How to Clone Cannabis Part 1
Updated: May 8, 2020
Professor Sprout’s Guide to Cloning Cannabis Part One: DIY 35 Site Cannabis Aero Cloner AKA "The Boner Cloner" Build
Like so many frustrated ganja-growers I have lost a great number of incredible cannabis strains due to failed cloning attempts. I tried every method and rooting hormone imaginable, and was always met with mushy stems, wilted leaves, and rotten cuttings.
I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on rooting gels, powders, and cloning solutions, rock wool cubes, humidity domes, peat pucks, and anti-wilting sprays; all to no avail.
If I did manage to get a cutting to sprout roots, it would take so long to do so that the leaves would be so yellow and sickly that the plant would never fully recover. Now mind you, this was back in the days of extreme prohibition. There were only a few cannabis sites online, and even fewer cloning tutorials. I followed all their steps to the letter, but still ended up with flats full of wilted salad. To make matter worse, these smug assholes made it seem like cloning was a breeze. They would snip off a stem, stick it in a rock wool cube, put it under a humidity dome, and voila; roots in a week.
Did they have some sort of ultra-green thumb that I just lacked? What the fuck was I doing wrong?
Deterred but not completely defeated, I decided to try the local hydroponics shop to see if anyone there could help me. The only grow shop in my area at the time was a sketchy cement block building with no windows in the crackiest part of town run by a few meth addled bikers. I walked through the door and was immediately met by the menacing stares of two 300 pound shaggy-haired Harley Davidson fanboys and an enormous Rottweiler that looked like it was fed a strict diet of dead hookers and used motor oil.
I proceeded to explain to these gentleman the cloning methods I had tried and the various failures I had been met with.
The Sasquatch covered in prison tats behind the counter looked me up and down, decided he wasn’t hungry, then grunted “you need a heat mat”. He reached to a rack behind him and slapped down a black rectangular heat mat on the counter, “twenty bucks” he huffed.
I placed my crisp $20 bill next to the well-used copy of Hustler lying open next to the register, thanked Sasquatch for his advice, and left with my asshole intact.
Needless to say my next batch of clones was an abject failure. Instead of taking two weeks to go yellow and die, the heat mat cooked the clones to shit in less than 48 hours. Fucksickle.
I was ready to give up on cloning entirely and relegate myself to the sorry group of individuals known as the ‘boner cloners’, that sad bunch of broke assholes who constantly shell out money for new seeds, season after season, while watching the most elite cannabis genetics pass from their grasp into oblivion, never to be seen again.
But then one day I was in my local 7-11 and noticed a copy of High Times in the magazine rack. Checking over my shoulder to see if anyone was looking, I began flipping through the rag until I landed on an article-advertisement for a cloning machine. This 100 site super-cloner was retailing for $700 and boasted “100% cloning success rate”. From what I could tell, this ‘cloning machine’ was little more than a bucket, an aquarium pump, and some spray nozzles. I figured I’d give cloning one last shot.
Grabbing a bottle of water on my way to the till (as if buying a bottle of water with a copy of High Times made made me look like any less of a stoner) I paid for my goods and went home to study the magazine.
I learned two things that day. One - yes, you can sell a $15 aquarium pump and a plastic bucket to stoners for $700. And two - aero cloning is the tits! No more mushy stems, no more wilted cuttings, no more flats of dead salad! Halle-fucking-lujah!
I can honestly say that if you’ve struggled like I have with cloning, those days are soon to be over. I’m going to show you how to build you own aeroponics cloner on a shoestring budget with some basic tools and few cheap parts. You can get everything you need from Amazon and a quick trip to Home Depot, and it will take you less than an afternoon. You’ll also be able to transfer your clones directly into hydroponics, soil, coco, or even rockwool; any growing system is compatible with this method. And if you follow my guidelines to the letter, yes, you can get 100% rooting success with even the most difficult to clone strains.
