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Oh, Mother! The Science of Mother Plants


The room is quiet, aside from a gentle hum of low voices and whirring fans.

Daylight streams through the overhead domed glass roof, dappling light across the mothers. The atmosphere is peaceful, almost sleepy.

Inside the large room on one side of the HEXO greenhouse known as B2, all is well. In some areas, younger mother plants reach towards the light. In others, several shrubs are so towering, bushy and vigorous, a visitor could be forgiven for thinking they were tropical trees.

This is, after all, the mother room at HEXO, a sunny corner dedicated to starting the process of cultivating clones from cuttings. And it is where generation after generation of new cannabis plants get their start in life, before moving to even more climate-controlled facilities elsewhere on campus.

Although the average mother plant’s life is only six months, they do a lot of living in that time, partly because they get 18 hours of light, and partly because of the intensive care and attention they receive during their lives, says master grower, Agnes Kwasniewska.

“They grow really fast. It’s a big jungle in there. The bigger they get, the more work they are for us, as well,” she says.

Cannabis mother plants are grown for their cuttings, in preference to using seeds, to maintain genetic and cannabinoid consistency across specific strains and hybrids. Once clones are harvested from a mother plant’s healthiest branches, they are placed in rooting medium for seven to ten days.

The cuttings can grow into either relatively small plants or towering bushes, depending on their age and strain. Indica plants grow more slowly than sativa; a one-month-old sativa plant produces the same number of cuttings as a two-month-old indica mother.

According to Agnes, the company’s continuous harvesting process means that cuttings are taken at regular intervals from mother plants, until they reach about six months.

“Because the mothers are constantly evaluated for their health and vigour, we are able to tell when they reach the end of their lives, so we take new clones of her and make them into mothers,” she notes. “It’s the continuity that’s the secret to maintaining uniform quality across our entire production process.”