With the summer heat finally fading away, now is the time many of you will be starting new grows. Thankfully, the cooler autumn temperatures make controlling your grow room environment easier, but if you’re still finding the heat an issue, read our blog Best Grow Room Temperatures For Optimal Yield.
At this time of the year, with lots of new grows starting, the topics that come up time and again both online and in our shop is propagation, cuttings and root growth. So, as part of our Ask Us Anything series of blogs, we thought it would be helpful to put together a comprehensive guide to help you get your grow off to a flying start.
Seeds vs Cuttings
There are two types of propagation that growers usually employ – growing new plants from seeds and taking cuttings from existing plants.
Which you choose is up to you, there are no right or wrong answers. But there are pros and cons of both approaches.
Taking cuttings from the mother plant – also called cloning – produces a plant which is genetically identical to the plant the cutting was taken from. This can have advantages if that plant is particularly high yielding and suits your growing environment. Plants grown from cuttings also mature more quickly, as you would expect.
On the other hand, because the offspring are genetically identical, the whole crop can be susceptible to disease or pests and success with cuttings is harder to achieve.
Growing new plants from seeds introduces a level of genetic diversity into your crop, but this can mean some individual plants perform less well than others which may affect your overall yield. However, in the event of disease or pests, generally speaking you have more protection. Starting from seeds is also considered safer because a cutting might contain traces of disease or pests which could spread to the new crop.
Using cuttings is, of course, more cost effective than buying new seeds. But often seeds are not particularly expensive, and they are easier to germinate and require less attention than plants grown from cuttings. Ultimately, it is up to each individual grower to decide what is right for them, but for less experienced growers seeds are probably the best way to go as they are safer and easier to propagate.
Growing Plants from Cuttings
The process of growing new plants from cuttings can be a fairly involved and complex process. Although carrying out the process is far from difficult – you simply cut a section of stem with leaves from a suitable plant, strip the bottom of the stem and plant in a free-draining medium – getting the desired results takes good judgement and constant monitoring. To facilitate good root development, appropriate rooting media is needed, as are rooting gels, liquids or powders.
There are a lot of things that can affect success, including the condition of the stock plant, root compounds, temperature, oxygen levels, light, etc, to name just a few. Thankfully most of these can be controlled within the grow room, including enhancing the condition of the stock plant before the cutting is taken.
Controlling Electric Conductivity
To ensure the stock plant is in optimal condition before the cutting is taken requires, unsurprisingly, good quality nutrients (see our extensive range here). However, there is another technique that can be employed to facilitate cutting growth and build resistance to desiccation. That is gradually increasing the electrical conductivity of the nutrient solution. Increasing EC helps the plant store more carbohydrate, which promotes rapid root development in the cutting.
Doing this can really improve the health of the young plant, ensuring strong plants emerge from the original cutting.
By comparison, growing plants from seeds is relatively straight forward. Simply purchase the seeds you want to plant, or collect them from a parent plant, and plant them in a suitable growing medium. They will form seedlings initially, where upon they can be transferred to larger containers to grow to their full potential.
Growing plants from seeds is a less technical and involved process than taking cuttings, but the results tend to be less predictable due to the genetic various among the seeds.
Optimal Conditions for Root Development
However you decide to achieve your crop, either by cuttings or seeds, there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration when propagating new plants. These include:
Oxygen around the stem cut base is essential for callus and root initiation. Although conventional wisdom would suggest that the best way to achieve this is via a course, free-drain media, research shows it is the oxygen levels in the water around the cutting’s surface that is most important.
Many cloned plants prefer a warm base but slightly cooler top to propagate, which can be achieved using heat pads or matts under the plants. However, be careful not to heat the growing media too much, or else the plants will suffer.
Another to take into consideration is getting the balance of foliage cover correct. To much leaf can mean excessive water loss from the plant, which inhibits root formation. However, too little leaf can mean not enough water loss and the plants may rot. However, it is important to remember that root formation growth inhibitors and other beneficial compounds are produced in both the stem and leaf, so some leaf retention is recommended.
The advantages of a hydroponics system means that the growing environment can be entirely controlled, therefore the chances of success with your new crop is higher than any other type of growing. And with all the equipment, nutrients and accessories you will ever need to get the best yield possible, GrownUp Hydroponics is supporting you through every step of the way!