Cannabis seeds vs clones: What’s best for you?

Cannabis seeds vs clones: What’s best for you?
Steven Voser

Cannabis grows naturally from seed. So why do so many home growers (and most commercial cultivators) opt to use clones? We explore the key pros and cons of growing from both seeds and clones, priming you to make an informed decision when it comes to choosing one (or both!) for your next grow operation.

When growing cannabis, you can opt to either start from seeds or take cuttings from a mother plant (cloning). But how do you know which cultivation method will best suit your growing style and preferences? Keep reading to learn all about the pros and cons of growing cannabis from seeds vs clones.


Cannabis seeds vs clones: what’s best for you?

Cannabis seeds are the small, round beads produced by pollinated female cannabis plants. A single cannabis plant can produce hundreds of seeds, which contain the genetic information of both the female plant and the male plant that pollinated it. Besides containing a unique genetic blueprint, each cannabis seed also contains a base of nutrients to feed a seedling through its first weeks of life, after which it'll start feeding off the nutrients present in its growing medium.


Now, as a tried and true way to cultivate marijuana, germinating seeds and watching them grow into robust plants comes with plenty of advantages.


One of the biggest benefits of growing cannabis from seed is the vast variety of strains to choose from. There are thousands of cultivars out there, and growing from seed allows you to experiment with almost all of them. Basically, cannabis seeds let you explore the huge cannabis gene pool to find strains with the grow traits, aromas, and effects that best suit you. Furthermore, you can grow new varieties out of pure curiosity whenever you feel like it. If you're new to cannabis cultivation, in particular, we recommend growing from seed to become acquainted with the variety of genetics out there.


Many growers find cannabis plants grown from seed to be more resilient and vigorous than those grown from clones. Some argue this is because cannabis clones don't develop a taproot and have a more fibrous root system. A taproot is the main root that sprouts from a seed, and from which all other roots grow. Taproots tend to grow vertically and penetrate deep into the soil, which growers believe gives plants better anchorage and contributes to a generally stronger root system, in turn making for healthier, more resilient plants that are able to uptake more nutrients/water.


Besides producing more robust plants, most home growers find that cannabis grown from seed produces bigger, heavier harvests. This could potentially stem from the differences in rooting mentioned above. To compensate for this, growers often choose to leave their clones in the vegetative stage for a longer period to help compensate for the stress, and to promote foliar and root growth.


Though cannabis seeds can be raised into healthy, abundant plants even by beginners, they do have their downsides. Chiefly, you often have less control over what you’re getting.


The seedling phase of a cannabis plant's life cycle is, without a doubt, the most challenging for growers to get right. Seedlings like warm, humid temperatures and cold or filtered light, and striking a balance of these conditions can be a challenge even for seasoned growers. Plus, a single slip during the seedling stage can, and will, in most cases, result in the death of one or multiple plants.


High-quality feminized seeds can fetch a decent price, especially when you buy them from reputable seed banks (which we highly recommend). If you're growing multiple plants at a time and trying to produce multiple harvests a year (in an indoor room/tent, for example), the price of cannabis seeds can quickly add up. Keep in mind that, unless you're lucky enough to live in an area where feminized cannabis seeds are sold locally, you'll have to buy seeds from a seed bank or webshop and pay for shipping to get them delivered.


As we said earlier, growing from seed gives you the luxury of choosing one or more strains from a huge (and growing) pool of cannabis genetics. This variety, however, is somewhat of a double-edged sword. To start, it can be difficult (especially for rookie growers) to know what traits to look for in a strain, and what seed banks are worth buying from. Also, even when you buy feminized seeds from respected companies, the genetics won't be as stable as what you'd get when buying other kinds of plant seeds (say, seeds of a fruit or vegetable cultivar). That's because cannabis genetics haven't yet been stabilised to the point of other crops, and even seeds of the same strain and same batch can produce markedly different phenotypes.


Cons of growing cannabis from seeds

While cloning cannabis might sound futuristic, it's actually a pretty straightforward process. All it requires is to take a cutting from a healthy, vegetating mother plant and encourage that cutting to produce its own roots.

Once the cutting has developed roots, it will grow into an entirely new plant with exactly the same genetics as the mother plant (hence why the process is called cloning). Also, once they have taken root, clones will grow with the vigour of a mature plant, rather than that of seedlings, allowing you to essentially bypass the challenges of the seedling phase.