I’ve christened this machine the “Boner-Cloner” in honour of those of us with black thumbs and green-dreams, who’s only goal in life is to see those white roots peaking out the bottom of a pot of dirt.
So lets get down to business.
PVC Cutting Tool (if you don’t have this, just ask them to pre-cut the PVC pipe for you at Home Depot) 2” Holesaw
5/32” Drill Bit
Sharpie or Dry Erase Marker
Beer or Beverage of Your Choice
Doobie, Lighter, Ashtray
1 x 53 Litre Rubbermaid Roughneck Tote (approx 14 Gallons)
35 x 2” Netpots
35 x 2” Foam/Neoprene Cloning Collars
6ft length of 1/2” PVC pipe cut into the following lengths:
16” x 2
7 3/4” x 2
4" x 4
2 1/2” x 1
1/2” PVC T x 3
1/2” PVC 90 degree elbow x 4
1/2” PVC Coupler (female un-threaded to male threaded)
1 x infinite looping second timer
15 x 360 degree ultra-fine cloning misters (sized for 5/32” holes)
Step 1: Light Doob, Take Puff (just one!) Open Beer, Take Drink
Read through this entire plan once to get an idea of what you’re doing. Don’t build and read as you go as I guarantee you’ll drill a hole in the wrong place or cut a pipe to the wrong size. And always remember, safety first stoner!
Step 2: Cut 1/2” PVC into required lengths.
If you don’t happen to have a PVC cutting tool handy, you can use a hacksaw or other fine toothed saw, or just have them pre-cut the PVC for you at Home Depot when you purchase it. You’ll need the following lengths:
2 x 16”
2 x 7 3/4”
4 x 4”
1 x 2 1/2”
Step 3: Lay out net pots on lid of tote and mark locations.
Place the net pots upside down on top of the tote lid and trace around them with a sharpie (or dry erase marker if you want to wipe away your markings afterwards).
Lay them out in a 5 x 7 pattern, for a total of 35 sites. It will seem quite cramped due to the extra space required for the lip of the net pot, but the holes you will be drilling next are smaller and will allow for all 35 net pots to be placed with adequate spacing between sites.
You can use the straightedge and measure out exact placement if you like, but I just free-handed this one and it turned out fine.
Step 4: Centre hole-saw in middle of circles, and cut them out.
Place the lid on the tote and start cutting out the holes for your netpots. The lid material of the Roughneck totes is flexible enough that you shouldn’t have any problems with the plastic cracking. I’ve tried this with other totes and had nothing but problems, so be sure to only use Rubbermaid Roughneck brand.
Here’s the lid with all of the holes cut out. As you can see there is plenty of space to fit 35 net pots in one tote. You may find some rough edges on the back of the holes you just cut out. They can be trimmed up with a sharp knife, but it doesn’t hurt anything to leave them.
Step 5: Lay out manifold.
Lay out the PVC pipe for your misting manifold in the following pattern:
Put the longest (16”) sections to the north and south, with the two 7 3/4” sections in the middle to the left and right of a centre T.
Put a T at each end of the middle section, with the four 4” sections branching off of the T.
Place an elbow at each corner, and then the shortest 2 1/2” section coming down from the centre T with the threaded adapter immediately below it.
Step 6: Mark locations for the cloning misters.
You will place the misters in a 3 x 5 pattern, with 5 misters each in the North, South, and Middle sections. Start by marking off the 4 corners, where you will place a single mister directly into the top of each elbow. You will then space the remaining three misters an equal distance apart from each other in both the North and South sections. In the middle section you will be placing the outside misters directly into the top of the outter T’s and the middle mister directly into the centre T. The last two misters go in the middle section directly to the left and right of the centre T.
Check and double check the photos of the completed and fully assembled layout further down the page so you know exactly where to drill the holes. Misplacing the misters can result in lack of adequate water to certain areas of the cloner resulting in poor performance and dead clones.
Step 7: Drill out the holes.
