant. Most growers are happy to sell you cuttings, or will even let you take a few in exchange for delicious baked goods.
The best thing about growing a cannabis plant from a cutting is that you’re cloning the mother plant. Quite simply, you’ll end up with an exact copy of it! Same gender, same lineage: no surprises.
Whether you take this medicine as smoke, tincture, edible, or topical salve, we hope it brings you peace and healing.
If you’re interested in learning more about herbal medicine, check out these related articles:
Lead image via Unsplash Creative Commons.