Introduction: Make Living Copies of Your Favorite Plants... Automagicallly
What is Cloning?
Cloning, in terms of horticulture refers to the process of making copies of one plant, the "mother", by taking cuttings of its growing stems, which under the right conditions will grow roots of their own. Clones are exact copies, genetically identical to their mother and can generally be expected to exhibit the same characteristics as that mother, making cloning an ideal option for those who wish to preserve a particularly outstanding plant, as well as for situations where plant regularity is key i.e. commercial farming, greenhouses.
Can it be Done at Home?
You bet. I'm going to explain how to construct simple yet highly effective Aeroponic propagation system for around 40 dollars in parts, much less than commercially available versions. This type of cloner uses a small pump to constantly mist the ends of cuttings taken from a mother plant, creating an ideal environment of water and oxygen around the cuttings which accelerates the rooting process. Although many different cloning methods exist, this system is by far the easiest, most forgiving, low maintenance, and fastest way I have found to successfully propagate cuttings. You simply set it and forget it.
How Long Does it Take?
Using only filtered water different plant species will take anywhere from seven days to a month or longer to grow roots. Adding a rooting hormone (available at most garden stores) to your process can speed things along significantly if time is of importance to you.
What Plant Species Can I Clone?
Most all plants are technically cloneable, although species with woody stems can be tougher. I would suggest googling what you are trying to do for species specific information. Try starting here simplyhydro.com
Read On >>>>>>>
Step 1: Components and Tools
Plastic Bucket - 3 and 5 gallon versions both work, I prefer the 3 gallons because they are low profile. Black is the best color for this application because it blocks light but any color you can find will work, just be aware of any green algae buildup and change the water if it happens.
Lid - Black is best, but any color will work as long as it fits your bucket and has a gasket. The gasket is a small round rubber band that seals the bucket and lid together and is crucial to leak free operation. If in doubt, ask someone.
PVC - 1/2" schedule 40. 22" total.
6x 2" Lengths
2x 5" Lengths
4x 90 Degree Elbow
1x Adaptor Tee 1/2" straight to 1/2" FPT (where the pump screws in, see pictures).
PVC Cement - sold in kits at hardware stores, very easy to do just read directions.
1/2" x 4" Breakaway Riser - Connects pump to mister manifold, breakaway allows for manifold hight adjustment. Check the irrigation isle at hardware store.
Teflon Tape - For tight seals
Submersible Pump - Mine is 264 GPH, anything in this range should work, just make sure it has a decent head rating (how high it can pump water) or is marketed as a fountain pump. Aquarium pumps can be pretty wimpy and a lot will not provide the pressure needed to correctly run the misters.
6x 180 degree pattern.
3x 360 degree pattern.
Plant Holders (12x) - You can find these at hydroponic gardening stores, or make your own from any sort of flexible, waterproof material like foam or neoprene, plastic, foam / cellular insulation, etc. Be creative! Any diameter under 2" will work.
Electric Drill - w/ Bits
Hole Saw - To match cutting holder size. Slightly smaller is also acceptable, you want a tight fit.
Thread Tap - To match thread pattern on misters - ask hardware store for help if you are having trouble.
Tap Holder - I made one, but commercial versions would work better.
Hack Saw - for cutting PVC.
Step 2: Assemble Mister Manifold
All PVC Sections, Elbows, Tees, and Adaptor
PVC Cement Kit
Assuming the PVC is already cut to the right lengths, just follow the order of the steps below and everything will fit together just right. PVC cement sets quickly, leaving little room for error, so be sure to follow the steps in the correct order to avoid problems.
Prime the ends of the 5" sections and one side in each elbow, then apply glue and press together on a flat surface, making sure the pipe is all the way into the elbows, and that the elbows are oriented to the same plane.
Prime and glue the 2" sections to all sides of both tees.
3: Adaptor Tee
Prime and glue the tee assembly to both sides of the adaptor tee, making sure the threaded part of the adaptor is facing straight up.
4: Complete the Square
Prime and glue the sides on to the assembly as shown in the picture.