Using a 5/32” drill bit, carefully drill out the 15 marked holes. The elbows and T’s are thicker so it will take a little more force, and if your hands are unsteady you may want to use a vice to hold the piping while you drill. Again, double check your layout before you drill, as one misplaced hole can fuck this whole thing up.
Step 8: Using pliers, thread the misters into the piping.
This takes a little force since we aren’t going to use a tap and die kit here to thread the pipe. In order to get the misters threaded into the pipe you need to grip them with pliers and forcefully push them into the pipe while turning clockwise. The plastic will thread itself, but be sure to not over tighten the misters otherwise you will strip the threads you just made which will result in leaks. If you do happen to make a mistake, you can fix it by re-drilling a new hole next to the botched one, and seal the old one by wrapping the pipe tightly with electrical tape.
Step 9: Assemble the manifold.
Now that you have the misters threaded into the piping, assemble the manifold in the manner seen below. Make sure to push the piping into the Ts and elbows securely, as we won’t be using any glue for this step. A friction fit is all that is required here since the pump we will be using is quite small and will not create enough pressure to blow the manifold apart. Don’t assemble the coupler to the riser just yet.
Step 10: Adapt pump to manifold.
Here is the trickiest part of the whole operation. There are many different types of aquarium pumps, and while most use a standard thread size, some do not. I’ve provided a link to the exact pump I’ve used here in the materials list, but since products come and go, by the time you read this you may no longer be able to get the exact pump that I’ve used here.
This pump is a VicTsing (that brand name inspires confidence, doesn’t it?) 400 gallon-per-hour 25 watt submersible aquarium pump with a threaded adapter that I picked up on Amazon. There are multiple options online that are essentially the exact same pump re-branded, so check the power and GPH ratings, and study their product images closely to help you pick the right one.
If you get a pump that does not have a removable threaded adapter, it will not work. You must be able to directly thread the PCV coupler into the top of the pump to mate it to the manifold.
Another very important thing to consider is your pump size. If you can get it, I highly recommend using the exact pump I have used in this build since I know it works. That’s not an endorsement for this brand, since it’s just a hunk of shitty Chinese plastic - but what isn’t these days? That being said, I have had great success with this particular pump and it has lasted well over a year so far. It’s also cheap enough that I bought two spares to replace this one when it inevitably shits twice and dies.
A crucial factor to consider when acquiring your pump is the power rating. This one pushes about 400 gallons per hour with a 25 watt motor. More power is definitely not a good thing. I have used larger, better quality pumps in the past, and they actually result in more clone failures. This is due to the more powerful pump heating up the water up too much, which in turn, makes the stems turn to mush. Furthermore, the high pressure spray created by a more powerful pump blasts the clone stems so hard that they have trouble pushing out roots into such a violent tempest.
In this case, cheaper has ultimately been better. But don’t go too small here either. An underpowered pump won’t create enough water pressure to charge the misters, and you’ll end up with nothing more than a gently trickling hillbilly water fountain.
I recommend getting your pump first, and then taking it with you to Home Depot when you get the remainder of your parts. You can then directly match the thread size of the pump with an appropriate 1/2” PVC coupler (seen below). You want a coupler with a male threaded end (that you will insert directly into the pump), and an unthreaded 1/2” female end that you will attach to the short 2 1/2” PVC riser.
Step 11: Attach manifold to top of pump.
Carefully thread the PCV coupler into the top of the pump. DO NOT over tighten as you will crack the plastic housing on the pump. A slight leakage won’t matter since the pump is going to be fully submersed in the water anyway.
Once you’ve threaded the coupler into the pump, insert the 2 1/2” PVC riser into the female end of the coupler, and then install the manifold on top of the riser.
Step 12: Place Completed Spray Assembly in Reservoir
Using the suction cup feet on the bottom of the pump, attach to the bottom of the reservoir, making sure the manifold is centred in the middle of the tub.
Step 13: Cut bottoms out of net pots with your snips.
