In the plant nursery where I managed to do most of my training, we had a special section where we kept mother plants. While I was learning, this was a foreign concept to me, but it sounded amazing. A plant that is essentially a mother to many. As I was learning more about the role and importance of a mother plant, I wondered how long it would be possible to keep a mother plant?
A mother plant that is well taken care of can be kept for up to 7 years. That will depend on the species of plant, its climatic condition, and nutritional care. Annual plants will only live for one season, whereas perennial plants will live more than two years. Perennial mother plants can be kept for years.
Perennials are better as mother plants because they live for a minimum of two years and can be used to produce multiple cuttings. There are periods of dormancy where the plant will need to rest and re-grow to ensure strong and healthy shoots. Depending on what crop you intend on expanding, there are different methods to keep your mother plant strong and vibrant. Let us explore more on how long a mother plant can last and how you can aid the plant over the period;
What Is A Mother Plant?
In short, a mother plant is a plant from which all your cuttings and future plants will originate. There are a few ways to call a mother plant, for example, mother stock, root stock, Eve plant, or just “the mother.” Some people I know go as far as naming their plants properly, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is, for all intents and purposes, a long-term relationship.
Your mother plant is grown and maintained for the sole purpose of producing plant offspring, and they are not grown for their fruit or flowering abilities. A mother plant will produce offspring that is a replica of itself every single time.
How To Choose A Good Mother Plant
Choosing mother stock for your growing operation is important for several reasons; this is the future of your growing operation, and the quality of your product will depend on it. Let us look at what criteria you need to follow to select the best mother plants;
- Seed germination. Vigorous seed germination is the first sign of the overall potential of the plant.
- Root development. Robust root development on the plant is very critical. This is the digestive system of the plant and also maintains the immune defense system.
- Vegetative structure. Homogeneity of the cola, nodes, and secondary branches’ growth and development need to be observed.
- Foliar mass. The plant’s overall or global shape needs to be similar; homogeneous development of the petiole, leaves, and nervation distribution has to be robust and not wrinkly or deformed.
- Disease resistance. A weakened immune system in a potential mother plant is undesirable and can stunt development when facing fungi or insects.
- Flowering or fruiting. Having a mother plant is to be able to reproduce the same flowering or fruiting crop consistently. A mother plant that produces volume will pass it on to the clone or cutting.
- Genetics. Genetics is of the utmost importance for certain plant species, although not an exact science because there can always be variables until the best mother is selected. The offspring will then be genetically identical to the mother.
In essence, the mother needs to be strong and a prime specimen, containing all the best attributes of that specific species. Genetics plays the biggest role in selecting the best mother plants.
How To Maintain A Mother Plant
There are a few different ways to care for your mother plant, the easiest way to describe it would be to try and recreate the natural environment as best as possible.
In the case of an indoor or greenhouse growing operation, you will have to consider the following things;
- Natural light
- Watering and humidity levels
- Pest control
- Temperature control
- Growth stimulation or re-potting
In an environment where you are growing your mother stock outdoors in a more natural environment that closely resembles the plant’s habitat, you can take note of the flowing;
- Extreme weather protection
- Pest control
- Watering supplementation
- Fertilizing and mulching
Mother plants of certain species that grow outdoors can potentially have longer life cycles.
How Many Cuttings Can I Take From A Mother Plant?
A well-maintained and healthy mother plant can potentially produce an unlimited number of clones until it eventually dies. Some plant species can yield 10 to 14 cuttings a week, while other more prolific growing plants can yield upwards of 50 new clones or cuttings a week.
If you have several mother plants, you can develop a cutting schedule to rotate the plants and allow for rest and recovery periods in-between. Some growers allow the mother plants to rest for two weeks at a time before starting a new cutting cycle.
Keeping Your Mother Plant In A Vegetative State
If you have been looking at mother plants, you would have heard the term vegetative state. What does it mean to keep your mother plant in a vegetative state? Does it have anything to do with the longevity of the plant?
In short, the term vegetative state means that the mother plant will not be allowed to flower. This phase occurs between germination and flowering. The plant gathers all the recourses it needs to be able to produce flowers or fruit through photosynthesis. Keeping this state will allow it to grow indefinitely. The cuttings you take from a mother plant at one year will also be one-year-old. Cuttings you take from the mother at five years old will also be five years old.
How Do You Keep The Mother Plant In The Vegetative State?
In order to keep the mother plant in a vegetative state, it will need to have direct light of more than 12 hours out of 24 hours per day. A good guestimate would be around 16 to 18 hours of light.
The vegetative state can be achieved much easier in an indoor growing environment. However, if recourses are not a problem, you can have powerful outdoor lighting installed. This will need a series of structures, electricity relays, and of course, protection from the elements like rain, hail, and severe wind.
Other Tips To Keep Your Mother Plant Living Longer
To keep your mother plant living longer, you can keep the image of a bonsai in mind. Bonsai growing is the art of keeping a plant in a miniature version of the original and aging it. The same principle works for a mother plant.
- To keep the mother plant longer, you need to keep it small, compact, and regularly pruned. The more you prune the mother, the more she will be stimulated to produce new branches. From the new branches, you will be able to take new cuttings for planting.
- A regular foliage feed spray will help the mother take up nutrition through the leaves. Keeping good nitrogen and potassium balance is essential. Always take care not to burn the leaves, and this will hinder photosynthesis and growth.
- Re-pot the mother during dormant stages such as winter to allow further root development. Stunted growth in the roots will also prevent your mother plant from living longer. Soil nutrition is essential.
From this article, we learned that a mother plant could be kept growing for a very long time. The number of years depends on the specific plant species and their natural life cycle in their natural habitat. If it is 20 years in the outdoors and you can successfully recreate that environment, you can expect to have your mother plant for the same amount of time.
In many cases, growers will keep certain clones for around 12 months, mostly annuals or bi-annual plants. The dedication you put into recreating your mother plant’s best environment is an important part and a big factor. Sufficient lighting, nutrition, top quality growing medium, and pest management are things you need to control on behalf of the mother plant to ensure it lives as long as possible.