How to Create a Bonsai Mother for Unlimited Clones
by Oldtimer1 (foreward and adaptation by Nebula Haze)
This marijuana grow tutorial is a condensed version of the classic “How to Keep a Bonsai Mum” article written by the legendary Oldtimer1. Although the original article was published in 2000, this bonsai training method recently resurfaced and has become popular for hobbyist cannabis growers without a lot of space. With so many people growing at home these days, this technique is more useful now than ever!
These 8-month-old bonsai mother plants are based on this tutorial. In addition to the sunny window, a lightbulb shines nearby for 14+ hours a day to keep them in the vegetative stage. An easy and fun way to hold onto genetics!
This tutorial will teach you how to turn a cannabis plant into a bonsai mother (giving you access to unlimited free clones!)
But what is a mother plant? The most common reason growers keep “mothers” is to save money by producing new cannabis plants for free (or at least basically free).
Instead of having to pay for each seed from a seed bank, a mother plant can be used to create almost unlimited new clones of itself. In addition to not costing anything, new clones are more predictable than seeds from random crosses. Seeds carry a mix of traits from both parent plants, while each clone consistently grows just like the mother.
Taking clones can save a ton of money vs buying seeds because each new plant is simply cut off the mother and grown into a full plant
Cloning can be a big money saver over buying individual seeds, but frugality isn’t the only reason to keep mother plants. Sometimes it’s about saving great genetics. Certain cannabis plants are so special they beg to be cloned so more people can enjoy them. If you ever identify a particularly great plant, you can actually take clones of it and turn them into mother plants. You can even take clones in the flowering stage if you just can’t let a certain plant go.
Clones are made by cutting off the ends of branches and planting those pieces so they grow roots. These “cuttings” grow into full plants that are a genetic clone of the mother. When you grow and harvest them, the characteristics will be basically identical to the mother plant.
Why would you want a bonsai mother?
Unlike a commercial grower, most home growers don’t have a lot of grow space to dedicate purely to housing mother plants. Keeping each mother small, like a bonsai tree, lets you maintain a huge selection of genetics in a small grow space without very much electricity.
The bonsai mother technique has become a staple for indoor growers who want to keep a huge variety of genetics in a small cannabis garden. This version of the tutorial cuts out extra discussion and leaves just the instructions with pictures. This way you can get straight to bonsai-ing. But if you ever have a little extra time for some fun and interesting discussion, I highly recommend reading the original article in its entirety by Oldtimer1 .
In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create and maintain many small mother plants in a tiny grow space. Each mother plant can produce hundreds of new clones over time, so you basically gain the power to produce unlimited new plants for free!
Example of a bonsai plant by Don de Marco
Part 1: How to Create a Bonsai Mother Plant
This tutorial will show you how to create a fully established bonsai mother plant.
This bonsai mother, if well fed, will be able to produce 10 to 30 good cuttings every 14 days under an HID grow light, or every 20 days under fluorescent grow light. This means a 4 ft x 2 ft shop light with 18 mother plants could produce an output of over 9500 cuttings a year.
Typical Bonsai Mum
That’s not intensive production, but it allows the connoisseur to keep a good selection of strain varieties in a relatively small space.
1.) Put Chosen Mother in a Square Pot
Lets start by turning a rooted cutting into a mother plant. This is simple. With every batch of clone, there are always a few that stand out because they generally appear sturdier and better looking overall. Pick one or two of these to make your mother plant. Remember this mother plant will provide you with cuttings 4 to 18 times a year for the next 3 to 15 years, so only the best will do.
Note: I find square pots are much easier to deal with when it comes to root pruning, as you will see later.
Pick a fully rooted through cutting and put in a 2.5 inch square pot.
2.) Cut the plant short so it only has 3-4 growing tips left
Once you’ve chosen your cutting, trim its top back to leave 3 or 4 side shoots.
3.) Manipulate the plant into an “open cup” shape (open up the middle as the plant grows)
The little branches you left from before will become the main framework of your mother plant. The goal is to try to get them to form an open cup shape as they grow. The top 2 branches usually grow the fastest unless you take steps to even everything out. The following sequence helps you create a more symmetrical plant.
- “Top” the two tallest branches when they get to about 5 inches long (pinch or snip off the growing tip just above a leaf node).