By cutting the bottoms out of the net pots you can insert clones of varying stem lengths without them bottoming out.
More importantly, however, is that once the clones have rooted, they may have grown down and through the bottom of the net pots. When it comes time to remove the clones and plant them, it becomes nearly impossible to extract the clone without tearing the delicate roots as you pull them through the bottom of the basket. Cutting out the bottom of the pot ensures you will keep all of your fragile roots intact.
Step 14: Load Net Pots
Insert the net pots, now with bottoms removed, into the holes in the tote lid.
Step 15: Load Cloning Collars
Insert cloning collars into net pots, flush with the top of the pots. Route the cord from the pump under the manifold, and up the side of the tub in one of the corners. Thread the cord through the bottom of a corner net pot, pulling out all slack on the cord and secure in place with a cloning collar.
Step 16: Fill Reservoir and Test Sprayers
Fill the reservoir with enough tap water to cover the pump, then place in a flood tray or take outside to test the function of all the sprayers. Water is going to spray everywhere, so make sure you do this somewhere you don’t mind getting wet.
Plug in the pump, remove the lid, and check to make sure all sprayers are functioning correctly. If any nozzles aren’t spraying, unscrew them and use a sewing needle to clean out any debris from the hole in the sprayer. At this point you’ll want to ensure that there are no dry zones that aren’t being covered by the sprayers. If there are, just turn the nozzles slightly until the entire area is covered. With this size of tote and 15 nozzles, there should be more than enough coverage that all clones will be getting a heavy spray of water.
Step 17 (optional): Seal Lid with Silicone
Depending on where you plan on setting up your cloner, you may or may not need to included this final step. The lids on these totes are notoriously leaky; although the Roughneck totes I have found to be the least problematic. Chances are, you’ll still have a few drips here and there. If you aren’t setting up your cloner in a flood table or other plastic tray that will catch any water leaks, it’s a good idea to seal the lid.
For this I buy a tube of clear kitchen and bathroom silicone (it must be clear, pure silicone sealant), and run an uninterrupted bead of silicone around the entire top lip of the tote with a caulking gun (making sure the reservoir is empty first). I then press the lid down securely onto the bead of silicone and let dry completely (48 hours) with all of the net pots removed to allow adequate air to reach the inside of the reservoir.
It is very important to make sure the silicone is completely dry before attempting to load it with clones. If any silicone leaks into the reservoir it will destroy your clones, so don’t rush it!
Step 18: Fill Reservoir and Run Pump
Now that your cloner is complete, fill the reservoir with 4-5 gallons of reserve osmosis water that has been ph adjusted to 5.8-6.0. If you have sealed your lid, just remove a few net pots and pour through the holes. 5 gallons of water should bring the water level up to just below the spray manifold. This allows a large enough volume of water to ensure the pump will stay cool running 24/7, as well as allowing you to avoid needing to refill the reservoir at all during the two week period the clones take to root.
You can use chlorinated city tap water if you like (just make sure to also ph adjust it to 5.8-6.0) and depending on the quality of your tap water, this may be more beneficial than reverse osmosis. The chlorine in city water acts as a disinfectant and will help kill off any potential pathogens that may be lurking in your cloning machine. Run the machine for an hour to sanitize the inside of the cloner and evaporate the remaining chlorine before putting in the clones.
If your tap water is discoloured or contains very high mineral content (greater than 300ppm on the 700 scale) then stick to filtered reverse osmosis water only.
No other cloning solutions or nutrients are needed in the reservoir to get your clones to root, and some nutrients may actually inhibit rooting.
Congratulations! You’ve now successfully built your very own 35 site aeroponic Boner Cloner and are ready to load it with fresh cuttings. In 10-14 days you’ll have fully rooted and healthy clones that are ready to transplant into any medium. Well done!
In Part 2, I’ll show you exactly how to cut clones from a donor plant and prepare them for the Boner Cloner in order to get 100% rooting success.