Step 3: Install Misters
Appropriately Sized Drill Bit
Thread Tap and Tap Holder
1: Locate Mister Locations on Manifold
See picture for reference on location.
2: Drill Pilot Holes
Drill out a pilot hole wherever a mister is to be located, try to drill straight down into the top of the pipe. Use an appropriately sized bit for the tap you are using. Usually the tap packaging will recommend a diameter for the pilot hole.
3: Tap Holes
Use the tap to create threads in the pilot holes go in and out a couple of times, this will ensure a tight fit for the misters.
4: Screw in Misters
The 180 Degree misters go on the perimeter, and the 360s go in the middle. Screw them as far in as you can, just make sure they point across the bucket and not into the sides. You can use teflon tape, but it usually isn't necessary.
Step 4: Connect Pump to Manifold
Teflon Thread Tape
Screw the the end of the breakaway riser into the outlet of the pump, use teflon tape on the threads and make sure the end facing up is the breakaway section (basically lots of pipe thread all oriented in the same direction with spots where you can cut it to make a custom sized riser). Put the pump and riser assembly in the bucket. Now lower the manifold into the bucket until the corners hit the side of the bucket. Note the hight of the riser compared to the adaptor tee, you want to cut the riser off so when the manifold is attached to the pump its corners will be close to or contacting the sides of the bucket while the pump rests firmly on the bottom of the bucket. This sounds complicated but its not, just play around a little bit to find the sweet spot. Once you have figured out where to cut the riser, do so with the hacksaw. Then wrap the threads with teflon tape and screw on the mister manifold. Done!
Step 5: Drill Lid
Hole Saw or Step Bit for Drill
Take the cutting holders and lay them out on the surface of the bucket lid. I fit 12 on mine in an orderly fashion, and would recommend this layout as it allows for sufficient room between cuttings. Once you are satisfied with the arrangement, mark the location of the center of each holder. Now, use the hole saw or step bit and drill out each location, clean up the edges if necessary. Test fit all your plant holders and if everything looks good, move on to the next step!
Step 6: Final Assembly
Pump - Mister Manifold Assembly
Bucket - Lid Assembly
First, make sure the PVC cement has had adequate time to cure, then clean everything with a mild soap and rinse thoroughly.
- Place the pump / manifold assembly into the bucket making sure the manifold is as level as possible.
- Fill up with clean water to a line just below the manifold (the misters should not be covered).
- Pass the pump's power cord through one of the holes in the lid and secure the lid to the top of the bucket.
- Briefly plug the pump in. Streams of water should be shooting everywhere inside the bucket and out all of the holes. If there is not enough water action, check your pump and connections for obstructions and consider switching to a more powerful pump.
- Press fit the plant holders into the bucket lid, the power cord should go through the middle of one of the plant holders, which will make a water-tight seal around the cord. Turn on again and check for / solve any leaks - there should be none.
You are ready to clone!
IMPORTANT SAFETY WARNING: Water and electricity do not mix. If you are plugging into a power outlet located below the water line in the clone machine, there must be a drip loop in the power cord so if any water runs down the cord, it will drip onto the floor and not run into the outlet, creating a hazardous situation. Google drip loop if you are unsure of what I am talking about.
Step 7: Basic Operation
After taking cuttings of a selected plant, you can simply pass the stem of the cutting through the holder, insert the holder into the lid, and turn the machine on. Thats all there is to it, just make sure there is a good amount of stem (3/4" +) below the holder getting misted. There are more advanced techniques for preparing cuttings, which I will not detail here, but recommend looking into as they can improve your success rate. The water should be replaced every couple of weeks, but Ive gone up to two months between changes with no real issues. I would also recommend an artificial light source - a desk lamp with a CFL left on 18 - 24 hrs a day helps with the process. Other than that, theres not much to it, just don't unplug the pump while cuttings are in the machine or they will dry out and die.
If you arent in need of clones, this design also doubles as a miniature hydroponic garden, great for plants like basil. Just take some cuttings, and when they have rooted add some plant fertilizer solution to the water, and voila! Your very own self contained hydroponic herb garden.
Thanks For Reading!