- Once the remaining branches catch up to the same height as the ones you just topped, then top/pinch the growing tips off them as well.
- This process of topping multiple branches will encourage side shoots to form.
- Remove any branches that grow into the central cup shape.
4.) Take first set of clones
After completing the last step, you should have 6 to 8 leading branches coming up. When they reach 4 to 6 inches long, they can be taken as your first set of clones.
- Cut them back to just above the first leaf node of the new growth
Note: Check out Part 3 of this tutorial (below) for more details and pictures of taking clones
After the cuttings have been taken, the mum is only a tiny bit larger than the last time she was cut back but the main branches will be starting to get thicker.
5.) Move mother plant to bigger pot
After you’ve taken the first set of cuttings, it’s time to move up to the next pot size. A 3 inch sq pot is ideal.
6.) You’ve got a bonsai mother!
You should now have 12 to 16 leading shoots, as well as others coming up from lower nodes. In total there may be 30 potential clones, or more. Any really thin ones or any growing into the center, either cut back to one node or remove altogether instead of taking cuttings.
Here are bonsai mothers at different stages
- The trimmed cutting from above.
- Has had 2 sets of cuttings taken off and is more than ready to move to a 3 inch pot. As you can see it is a little short of Nitrogen, which is why it’s better to transplant to fresh soil after the first set of cuttings.
- This mother plant is in a 3 inch pot. 12 cuttings have been taken with 2 left on to show where to cut back to.
- This is a five year old Mum that has just had 32 cuttings taken off and could do with some more small twiggy bits removed. She is in a 1 liter pot and has been since she was 3 months old.
Note how all have an open center; this allows light to both the center and the outside. It will fill in between taking cuttings but if pruned back to this form, makes better and more even growth giving more good cuttings each time.
General Care and Maintenance
The mother plants need just enough nutrients to keep them healthy. Feed nutrients at half strength twice a month. This keeps them in good general health but doesn’t overfeed them. If you want faster production at any point change to a full-strength feed once or twice. Every 2 to 4 weeks a new batch of cuttings are taken even if they are not needed and just put in the worm bin. You can think of it as being like having to mow the lawn and keeps the mum the same size and form for years. Because so much is taken away they can get short of macronutrients so every month or so give them a foliar spray or light dose of nutrients. Judge this by how the plants are looking not by a timetable.
One of the main things that all growers need to learn is regular close observation. To know when they are healthy and notice the first signs of deficiencies appearing.
Part 2: Root Pruning (Renovation and Maintenance)
Bonsai mother plants will need root pruning once or twice a year to stay healthy. The frequency depends on how intensively they are fed and how good your water quality is.
Note: The root pruning method stays the same whether it’s being used for routine maintenance or renovation of a sick plant.
Here we are dealing with a 7 year-old mother plant that hasn’t been root trimmed for nearly a year and was deliberately neglected for the last 10 weeks so you could see the recovery.
First, trim back nearly all the top growth back to the main framework of branches. Leave one or two tiny shoots at the tip of each branch to draw sap and keep the branch alive.
Don’t remove all the shoots and buds because this often causes “die back”. Once that starts the whole plant usually dies within a month or two. But you’re good as long as you leave a few small shoots, even if they’re yellow from lacking N. They will soon start to grow and green up as the new roots start forming!
Next the rootball should have 3/4 of an inch cut off each side and an inch off the bottom.
This reduces the 4.5 x 4.5 x 4.5 inch rootball to 3 x 3 x 3.5 inches high after the loose soil is scraped from the top.
This means that two-thirds of the soil is being replaced. A good full strength organic compost is used when repotting and it only takes a day or two for the roots to really start growing into the new compost. It is very important to make sure there are no voids or air gaps left when packing the sides, use a pencil or small dibber, fill slowly and firm lightly.
Set the bottom of the rootball on about 3/4 of an inch of compost then pack out the sides and finally cover the top with a 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch. This means the mother is planted 1/4 inch deeper every time root pruning is done about 1/2 an inch a year. In a couple of years from now I will cut down vertically and split the plant in two as the side branch will have a root system of its own. Using this method the roots are constantly being replaced and as well the main trunk replaced slowly. This seems to keep the bonsai mother plants healthy for many years.
