You may clone your favorite pepper plants by taking cuttings of 7.5 cm to 15 cm in length of the outer ends of healthy branches. Once you have cut off the end of a branch, you can dip the cut end in rooting hormone to promote root growth. Quickly put the cutting in a growing medium and make sure that its environment is humid. For this, you can use a mini greenhouse or a propagator.
Your cutting will start growing roots after a couple of weeks and will be ready to transplant into the soil after roughly eight weeks. Take into account that the success rate is not 100%, and therefore you should take more cuttings than you intend to grow.
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The following article is based on my research into cloning chili plants. I reference the sources at the end of the article. I have grown many different pepper varieties from seeds, but I currently don't have any experience with cloning a chili plant. Yet, after researching this article, I'm getting very eager to try it out. I hope that will too.
Below, I first discuss why you'd want to clone a chili plant. After that, I will talk about how to go about doing that.
Table of Contents
Why clone a chili plant?
Before getting into 'the how' of cloning chilies, let's first answer the 'why.' Why would you want to clone, and thus multiply, a chili pepper plant?
Well, you'd want to do this in the case where you have a chili pepper that has certain traits that you value and wish to preserve. These traits can be the size, the number of chilies produced, the ability to grow in a specific location with some unique characteristics, etc.
Yet, the genetic material present in the seeds of the chili fruits may already be mixed with that of other chili plants. This mix is due to cross-pollination. Even if your chili plant only did self-pollinate, the resulting fruits will contain varying genetic material. Hence, using the seeds from the chili fruits is not really an option, as it is no longer pure.
So, by cloning a chili plant, you essentially get to keep all the plant traits that you value, and the genetic material stays the same. All you need are cuttings from the plant you wish to clone.
Also, if you want to breed a new variety of chili pepper, then cloning stabilizes the variety.
The breeder who created the Carolina Reaper hot pepper likely did so by using cloning. The reason for this is that cloning speeds up the breeding process. It may explain why the grower created the variety in a short amount of time.
How to clone a chili pepper plant?
You can take pepper plant cuttings at any time during the growing season. However, the best time seems to be when the plant has already matured somewhat. This also allows you to check that the original plant has the required traits and that it is a healthy plant.
Before taking the cuttings
First of all, you may want to reduce the amount of nitrogen in your chili plant. Nitrogen promotes the growth of leaves, but this is not what we want right now. To reduce the amount of nitrogen, you should stop fertilizing the plant about a week before you intend to take the cutting.
Taking the cuttings
To take a cutting, you simply need to find a healthy branch. Cut off the end of that branch such that it has four or five small leaves on it. The stem should be between 7,5cm and 15 cm in length. Also, make sure that you cut the green part of the branch.
Make the cut at a 45° angle. By cutting at a diagonal, you'll make sure that the surface area of the cutting is large enough to absorb a lot of water.
When taking cuttings, it is recommended that you use a razor blade, pruning shears, or sharp scissors that have been appropriately sterilized. It would be best to make sure that the tool you are using to take a cutting does not infect the plant with any pathogens.
Also, make sure that you have washed your hands with soap before taking cuttings to avoid infecting the plant. You may even choose to wear vinyl gloves to be on the safe side.
If you were to make the cut using a dull cutting tool, you may inadvertently crush the stem and damage it. If the stem of the cutting is damaged, then the probability of the stem growing roots will be lowered.
It is also essential that the cut you make is as clean as possible
You may find that it is best to take cuttings in the evening such that the plant has the whole following night to recover. When you cut or trim a plant, it will suffer some stress. The night will provide the plant with a period of rest.
After the cut(s)
The first thing to do now is to dip the plant cutting in rooting hormone. This hormone will help the cutting grow roots. You can find it in DIY stores and gardening centers as a gel or powder. Also, please don't touch it with your fingers.
After applying plant hormone to the pepper cutting to promote root growth, immediately slide the bottom tip gently into a growing medium. This growing medium can, for example, be Jiffy pods, rock wool, vermiculite, peat, etc. Any substrate that allows air to flow and moisture to be retained can be used.
Some growers also seem to have success placing the cutting in water instead of planting it in a growing medium.
You shouldn't add any nutrients to the substrate at this point.
Further, make sure not to expose the cut wound to air for longer than is absolutely necessary. If the cut is exposed to air for too long, it will close, and no roots will grow from it.
The cuttings do not yet have any roots, so they can only absorb water through the leaves. Therefore, you need to keep them in a humid environment. You can create this environment in a mini greenhouse or a propagator. Alternatively, you can place some transparent containers over the cuttings to keep the moisture from evaporating.
Further best practices
To make the cutting save energy, you may pinch off any flowers, fruits, and even large leaves. The energy present in the cutting will be used for rooting and not for maintaining its leaves and fruits.
Keep the cuttings out of direct sunlight. Only place them in indirect sunlight or under low-powered grow lamps. If they receive too much light, they may quickly burn out.
Check your cuttings regularly to see if there are signs of disease. If so, remove that cutting immediately so that it won't infect the other cuttings. Also, if the leaves start to hang, you may want to consider removing some of the largest leaves. Like this, the cutting can focus more energy on growing roots while still having a few small leaves left.
It can take some weeks before roots start to form. After 6 to 8 weeks, your cuttings should have grown roots large enough to be considered established. At this point, you may transfer the cutting into soil such that it can continue to mature.
Don't be discouraged if your success rate is not 100%. This is also the reason why it is recommended to take multiple cuttings rather than just one. Some even suggest that you take twice as many cuttings as you intend to grow.