How do you maintain a mother plant? - Looking after your mum - a guide to keeping perfect mother plants!

What is a mother plant?

A mother plant is a term given to a plant that is kept in perpetual vegetative growth and not allowed to flower or fruit. Growers use mothers to take their cuttings or clones from. Ensuring all the plants (clones) grown are identical thus making it easier to grow a uniform crop, see ‘propagating success’ info sheet for more information on taking and using cuttings.

How long can you keep a mother plant?

Mother plants are generally kept for a long time some growers refresh them every 6 months or yearly with a cutting from the same plant that becomes the next mother, others keep the same mother plant for much longer. For this reason the most popular media for keeping a mother in is a good quality potting soil, its forgiving nature lends well to it being lower maintenance and is more suitable than coco or hydro for keeping plants long term. A great Soil for this is Biobizz All-mix, or Ecothrive super soil. Your pot size for a mother plant depends on the size of mother you want to keep which depends on the amount of cuttings you want to take at once but generally speaking a 10-20l final pot size is ideal for this.

How much light do mother plants needs?

To keep a mother plant you need to keep it in 18-24hr light but 18hr is preferable as different processes happen within the plant in the dark period that are helpful for good plant growth.

So as your mother will be kept in a state of constant vegetative growth you only need to feed it a vegetative growth feed or suitable supplements such as a good quality root stim, for example Vitalink Root Stim or Roots Excelurator and Ecothrive Biosys (weekly). Taking cuttings puts a lot of stress on a plant and for it to come back quickly and grow happily there are some things you can do to make your mum happier:

  • Foliar feeding – foliar feeds (sprays) are a great way of getting useful nutrients directly into the plants leaves and can really help with keeping a successful mother plant. Always foliar feed in either low light levels or ideally just as your light cycle is about to end so the intense light doesn’t burn the wet and they have the full dark period to allow them to soak up the nutrients and dry off. Recommended foliar feeds include Vitalink Foliar and Plant Magic Evolution.
  • Beneficial microbes – Products such as Ecothrive Biosys, Mammoth P and Ecothrive Charge contain beneficial microbes that help your roots to use more nutrients and water and help with keeping you mum healthy.

  • Re-potting – Re-potting is potting your plant into a larger (usually) pot, the extra room for roots to grow and fresh soil gives the plant a boost and can help a mother to regrow quicker, useful if you need to take more cuttings soon. Some growers even take the pot off a mother plant and cut the root-ball, roots soil and all, down to a smaller size and re-pot back into the same pot with some fresh soil. The new growth of roots into the new soil works the same as potting into a larger pot without needing to use a larger pot which takes up more precious room in your grow space! Fabric pots like the Root Mass version help prevent root circling and make sure the roots use all the soil in the pot effectively as such they are great for keeping mothers in.


How often can you take clones from a mother plant?

This varies depending on the plant and and how healthy and vigorous it is but generally with most quick growing plants as long as they are healthy there is no real time limit on how often you can take clones but we recommend not taking more than half the plants foliage at once. You can take more but it will take longer for the plant to recover and start growing again so will be longer before you can take any more.


 What environment is best for keeping mother plants?

The ideal environment for keeping a mother plant in is the same as you would have for vegetative growth a temperature range of 18-27Cis fine with the difference between the high and low temps being no more than 5C ideally (eg 25-28C lights on 20-23C lights off). Humidity is important to keep an eye on as if using CDM or halide bulbs or indeed sodiums the humidity will be much lower than under LED or flourescent lighting. It needs to be 60-70%RH ideally and to keep these high levels a small humidifier such as a Mist Maker 3 or Ram ultrasonic humidifier will keep your humidity high and your mother beautiful!


What lighting should I use for a mother plant?

This again depends partly on the size of mother plant you require and the space you have, you can keep micro mothers under T5 strip lights in small pots if you only require a few cuttings at a time. Or if you need large mothers CDM lights or metal halide bulbs up to 400w or even 600w, LED lights are very suitable for mother plants and you can get ones to match any size of mother you need. CFL bulbs and other fluorescents are ideal for most small to average mother plant requirements as long as you don’t need to be taking cuttings too regularly.


Keeping mothers is a great way to keep your genetics safe and not weaken the strength and vigour of your cuttings, some people prefer to take cutting off the existing plants they are growing before they flower them but this means you often have to ‘hold back’ your cuttings until your cycle has finished which often doesn’t do them any good, getting rootbound in small pots/blocks and growing ‘leggy’ giving a poor structure for a young plant. It can also eventually ‘weaken’ your strain of plant, a bit like taking a photocopy of a photocopy the image gets weaker each time and over time the plant your working with can lose some of the traits that you want in your end harvest.


Essential mother plant equipment checklist: