Cloning plants allows you to grow plants identical to the parent plant. Despite the term, people have probably been cloning plants for thousands of years. A cutting is taken from the parent plant and rooted, or a stem from the parent plant is buried until rooted and then cut from the parent. Use the more modern term cloning, though, when trying to interest a child who prefers high-tech to digging in the garden. Mention you'll be making a cloning chamber, and this might reel him in. The cloning chamber uses aeroponics to get consistent results with your cuttings and plenty of usable clones. The parts needed are easy to come buy and inexpensive. The project takes only an hour or two.
Netting the Pots
Place each cutting you want to clone into an individual net pot. These are inexpensive and available in a range of sizes from almost any hydroponics supplier. Make your own by poking a large number of holes in the bottom and sides of plastic cups -- a good way to repurpose used yogurt containers. Fill the pots with material to support the plants such as clay pellets, sterilized pea gravel or silica stones. Make sure the support media is large enough that it won’t fall through the holes in the pots.
Obtaining the Chamber
The reservoir is the heart of an aeroponic cloning chamber. Buy a large plastic storage bin with lid, the kind you can store sweaters in under the bed, or recycle an outdated plastic cooler. Choose the size based on how much cloning you want to do at one time and how much space you have for your system. A 10-gallon or larger container is ideal. An opaque bin keeps the light out of the nutrients and discourages algae growth. Cut a series of holes in the lid just large enough to hold the individual net pots without letting them fall through.
Adding the Supporting Cast
An air pump and a couple of 8-inch long air stones are essential to the operation of your cloning chamber. You’ll also need enough plastic tubing to connect them all. A digital timer acts as the brains of your system. Get one that allows multiple settings each day. Vitamin B formula for plants and rooting hormone will boost the cloning power of your system.
Putting it All Together
Take each stem and remove the lower third of its leaves, and then dip the stem into the rooting hormone. Place each cutting in its own pot so that it extends through a hole and continues down for about half-an-inch below the bottom of the pot. Fill the pot with support media. Then set each stem in a hole you made in the chamber's lid. Add water to the chamber until the water level is 2 inches below the plants. Add the vitamin B formula, following the directions on the package. Put the air stones in the water. Plug the air pump into the timer, and then set the timer to turn on for 15 minutes every hour. The air pump creates bubbles in the water that when popping creates a mist that keeps the roots wet and create the aeroponic action that makes this cloning chamber work.