Autoflowering cannabis strains are strains that automatically switch from the vegetative state to the flowering state, without requiring the grower to make changes to the environment. As the plant matures, it will automatically start producing buds, regardless of the lighting situation.
To compare, a traditional strain – also referred to as a photoperiod strain – would require over 12 hours of darkness a day to initiate flowering. When growing traditional strains outside, they would have to be planted during the spring, to work with the sun schedule and be finished before winter.
For an autoflowering strain, all that’s needed is a couple months of consistently warm weather. Timezone and season don’t matter much, especially if you’re somewhere with moderate weather year round. Autoflowering plants need to be exposed to direct inside lighting for 12 hours daily after budding, and they should be ready to harvest in about ten weeks.
While this is a huge benefit for any grower in a hurry, due to the different budding schedule of these plants, autoflowering strains don’t clone as well as traditional plants.
Essentially, to grow a clone you would just take a small cutting from your cannabis plant while it’s in the vegetative state, put it in a growing medium of your choice, and grow it from there. Although it’s not necessary, many people believe it’s very helpful to use a rooting hormone gel or powder. After about ten days, the little cutting should start to form its own root system, and shortly after it would start growing its own plant.
Cloning autoflowering seeds is difficult
The thing about autoflowering plants is that they flower by time and they cannot be fooled to stay in vegetative period by turning the lights on 13+ hours a day.
This has led to the general belief that autoflowering cannabis cannot be cloned, as cuttings taken from a mother plant are forced to follow her “genetic timeline” and flower according to age at the same time that she begins to flower. This logic dictates that the cuttings will not reach a useful size, and yield will be negligible. However, there is a handful of growers that believes otherwise, and that have successfully managed to clone their autos and allow them to continue to grow in vegetative mode until they are almost as large as their mother. Once they reach their maximum size, they begin to flower.
The key requirement if attempting to clone autoflowering plants is to take cuttings from the lower branches only. These lower branches seem to be more hormonally stable than newer growth at the top of the plant. The main terminal stem, known as the apical meristem, is the first part of the plant to receive the signal that it is time to flower, and this information takes time to permeate downwards and signal the lower branches to flower. Thus, there is a brief window of time between the first appearance of sexual characteristics (assuming that regular, non-feminized auto seeds are used) and the permeation of flowering hormones throughout the tissues of the plant. This window may be just a few hours, and it is therefore crucial to watch your plants for pre-flowers and take cuttings as soon as they appear.
Clones share the exact same genetics as the mother plant, and that includes age. Photoperiod strains do better when cloned because the change in the environment that they require to start flowering allows them time to grow and develop properly.
Since an autoflowering clone would be the same age as its mother and have no dependence on light, it would follow the same genetic timeline as its mother.
Once cuttings are taken, they should be kept under low-intensity light in moist conditions until they have rooted. Once rooted, they will undergo vegetative growth until they have reached approximately 80% of the mother’s size, and will produce comparable final harvests.
So there you have it, technically yes, you can clone autoflowering plants. But is it a good idea? Not necessarily. If the plant happens to be cloned prior to the sex showing, then it could possibly work out, but that’s a very short window of opportunity.