The last picture is 12 days under an HPS light after the root and top pruning. It tells its own story! Already there are enough nice leaders to make 10 good cuttings.
The second mother of our selected “ES” line lasted for just over 15 years using this method. I have also kept prized males for breeding (bonsai father plants) in this pot size and some are over 5 years old.
That’s it. You should have all the info you need to make and root cuttings in compost the make and maintain bonsai mother plants. It’s easy, give it a go!
Part 3: How to Take Clones from Bonsai Mother Plants
This section covers my cloning system in detail, along with a brief outline about our mother plants. Every grower can get the same results by imitating this easy organic system.
Mother plants are kept so their roots are restricted using standard bonsai methodology and techniques. It is an excellent method for keeping mother plants long term and has proved a very reliable system since we developed this method 24 years ago. The longest I’ve kept a mother like this without having to be replaced is just over 15 years.
- Replace pure indicas every 3 years
- Replace hybrids every 4 to 5 years
- Replace pure sativas every 6 to 7 years.
Of course it depends on the care they are given, and every strain is different. These days most plants are hybrids and you don’t find much “pure” anything, but this can be a helpful guide. Male plants can be kept in the same way and in fact will stand more abuse than mother plants.
My Clone, Mother and Father box
It’s a double deck with two 4ft x 2 ft lights each with 4 x 40w cool white fluorescent lights.
Clone, Mother and Father box
270 rooted cuttings, in plugs ready to go into pots. Close up of top tray right
One of the big advantages using bonsai mother plants, is that each only needs a maximum of 8 x 8 inches. So a 2 ft x 2 ft x 2 ft high box with a 4 tube fluorescent shop light can hold 9 mothers. We call the plants we keep Mums and Dads; not to be confused with chrysanthemums 🙂
I once read a quote in High Times that said you get genetic degeneration by keeping mother plants long term – this is total rubbish!
Degeneration can certainly occur if a mother plant gets infected with a reversion virus, but the buds produced today from our mother plants is just as potent and good-smelling as when it was first grown out from seed many years ago. In fact, it is better now. We have better lighting and superior growing techniques, allowing the clones to express their potential more fully.
This is our largest mother plant in a 1-liter pot (the largest size used). With all the top growth pictured she is about 13 inches tall and ready to take cuttings. Inset is a cutting being clipped out see below.
I use fine point scissors for trimming the plants, they are fast and easy to use. Quick enough to do 2 to 3 cuttings a minute. Forget the stories that they bruise the stem and cause rot, it’s rubbish! They do need to be sharp, so buy a new pair and keep them just for this task. As far as hygiene is concerned, providing all your mother plants are free of virus, simply put them through the dishwasher after every session to get rid of the sap build up. This keeps them free and easy to use.
How to prepare the cuttings (refer to picture below)
- This tip is ready to get prepared for rooting
- Snip off the side shoot and leaf the node you want to root.
- Cut just below the node you want to root.
- Dip the trimmed node in rooting hormone.
How to Insert the Cuttings
- Use a 3.5 inch square pot to root in
- Fill with half perlite and half universal compost or rich potting soil
- The mix is pre-soaked with water dosed with 1 ml of 35% or 2ml per litre of 17.5% H2O2 and 5 ml of Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed
- Then the cuttings are dibbed in to the compost, 9 to 12 per pot
- The dibbed cuttings are then watered in using a fine rose same mix as above to settle them in.
- Cover with a plastic bag and put under constant 24-hour lighting
- Preferably cool-white fluorescent lighting at 20 w per sq foot and a temperature of 75 degrees fahrenheit.
Inserting cuttings and covering with bag
“There are a number of reasons for not rooting directly into plug trays.”
Lets look at what we need from a rooted cutting… We want one that is suited to growing in a confined space i.e. a pot. They are as closely matched as possible. To get good yields from a grow, uniformity is the rule. It is no good having one plant that produces 50 grams when its 2 neighbors only produce 15 grams each. They are identical stock but this is what is often seen in grow after grow. It is much better to try and get all the plants averaging 35 grams well within the capacity of the stock line of a plant that can make 50 grams.
