Cannabis isn’t a particularly tricky plant to grow — which is why the name “weed” has so thoroughly stuck. In fact, cannabis was one of the earliest plants domesticated by humankind because it popped up so readily in early hunter-gatherer trash heaps.
Still, when you are cultivating cannabis at home, you want to give your crop the absolute best chance at surviving and thriving. After all, healthier plants produce bigger harvests and more potent buds for you to enjoy. While growing a successful cannabis crop requires attention and care at every stage, giving your plants the right start certainly matters — but does the right start involve seeds or clones?
Like most plants, cannabis naturally reproduces through seeds. Seed formation is an act of sexual reproduction, which means cannabis requires to different plants to combine their genetic material for viable seeds to form. Only female cannabis plants grow flowers which turn into seed heads; male plants merely produce pollen to fertilize those flowers.
Pro: Seeds are easy to find. Technically, cannabis seeds aren’t illegal, which means you can find them in almost any seed bank or buy them online without issue. Even better, their ready availability all but ensures that seeds are affordable, unless you are seeking out seeds from remarkably rare strains.
Pro: Seeds are easy to work with. You can plant a cannabis seed just like you would any other plant seed. Raising crops from seeds is more intuitive to beginner growers than working with clones, which can require specialized care.
Pro: Seeds can last. You can buy a bag of cannabis seeds, and you can wait days, weeks or even months before you need to put them in the ground and learn the science of cannabis cultivation. Though seeds can become less viable with age, they are much more forgiving of procrastination or hesitation than clones.
Con: Seeds offer random genetics. The creation of seeds requires the random mixing of genetic material from two plants. Thus, you can’t be certain how those seeds will grow or what cannabinoid content or terpene profiles they will harbor. Somewhere in your seed mix, you could have the next great strain, a new Cannabis Cup winner — but more likely, you will be raising slightly less potent versions of ancestor strains.
Con: Seeds aren’t always feminized. Cannabis growers typically only want female plants, which produce the valuable buds for consumption. However, seeds — even so-called feminized seeds — are usually a mix of male and female plants, which means growers can waste time and resources raising a useless male crop.
In addition to sexual reproduction — creating seeds — cannabis plants can propagate through asexual reproduction. In the cannabis world, “clone” is a fancy term for “cutting;” skilled cultivators can snip off a small section of a mature cannabis plant, called the “parent,” and raise it into its own plant, called the “daughter.” The daughter plant is a genetic copy of its parent, hence the term clone.
Pro: Clones have consistent traits. As exact replicas of their parents, clones have traits that are already understood. Your clone should come with information about its growing cycle, its cannabinoid content, its terpene profile and more, to help make cultivation more straightforward and ensure you are getting the exact strain you want.
Pro: Clones have a head start. Sprouting seeds takes a good amount of time and effort. In contrast, clones begin as small plants, shaving days or weeks off the time to maturity and harvest. This can be essential if you are impatient to gather your flower and consume it.
Pro: Clones are always female. No cannabis cultivator makes clones of a male plant. Every clone you can buy is a female clone, which means you won’t waste any resources on a useless male.
Con: Clones can mutate. While clones do have more stable genetics than seeds, mutations have been found in clone populations. Unfortunately, these mutations can multiply over time, causing the plant to change and weaken. This is why it is imperative that you source clones from a reputable Midwest dispensary or grow operation.
Con: Clones aren’t easy to find. When professional cultivators strike upon a profitable strain, they often want to keep that strain’s genes a trade secret — which means they aren’t likely to share clones with Joe Home Grower off the street. Though you can find clones of common strains, rare strains will be all but impossible to grow from clones at home.
Frustratingly, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question “Should you grow from seeds or clones?” Instead, you can evaluate the pros and cons, so you can start cultivating at home in the best way for you.