Can You Clone A Dying Plant?

My great love for plants began when I started working in a nursery about a year after completing high school. I learned absolutely everything I could about horticulture, and cloning was one of the subjects that interested me immensely. A part of that was figuring out of you can clone a dying plant? I’ve done a bit of research on this, and this is what I found;

You cannot clone a dying plant, unfortunately. Due to the cellular makeup of plants, they need very healthy cells to multiply and grow. A clone will give you an exact replica of the plant it originates from and, if you attempt to clone a plant that is dying, it might replicate the same pattern and die. 

Because it is genetically the same, your clone will give you the exact replication of the plant you are trying to produce. Plants can naturally clone themselves in nature through bulbs, runners, and rhizomes that have a period of dormancy in winter. This is a short period of cell dormancy where they sleep, so to speak, and then reproduce themselves in Spring. For various reasons, we try to clone plants, and here are some things you need to know;

What Is Cloning? How Does It Work?

In short, cloning is the manual propagation of a specific plant to multiply that plant for food production, for example. Many plant species have been developed for human consumption or strengthening their resistance to diseases like fungal infections. 

Cloning can be done in the following ways; 

Cloning In Nature

  • Rhizomes. Plants such as ginger and turmeric have rhizomes. They develop vertically and store food through photosynthesis. They become independent of the original plant.
  • Bulbs. Many plants have bulbs, daffodils, which are flowering plants, being one example; they store food in the bulb and grow internally. New shoots grow the following season.
  • Runners. Plants with runners like strawberries grow lateral stems from the parent plant. They shoot independent roots when they touch the ground and form a new plant.
  • Tubers. Staple food plants such as potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes grow when the underground stem’s tip becomes swollen with food. Small buds on that swollen organ grow and develop independently from the mother. 

Cloning Manually

Manual cloning in horticulture means doing what nature does naturally by hand. Farming uses this technique to mass-produce food cheaply and fast. In order to do that, they need healthy mother stock plants, and no plant that is in bad condition, dying, or has a genetic defect can be used.

  • Tip cuttings. Cuttings are taken from the mother plant, treated with hormone powder to stimulate rooting, and planted directly into prepared soil.
  • Rhizome cutting. Rhizomes are cut into smaller pieces, treated with hormone powder, which promotes rooting, and planted into prepared ground.
  • Bulb splitting. Bulbous plants are split and sometimes stored until planting time. They are then planted directly into the soil.
  • Stem cuttings. Fast-growing crops such as bananas and sugar cane are all cultivated through stem cuttings. These are usually 30cm long and planted into trenches. 

Why Do You Need Healthy Plants To Clone?

When plants start to die, the rectangular cellular walls that are usually extremely ridged begin to fail. The cell die-off is very similar to what happens in humans, although our cell walls are more flexible. 

If you had to try and clone a dying plant, the cellular building blocks you need to have a healthy, thriving plant would keep replicating the same thing. There will not be sufficient healthy cells to stimulate the rooting process.

In food production, only the best and healthiest plants are used for cloning or cuttings. This way, the produce is guaranteed to be of a high standard.  Farmers usually choose the best yielding mother plants to make clones from to ensure continuity.

Why Are Plants Cloned And Is It Bad For Them?

Plants are closed for a variety of reasons that we have touched on. Food security being one of the top reasons. Let’s look at some reasons for needing to clone a plant and if it’s bad for them;

  • Faster food production. Because the population of the world continues to grow and expand rapidly, the need for more significant food volumes requires speedier production. 
  • Quality assurance. Because cloning keeps the same genes of the mother plant, you are guaranteed the same quality repeatedly. 
  • Disease eradication. Certain species of plants are susceptible to disease, and individual clones can produce resistance to these diseases and help eradicate them. Bananas are a great example of this. 
  • Faster growth. Cloned plants grow much quicker than their seeded counterparts and therefore produces fruit or vegetables faster.  

Because you are using sections of the mother plant in the form of stem cuttings, they are already mature and will develop faster. Cloning is a very efficient way to retain the best genes of a specific plant and will not harm the mother plant. Cloning is not harmful to the cutting or the health of the mother plant.

My Clones Are Dying – What Could Be Wrong?

Clone health is, for obvious reasons, essential. You have all the right equipment, your soil mix is top quality, lighting and heat are perfect, but your clones are dying. Now what? Let us look at the basic things that could be going wrong; 

  • The soil is too wet. The number one cause of clones dying is overwatering. This causes root rot very quickly. The ground needs to dry out before watering again. 
  • Too much heat. If you are using the right lights for indoor growing, you should not add a humidity dome. This can cause your clones to die from heat exposure. Keep a thermometer in the same space as the cuttings and adjust the temperature. 
  • Inferior quality mother stock. If you use a mother plant that is already showing signs of decline, dying, or any disease, it would explain why the clones might be dying off. 
  • Overfeeding. Too much plant food and nutrients on a young clone can cause the leaves and roots to burn.
  • Disease. Using tools and medium that has not been sterilized can easily pass on bacteria to your young clones. They do not yet have the strength to fight off disease while trying to root and grow.

Stick to a winning routine, do nutrition research, and your clones will be strong and healthy. If you react fast, individual clones can be saved from dying if you make changes to watering and lighting situations. Nitrogen burn can be turned around by leaching the soil with water. Growth may be stunted a little, but the clones can survive. 

Easiest Plants To Clone

There are a number of plants that are really simple to clone. Depending on your need and application, whether you are a first-time cloner or know your business. These are the easiest plants to clone;

Roses. StrawberriesPotatoes.

Medicinal plants and herbs are also at the top of the list of easy plants to clone. The cannabis industry is probably best known for its advances in cloning vast amounts of plants for the biomedical industry. It would be detrimental for medicinal use plants to be cloned from ill or dying mother stock in this instance. You should utilize only the best, healthiest plants you can find.


After a quick investigation, we can see that cloning a dying plant is not a great idea. Other advanced technologies are available to extract cells, but for your typical home and farm cloning operation, that would be a very costly route to follow.

When you start your journey with cloning the desired plants, always do a visual and physical inspection of the plant. Please make sure there are no blemishes, fungus, or dead parts on it. Buy the best equipment in line with your budget and take your time to prepare your cloning area.

If you fail the first time, don’t give up, cloning is not always successful the first time. It is, however, gratifying when you get it right. 

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