Remember we are talking about growing in soil based or soilless compost mixes. The root type that the cutting produces is very important, lots of fine feeder roots are the ideal, anchor and tap roots are totally unwanted when growing in a pot. Remember the amount feeder root mass directly effects the potential crop weight
The 3.5-inch pots are 4 inches high; the rooting mix is very open with low nutrient content. This encourages early taproot development. Not all the cuttings will have rooted at the same time, so when they are transferred to the plug trays the root balls are trimmed to the same size and the tap root is removed, this goes a long way towards equalizing the clones. Once they are transferred as below they tend to stay pretty even and grow on rapidly. To show what we are looking for some equalized clones grown on and just put into flower. There are several varieties in this grow and there is not more than an inch or so between plants in each variety. They are placed by variety to make a stadium effect and make maximum use of light.
Around ten days later the cuttings will have rooted through. The rootball is gently broken up, each cutting has its roots trimmed back to equalize the cuttings and make them fit the plug tray! Full strength peat or coir compost using organic base fertilizers, are used for this.
Then they are put back in the Clone/Mother box for about 5/6 more days until thoroughly rooted through, this is very important at all stages of repotting! Fully rooted plants just jump ahead when moved on– we have found that plants moved into bigger pots too early typically produce 25% to 30% less final crop weight!
Moving the rooted cuttings to plug trays.
Cuttings in plug trays a few days later ready to move on to their first pots.
Showing a cutting out of the plug tray, fully rooted out and ready to go.
Cuttings like this can be taken from any plants in the vegetative stage.
How to Create a Bonsai Mother for Unlimited Clones by Oldtimer1 (foreward and adaptation by Nebula Haze) This marijuana grow tutorial is a condensed version of the classic “How to Keep a
How to grow a cannabis bonsai tree
Welcome back to our blog Pevgrow! Today I’m going to focus this article on trying to enlighten you on how to make your own marijuana bonsai tree. Yes! You got it right! Mr. Miyagi would be proud of you, Let’s go Daniel San!👉
The Bonsai is an art that requires a lot of patience and surgeon’s pulse to maintain gracefully a plant inside a very small cultivation space that has been an inspiration to be able to grow cannabis in very confined spaces. More concretely, the culture of cannabis bonsai trees is a perfect option for the conservation of mother plants in a very small culture cabinet. Do you want to know more, right? Stay with me! 🤗🤫
☕ Why grow a cannabis bonsai?
Professional marijuana growers, when they find an outstanding plant, keep it as a mother plant in a vegetative state, in order to take from it the clones they need. The problem comes when we want to keep many moms at 18 hours, since they do not stop growing, invading the entire cultivation space.
So, doing marijuana bonsai you can keep your favorite genetics in the same way but in a much smaller space, didn’t you think about it? 🤗
I have a small cabinet where I gather all the mother plants I select, and the truth is that I spoil them as if they were my own children. This way you can collect the best cannabic genetics that you find or exchange in a reduced space. We’ve come to have up to 27 different genetics in a space of 3x3ft (1 M. x 1 M.). What do you think? 🌞
image of a mother plant bonsai kept in a pot of less than 0,3 US gal (1 litre) more than 1 year*
📲 Basic aspects for bonsai cultivation
Before starting to grow your bonsai cultivation, I’m going to give you some previous guidelines that you must know in order to get everything right.
First of all, the size of the pots should range between 0,08 and 0,5 US gal (0,3-2 liters), ensuring that they do not get out of control and have more autonomy, and of course you can buy them at the best price in our online Growshop.
Another factor to take into account is the substrate, which ideally is one like All Mix or similar, i.e. with many nutrients. This is important because one of the biggest problems that a bonsai faces is the accumulation of salts. At first it’s not obvious, while the roots have clean substrate they develop perfectly but, as time goes by, the use of enzymes becomes indispensable and the flowerpot gets smaller, so you only have 2 options, either transplanting or pruning roots.
The type of lighting is very important, it is recommended that you use low-energy bulbs with an output of between 125 and 200W. LEDs can also be a good option, as long as they are not very powerful. A minimum of power is necessary so that plants in a vegetative state do not start to flower. Buy the best lighting systems in our growshop online by clicking here.
