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Plant cloners are an easy and fast way to propagate many types of plants, anything that can grow from cuttings is a good candidate. Plant cloners are basically sprinkler systems inside a box that keep the stems and eventually the roots of the cuttings moist with nutrient rich water. The cuttings get exposed to water, food, and air so the success rate is high. Here’s a short video showing what goes on onside the box:
I’ve put together this post to show the basic cloning process, how to clean the cloner, and what you need to get started. For the demonstration I’m using Cranberry Hibiscus cuttings, they grow very quickly in the cloner.
Setting Up the Cloner
The first step is to set up and turn on the cloner. This is easy to do, basically you put the pump and spray bar inside, fill with water and nutrient solution, then place the top on and fill the top holes with cloning collars. I’ll show these parts in the second part of this post where I go over my cleaning method. Plug the cloner in, place in position and we can now add the cuttings.
To prepare plants for cloning, take some cuttings from a healthy plant. I’ve found that larger cuttings work better than small, I try to get them around six inches in length. Here’s eight Cranberry Hibiscus cuttings that I’ll use for this demonstration:
Trim off most of the leaves, I just leave a few of the smallest ones on. If it is a fruiting plant then cut off any flowers and fruit.
Dip the end in the rooting gel:
Put a cloning collar around the stem. I leave about an inch to inch and a half on the bottom for roots.
Next, place the cutting and collar into the cloner. It doesn’t matter where you put it, I like to space them around to give some room for growth. The colors of the collars have no significance other than for identification of cuttings.
Just a side note here, since I use my cloner outdoors to take advantage of the natural sunlight it also runs the risk of filling up with rainwater. To solve this I drilled holes around the edge just above the top collar holder. If rainwater collects in the top it now has a place to drain instead of leaking down into the cloner.
Here is the cloner with all eight cuttings randomly in place:
Nothing left to do but wait! My cloner is located inside a tomato cage (formerly a dog pen) and is shaded by larger plants and shade cloth over the garden. This works well and I don’t have to worry about a light and timer. It sits on a couple of concrete blocks and the extension cord and plug are elevated off the ground to avoid water.
This sure was easy, right? Now if you’ve followed the blog you know I like to show results, so let’s check in and see how these cuttings are doing.
Here’s a top view after exactly one week, you can see each cutting has at least one large leaf now:
And the roots. There’s definitely some progress here:
These cuttings would probably do just fine transferred to pots at this point, but let’s leave them in for another week and see how things so.
Second week , leaves are looking good:
They’ve made a lot of progress! How about the roots?
At this point they need to be removed and put into pots or other growing medium. Can you believe this is after just two weeks? Cranberry Hibiscus is probably the easiest plant I have cloned and it’s always been 100% successful with no loss. Tomato and other vegetables take a little longer, around three weeks and have been about 75% successful. Here’s a mix of the plants just cloned and a few from a previous batch that are ready for whatever comes next (probably a Craigslist giveaway):
Cleaning the Cloner
I’ve come up with a process that makes cleaning the cloner pretty easy. The first thing I do is run it as-is after all the plants have been removed removed but replace the water with a weak bleach solution, about a quarter cup of bleach in the tank of water. Run this for half an hour or more to clean out the pump and nozzles. Once this is done run it again with some clean water and make sure all the nozzles are clear. I use compressed air to blow out any clogged nozzles.
Next, I remove all the cloning collars and drop them into the tank:
I’ve cut a piece of welded wire that fits into the tank near the bottom, this is placed over the collars to keep them from floating:
Then I use the top to hold the whole mess down. You can use a small bungee cord with small holes near the edge to keep everything from floating up or put something heavy on it.
Now I just fill it most of the way with water and add some bleach. After about an hour I flip the top over to the other half gets cleaned, when I do this all the collars come floating up but they are already good to go.
Here’s all the items I use for cloning with amazon links to them. Using links from any of my pages before you do your shopping really helps out, even if you don’t buy the product linked to. I appreciate all the clicks and it goes to helping fund future projects 🙂
Here’s the cloner I use, the Clone King 36 Site Aeroponic Cloning Machine.
Nutrient solution and rooting gel, buying them together saves around $6.00: Hydrodynamics GLCMBX0016 Clonex Clone Solution 1 Quart Rooting Gel, 100 ml Combo. These two go a long way, I’ve used my cloner about a dozen times and both bottles are still half full.
I highly recommend getting and using a cloner if you do a lot of propagation by cutting, the one I chose was due to size and plant spacing. You could build one yourself, it’s probably not worth the trouble since they are fairly inexpensive. If you do build one it doesn’t eliminate the need for rooting hormone or nutrients although there is probably less expensive alternatives, I prefer to go the easy route.
Next week I’ll show some more progress on the fence clearing, it’s not going as fast as I’d like due to weather and an insane amount of poison ivy. I’ve also got another comparison going on, this time it is for starting seedlings. Until then, keep on planting!