Updated: Mar 16, 2022
When growing cannabis, you have two paths to choose from: seeds or clones. One one hand, seeds are reliable, easy, and accessible. Clones, on the other, are fast, efficient, and carry the exact traits of the mother plant. However, both methods have their downsides. Let's compare seeds and clones so you can decide how to proceed with your grow.
Cannabis cultivators can start a grow in one of two ways. They can either germinate seeds or take cuttings from a mother plant. Both of these methods produce the same end result—cannabinoid-rich buds—but take different routes to get there.
Some growers prefer the speed of clones, whereas others prefer going all the way, start to finish, from seeds. Whether you’re a new grower or a seasoned vet, it’s key to learn about both techniques so you can experiment in the future and maximise results.
Seeds and clones both have a unique set of pros and cons. Once you weigh up the traits of each, you’ll be able to decide which path you want to head down.
ADVANTAGES OF GROWING CANNABIS FROM SEEDS
Some growers view starting from seeds as the “pure” way to cultivate weed. True or not, it sure does offer a deep sense of satisfaction come harvest time.
Most home growers around the world start their projects using seeds. That’s largely because they’re more accessible and legal in most countries, but that’s not all they have going for them. Let’s discuss some of the best reasons to start your grow from seeds.
EASY TO ACCESS
The internet’s made a lot of things easier, especially getting cannabis seeds.
Nowadays, you can easily order seeds online from a long list of established seed banks (like Royal Queen Seeds, of course). They’ll send discreetly shipped packages directly to your mailbox, so you’ll never have to leave the house.
Even in countries where cannabis itself remains illegal, ungerminated cannabis seeds are often perfectly legal to order, possess, and collect. Starting with seeds will keep you on the good side of the law until you drop them in some soil.
STARTING FROM SCRATCH
Not only do seeds offer an arguably more satisfying end result, but they also enable growers to start with a fresh batch of genetics. These small packages of DNA house a code that hasn’t been exposed to a poor growing environment or a host of diseases. As we’ll discuss later, though, the same can’t be said for all clones.
BREED YOUR OWN STRAINS
Once you’ve mastered the art of growing cannabis from seeds, you can start to make your own strains. Breed your favourite female with a prized male, and you’ll have hundreds—if not thousands—of your own seeds at the end of the growing season.
In other words, you’re not “creating a seed” as much as you are creating your own unique strain. Hone in on traits that you enjoy for the most pleasant smoking experience possible.
FEMINIZED SEEDS = DANK FLOWERS
Although regular seeds emerge as both sexes, high-quality feminized seeds offer a 99% guarantee of being female.
Why is this important? Well, as you know, female cannabis plants produce the sticky and cannabinoid-rich bud that most growers are looking for. In contrast, males produce pollen sacs; necessary for breeding, but detrimental to the yield of female plants they breed with.
With feminized seeds, you’ll save an enormous amount of time and effort you’d normally spend on getting rid of males. In turn, you’ll get heaps of quality bud.
DISADVANTAGES OF GROWING CANNABIS FROM SEEDS
After reading the above, starting with seeds might seem like perfection. However, everything in life has a downside. With that in mind, let’s shift the discussion to the not-so-advantageous aspects of using seeds.
THEY DON’T ALWAYS GERMINATE
Although reputable seed banks offer higher germination rates, not every single seed will leave the soil. Unfortunately, no matter what you do, some are simply duds. For this reason, we suggest starting a grow with several seeds, even if you plan on only raising one plant.
GENOTYPE VS PHENOTYPE
Every seed from the same plant will feature a slightly different genotype—a unique genetic code. There will always be genetic variation from parents to progeny, and sibling to sibling.
This means seeds won’t produce an exact replica of a particular parent, and you’ll see differences between brothers and sisters that you grow out. If you plant ten of the same seeds, you’ll notice some variation in height, colour, flavour, and yield.
Cannabis plants also develop specific traits based on their external environment, a factor that influences their phenotype. Temperature, humidity, light, nutrients, and water can all impact phenotypic expression. In this way, achieving a uniform crop is more difficult than with clones.
ADVANTAGES OF GROWING CANNABIS FROM CLONES
For those unfamiliar, clones are cuttings taken from vegetating mother plants. Once obtained, growers root the cutting before introducing it to soil or a hydroponic medium.
As the name suggests, a clone provides an exact genetic copy of the mother plant. This can either be a blessing or a curse, as you’ll see below. First, let’s discuss the advantages.
CUTTINGS FROM FEMALES CREATE NEW FEMALES
Because clones are exact copies, cuttings taken from a female mother plant will produce another female. This allows growers to sidestep the 50/50 chance that comes with growing from regular seeds. It also avoids the minor risk of feminized seeds throwing out a male.
CLONES SAVE TIME
With clones, you don’t need to wait for a seed to germinate and grow into a reasonably sized seedling. In fact, you completely skip that stage! Simply root your cutting, and you’ve got a plant that’s instantly ready to grow.
YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT TO EXPECT
Clones deliver exactly what you liked about the mother plant. As exact genetic copies, they’ll carry over all of the mother’s traits, including size, taste, morphology, and productivity. Seeds will differ slightly from the plants they came from, though, due to genetic and environmental factors.
DISADVANTAGES OF GROWING CANNABIS FROM CLONES
YOU NEED TO BE CAREFUL
Seeds are tough. They can be thrown straight into the soil. Clones are delicate and need to be treated as such. If you handle cuttings aggressively or fail to give them a good start, they’ll die before they put out roots.
Fragile cuttings also require a specifically tailored environment with customised parameters to give them the best start in life. They need optimal humidity levels and finely tuned and consistent temperatures. For these reasons, you’ll need to set up additional space in your grow room to cater to their needs, especially if you're also growing from seeds.
CLONES OR SEEDS — WHICH IS BETTER FOR GROWING CANNABIS?
Honestly, the answer is entirely subjective. It all boils down to the personal preferences and skill of the grower. Beginners will have a much easier time—and see better results—using seeds. Clones are more tricky, and best reserved for slightly more experienced growers. However, veteran growers will also clones for breeding purposes.. Getting your clones from a reputable source with good genetics could make your life a whole lot easier.
As with everything in the world of growing, experimenting will enable you to find your own way of doing things. Try both and see what works best for you and your growing style.