💻 How to grow a cannabis bonsai step by step
It all starts by carefully selecting the cannabis cuttings, which may be a selection of yours or a known elite clone. Using cuttings, the resulting plants are more branched than stretched, which makes miniaturization easier, so we don’t recommend doing it with seeds.
Once you have selected the cuttings you are going to use, transplant to a small pot from 0,08 to 0,1 US gal (0,3 to 0,5 liters). As soon as you notice that it begins to grow, the first apical pruning or F.I.M. (this post interests you) should be done to encourage early branching. This will slow down vertical development and promote horizontal growth.
🎯 Training to shape a bonsai
If you still find that the vertical growth does not stop, you should use what is known as a tutoring system, ie, take the growth of the plant wherever you want using wire for bonsai, trying to bend the branches in the direction of the ground, forcing its horizontal development.
Some growers make small holes on the top of the pot, where they put the wire to guide the branches to the bottom of the plant, it can be a good solution.
A good method would be to make a hole at the top of each side of the pot, and guide the 4 lowest branches of the cuttings in each direction. This way we promote the penetration of light and aeration even in the lower parts of the plant.
image of a mother plant beginning to be trained to become bonsai*
It is very important that during the growth you watch the plant and you’ll need to cut some sprouts, so that the light can enter and avoid the appearance of mold and other insects that could damage it. Even so, I recommend that, from the beginning, you use a good phytosanitary that applied regularly will help you to avoid the appearance of different plagues that can affect your precious cannabis bonsai. It is also interesting to use healing to repair the damage caused by pruning.
You can see it in a much more graphic way in this video and I’m sure you won’t have any doubt!
🎬 Root pruning, root system maintenance
Once you have the plants in their flowerpots, you will have to keep in good condition their substrate, to do so it is essential to be careful with root growth, the foundation of any marijuana bonsai. Eventually, the roots will have colonized the entire pot, so there could be a problem of root spiralization or asphyxiation that might be lethal for mother plants.
This in turn, causes the water and nutrients retention to be much lower, which is why the only solution will be to transplant the cannabis bonsai to a previously conditioned substrate. To keep the compact form of the marijuana bonsai, it will be mandatory to maintain the same size of flowerpot, therefore, what is necessary to do is to apply a pruning of roots or Root Trimming, that consists in cutting cleanly the edges of the lump, to remove a slice of approximately 0,4-0,8 inches (2-3 cm.), and filling with new earth, managing to get the roots to enjoy again a fresh substrate and with a limited volume of root mass.
Ideally, this root pruning should be done a few days after cutting the offsprings, so root and plant mass will be equitable.
image of roots pruning in a bonsai plant, where you can see the cut done in the substrate*
👾 How to take care of cannabis bonsai trees?
Marijuana bonsais can be stored for about two years with virtually no problems, but for that you will have to consider a number of factors that will guarantee its health and therefore its longevity. The biggest problem of keeping mother plants for a long time is that the stems of the cuttings become more and more woody, which makes rooting more difficult and time consuming.
Ideally, mother plant bonsai trees should be renewed every 6 months or 1 year maximum.
– In the root system, the base of every plant, careful irrigation is recommended so that root development is adequate and avoiding the appearance of diseases such as Phytium, which arises with a substrate too soaked.
– In terms of lighting, I recommend using a photoperiod of 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness, as we want the plant to grow and not bloom. Some users have tested a light cycle of 6/6/6/6, i.e. 6 hours of light, 6 hours of darkness, 6 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness each day, this slows growth, but can stress plants.
– When bonsai tree is already formed, I recommend that you don’t relocate it, since the luminic and environmental conditions can affect it, causing the appearance of stress. Therefore, the ideal is to keep it in a growing cabinet, where you can give it the ideal environmental conditions, temperature, etc.
In this article, I have explained you what is a cannabis bonsai and how to grow one step by step, as well as different advices so that its life is as long as possible. I hope it has been helpful to you, and if you liked it by sharing it on social networks you will help this blog keep growing and continue to bring new tips every week for you. Oh! don’t forget that you can leave comments with your experience with cannabis bonsai trees in the comments section, Think Green (Piensa en Verde) Cannalover!😜
Discover in our blog Piensa en Verde ✍ ⚡ how to make a cannabis bonsai tree, step by step ❤️ ⭐ Get to know one of the most ancient techniques in the world!