Cannabis clones may seem intimidating, but they needn’t be. As long as you know what they require to be successful, you can achieve good results with them.


If you've found a strain that you love, the best way to preserve it is through cloning. Certain famous strains, like Matanuska Thunderfuck, for example, are clone-only cultivars that have been consistently grown from cuttings for several generations. So, if you have a strain with particular grow traits, aromas, or effects that you love, taking clones will allow you to preserve those exact traits.


When taken from healthy, vegetating plants, cannabis clones grow very fast. That's because they are essentially mature plants, and will grow as such as soon as they take root, allowing you to potentially reach harvest quicker. However, note that recently taken cuttings are also fragile, just like seedlings, so they require some care. But they will grow much faster than seedlings once they've established their roots.


As mentioned, the costs of buying new cannabis seeds after every harvest quickly add up. If you're growing on a tight budget and want to minimise your spending, one of the best ways to do so is to keep a mother plant of a strain you know and love, using clones to fuel each grow. Alternatively, you can also continue to grow from seed while taking some clones from your vegging plants to boost the size of each harvest.


The main limitations of clones are somewhat obvious, but there are some other drawbacks to consider that may not be as apparent, such as the process itself.


Because they share the exact same genetics as their mother plant, growing clones means you'll always be growing the same strain, with the same morphology, bud structure, resin production, aroma, effects, etc. If you enjoy experimenting with different types of cannabis, cloning obviously isn't the way to go.


While there's a lot to be said about the challenges of growing healthy seedlings, taking cannabis clones is no walk in the park either. In fact, knowing how to take clones and get them to root successfully is also challenging, and usually a process best performed by experienced growers. Taking cuttings from a plant exposes it to a lot of stress, and doing so incorrectly can do more harm than good.


Remember that clones do not establish the same root systems as cannabis plants grown from seed. Does that mean the roots of clones are inferior? Not exactly. Many growers (including the majority of commercial growers in legal cannabis markets) produce great results growing exclusively from clones. However, home growers generally find that plants grown from clones are slightly less robust, especially when it comes to pest resilience—and their root systems might have something to do with that.


Again, there is no exact study to show that cloned cannabis plants produce smaller yields than marijuana plants grown from seed. Most home growers, however, find that their clones tend to produce lighter yields of airier, slightly lower-quality flower.


Cannabis has long been a part of the world's ecosystem, and might just be the oldest cultivated crop known to humankind. And in nature, cannabis plants naturally grow through the spring and summer, produce seeds via pollination, and die off in autumn/winter, only to be followed by the next generation of plants the following season. If you're interested in cultivating a natural garden (of which there are many benefits), growing cannabis from clones goes strongly against that. In fact, there are many concerns about monoculture (the act of growing a single species in one space) as well as excessively cloning a single cannabis plant (especially over prolonged periods).


Cons of growing cannabis from clones

Whether you choose to grow your next lot of cannabis plants from seeds or clones will depend on a variety of factors. In general, we recommend beginner growers start with feminized seeds, as these present the easiest, most conventional growing option. That said, seeds can also be recommended to experienced growers looking to maintain a natural garden with some variety.

On the other hand, growing clones might prove more suitable to experienced growers looking to preserve specific varieties of cannabis, and/or who want to reduce the cost of their grow-op.

If you already have a few harvests under your belt and feel comfortable taking clones, you might consider combining both seed and clone grows. For example, you could start a grow using seeds, and preserve a few cuttings from your favourite plants when you prune them. You could then keep these cuttings in veg while you finish growing the plants you grew from seed (if you have separate veg and flower rooms), or bring the clones to bloom along with your seedlings if you're growing in a single/tent or outdoors.

This will allow you to maximise your yields and preserve some genetics, while still allowing you to experiment with the vast variety of strains out there every time you start a new grow.

Whatever way you choose to grow, remember that it's perfectly possible to grow great weed from both seedlings and clones. So get out there, and don't be afraid to experiment!

Steven Voser
Steven Voser

Steven is a long-time veteran of cannabis journalism, having delved into every aspect of the subject. His particular interests lie in cannabis culture, the emerging science of cannabis, and how it is shaping the legal landscape across the globe.