Grow Guide: How to Make Your Own Organic Cloning Gel

While most growers dread the inescapable task of cloning, it is undoubtedly rewarding to create new life from just a small branch. Cloning is crucial for cannabis growers looking for consistency in their genetics. Seeds may be more vigorous growth-wise, but they are often unreliable in terms of phenotypes. Cloning guarantees the preservation of your genetics — it can be a finicky process, but it is absolutely a necessary one.

fig06_roots_underground_structuresIn previous Grow Guides, we’ve talked about the pros and cons of clones vs. seeds. Plants grown from seed develop a tap root which acts as the plant’s backbone. Having a strong tap root makes plants stronger and grow more vigorously. Plants grown from clone do not develop a tap root; Instead, the roots create a fibrous root system from the base of the clone.

This Grow Guide is not going to walk you through how to clone, visit this Grow Guide if that is what you want to learn. Today, we’re going to go a step further with some easy homemade recipes that will allow you to create your very own cloning gel. Cloning gel quickens up the rooting process by providing immediate growth hormones to the fresh cutting. The downfall is that most gels available at grow stores are often unreliable, overpriced, and filled with synthetic rooting hormones, artificial dyes, and chemicals. That’s no way to start life in your garden!

There are plenty of plants with naturally-occurring rooting hormones you can use to create a natural, organic cloning gel at home. Not being dependent on a store-bought gel brings your garden one more step off the grid. Plus, it saves money, which is always a bonus!

The two main plants I’m going to be talking about today are Aloe and Willow. These two plants contain powerful rooting hormones that can be harnessed easily and used as a supplement for clones. I’ll talk about each plant individually, but you can always mix and match these recipes to create your own signature cloning brew.

If you like growing your own nutrients, Aloe is a plant you should definitely have in your garden. Not only is it beautiful to look at and great for our skin, but aloe is also a very nutritious food source for cannabis plants. This versatile succulent makes amazing compost teas, foliar sprays, and of course, cloning gels. Aloe contains a wide variety of beneficial compounds, but today we’re interested in its high levels of Salicylic acid (SA). Salicylic acid has been used as a rooting agent in the nursery industry for over a century, and there’s no shortage of companies bottling it up and selling it to growers — but why not go straight to the source?

Cloning Cannabis with Aloe

Cloning with aloe is easy, but there are a couple of different methods to choose from depending on your situation…

Fresh Aloe

Dipping a clone in fresh aloe. Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett.

Dipping a clone in fresh aloe. Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett.

In my opinion, fresh is always best. There are two methods you can try — my favorite approach is the lazy farmer method. This process is as simple as cutting a large, healthy leaf from your aloe plant and dipping the tip of your clone directly into the gooey center of the aloe leaf. This method works best if you have a smaller operation and only a few clones to root. If you have a lot of clones that need rooting, let me take you to the second method…

Aloe Smoothie

This method will provide you with a big, reusable batch of aloe cloning gel. Begin by harvesting a few healthy aloe leaves. Cut them into smaller slices over a blender or food processor. Add some water, blend, and voila! A big batch of all-natural homemade rooting gel! It’s really that simple! Dip the tip of your clone in the gel (or let it sit for an hour or two) before placing it in its home to root.

Aloe Powder

62027-2If you don’t have an aloe plant to harvest fresh leaves, you can always purchase powdered aloe from most health food stores, some big box stores, or online. Simply mix the powder with water in a small bowl until it forms a smooth gel-like consistency. From this point, some growers prefer to soak their clones in the gel for 6 hours, but I personally just dip the clones in and out. After the clone’s aloe bath, continue with your regular cloning method (soil, coco plugs, aerocloner, etc.) to begin rooting.

Cloning Cannabis with Willow

aloe-willow-cloning-18

Gathering young willow branches. Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett.

The magical aura of these majestic trees has always made willow one of my favorite plants — I didn’t think I could love them any more until I discovered all of the amazing benefits willow offers the garden! They are such a prolific plant that a single tree will support even the largest garden’s needs. I have a serious willow-planting addiction after finding out their strong rooting hormone makes planting as easy as cutting a fresh shoot and sticking it in the ground. Each November, I plant them everywhere I can.

Creating a cloning solution out of willow takes a little more patience than the aloe recipes, but it is well worth the wait. We’ll be making something called Willow Water, essentially fermented willow in water. It takes a couple of days for the fermentation to mature which is why it requires some patience. But once the willow water is concocted, it is also great to use as a gentle feed throughout the rooting process — it speeds up propagation drastically. The fermentation process causes the root-hormones contained within the willow to leach into the water, making these powerful hormones available to your cannabis plants. Willow contains two natural rooting hormones in its branches, indolebutyric acid (IBA) and salicylic acid (SA), which we discussed in the aloe section. Both are powerful rooting hormones that stimulate plant growth and battle any possible infections that may attack a newly rooted clone.

How to Make Willow Water

aloe-willow-cloning-23Today, I’m going to walk you through the quick method of making willow water, since the slow method can take up to four months — the only difference is water temperature. To make willow water, you can use any relative to the willow family (salix). For the faster method, we’re essentially going to be making tea with willow branches. To start, collect fresh willow shoots in a bucket. You’re looking for the young, green/yellow branches rather than the brown/grey ones. Remove the leaves and cut the twigs into small 1”-2” pieces. Sometimes rather than cutting, I will run my scissors alongside the branch, creating ribbons. The goal is to expose as much of the interior of the branch as possible — that’s where all the good stuff resides. Once you have a bucket full of chopped up willow, fill it with boiling water, cover, and let sit for 24 hours. Once your water is fully infused, you can use a colander to separate the chunks of willow from the solution. When you’re ready to apply it to your clones, pour a little of your homemade cloning solution into a jar and let your fresh clones soak for a couple of hours to be sure they have time to uptake all of those great rooting hormones. Then, place your clones into your preferred cloning tray and wait for the magic to happen! To help quicken the rooting process even more, this solution can be diluted and used to water your clones for the next few days. Willow water will stay good for two months if kept airtight and refrigerated — You can expect to get a few cloning sessions out of one batch.  

Remember, these two recipes can be mixed together for a super potent cloning concoction.  Experiment and have fun cloning away!

I’d love to hear about your homemade cloning solutions in the comments below.

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